Insights > Charlie Elam Keeps Giving Through Organ Donation
Charlie Elam Keeps Giving Through Organ Donation
Anyone who knew Charlie Elam, Jr. knew he was generous. He gave his time and talents to his church, singing in the choir and building anything they needed. As a shift serviceman at Entergy Mississippi, he shared his experience with co-workers and did all he could to help customers.
It’s not surprising that even after his untimely death earlier this year, Elam is still giving to others through organ donation. Charlie’s widow, Dona, knew that was his wish.
“We had an understanding between us that if we were able to help someone else through organ donation when the time came, we would,” she said.
At the time of his death, she was asked about donating Charlie’s organs. She knew his wishes but wanted to talk to their children first. They all said ‘Dad would want this’, reassuring Dona that they were all on board to carry out his wishes.
At left, an Elam family photo with (back row, l-r) Charlie, Garrett, Dona and Brandon Elam and (front row, l-r) Courtney and Peyton Elam with soon-to-be daughter-in-law Anna Clair Lay. At right, Dona and Charlie.
That act of kindness has given the gift of sight to two people through the Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency, a not-for-profit organization that aims to save and improve lives through organ, eye and tissue donation. Besides his corneas, some of Charlie’s other tissues, ligaments and vessels were also donated. Tissues are preserved and can be transplanted over the next several years, with the potential to help heal between 50 and 75 people.
Dona had no idea organ donation could have that kind of impact. Another surprise was that age didn’t matter – organ donors range from infants to older adults. As a result, Dona, her children and their spouses have all registered as organ donors. They’re also doing what they can to educate others.
“My whole desire is for more people to register,” she said. “Many people don’t realize these donations are possible. If you’re healthy, even though you may have other conditions, you can still donate your organs. I want people to be open to it. Even if only one organ can be donated, it’s worth it. Just think about the person who’s waiting for that help.”
Charlie’s fellow Entergy Mississippi co-workers honored his life by raising the American flag at the entrance of the church for his funeral service. He was a shift serviceman and had worked at the company for 40 years.
During the holidays, the Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency honors and remembers donor families and their loved ones with Gift of Life Donor Trees displayed throughout the state. Each tree includes photo ornaments of the people whose organ donations changed and saved the lives of others that year. An ornament honoring our friend and co-worker Charlie is featured on the tree displayed upstairs at Northpark Mall in Ridgeland, Mississippi.
“I wanted to bring awareness to as many people as possible, so I chose to have Charlie’s photo included in the Gift of Life tree,” Dona said. “As an organ donor, Charlie is continuing to do what he loved to do, which was give to others. And that makes me happy. His legacy lives on with that simple decision he made.”
Dona hopes others will follow Charlie’s example by deciding to become an organ donor and joining the organ donor registry. She said registering online was easy, taking less than five minutes to provide some basic information.
“It gives our family a good feeling to know that some good can come out of a tragedy like this and that it’s helping other people. It doesn’t hurt at all to help people.”
According to the Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency, one person is added to the national transplant waiting list every 10 minutes. You can learn more about their work, how to become an organ donor and more at msora.org.
At left, Charlie and Dona. At right, the Elam family stands under the flag Entergy workers raised at Charlie’s funeral.