Tissue transplants help locals

Published 12:24 pm Friday, October 12, 2012

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of stories aimed at increasing public awareness about organ donation and the lives that it impacts.

While most people may think of “the gift of life” as something that only includes organ donation, many more people are helped each year thanks to tissue donations.
Two Decatur County citizens, Steve Winburn and Jean Watson, recently benefited from tissue donations, and are excited to share their stories.

Steve Winburn

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Steve Winburn was playing basketball at the YMCA early one morning in August 2007, when he suddenly “blew out” his knee. The official diagnosis was a torn ACL.

Winburn was fortunate to be able to have surgery on Sept. 14, 2007, at Memorial Hospital, where he received a patellar tendon tissue graft from a donor that had died as the result of an auto accident. He has no other information about the donor.

Winburn has made a full recovery and is able to work at his job as superintendent of public works for the City of Bainbridge.

“A lot of people think only of large organ donations, and don’t consider the importance of tissue donations,” Winburn said. “It is amazing how many people can be helped by one single donor, when you consider all the organs and tissues that can be used.”

His 12 year-old daughter, Mattie, is helping to spread the word. Last week she wrote and delivered a speech about organ donations, at the 4-H state fair competition in Perry, Ga., and won first place.

Jean Watson

Jean Watson was born legally blind, and at the age of 2 she received cortisone shots in her eyes to see if it would help her vision.

Unfortunately, the shots did not help; but at age 19 she received a corneal transplant in her left eye from a 10-year-old female donor.

At age 22, she received a corneal transplant in her right eye from an 8-year-old boy donor.
These transplants occurred in the mid-1970s when recipients did not receive more information about their donors.

“How I would love to say thank you to those families who gave so unselfishly in their time of horrible grief,” Watson said. “It is my prayer that I will get to tell them one day how that gift of sight changed my life forever. I know that I see this world through the eyes of children.

“I am grateful that laws have changed and recipients can now meet the donor’s families and thank them personally.”

Watson is a resident of Bainbridge and a United Methodist minister overseeing a charge of four churches, currently at Leary United Methodist Church near Albany, Ga.