Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 30
COURTESY SUSAN PUCKETT
Susan Puckett is a proud parent of a
young man who gave his organs so that
others could live.
In August 2008, Thomas Puckett was
17, working in construction for the summer
and looking forward to attending Georgia
Southern University when an accident
on the job left him with a traumatic brain
injury. After he spent a week in a medically
induced coma, doctors pronounced him
brain-dead. A year before, he had indicated
on his driver's license that he'd be an organ donor.
"That was a burdensome decision we didn't have to make,"
says Susan Puckett.
Puckett knew about LifeLink's monthly meetings for recipients and donors but found it difficult to talk about her son. But she
began volunteering by working in the office and staffing booths at
health fairs, and soon she found she was ready to tell her story.
"My husband met a health teacher from the local high school
and volunteered me to talk there," she recalls with a laugh. "I was
very scared about public speaking, and the beginning was hard.
But by the end, I felt I'd been doing it my whole life, and now I go
wherever anybody lets me speak-schools, civic organizations,
churches, you name it."
Sharing the story of her son's gift also has helped Puckett
"This is what I feel I've been called to do," she says. "I needed a
purpose after Thomas died, and sharing his legacy is it."
Ashaun Thompson, Grayson
COURTESY RENEE THOMPSON
High school senior Ashaun Thompson, 18, doesn't remember
his first kidney transplant. Born with the rare Eagle-Barrett syndrome, Thompson wasn't expected to live more than a year, but he
beat the odds, only to suffer kidney failure at age 6. After his first
transplant, he led a normal life until his body rejected the organ in
2013, when he was in eighth grade.
"That was really tough," says his mom,
Renee Thompson. "He was in ICU for two
weeks and had two seizures. It was touchand-go."
After recovering, Ashaun Thompson
was on dialysis while waiting about eight
months for a new kidney.
"I missed a lot of middle school because I had to leave early three days a week
and be on a machine for four hours at a
time," he recalls. "That failure humbled me."
It also made the teen appreciate the
second lease on life he was given as a result of his second transplant.
"I share my story as often as I can," he says. "I tell everybody
how being a donor works. I even urge my friends to donate at
blood drives because I needed [a lot of blood transfusions], and
they're helping me."
Thompson also tells his story by not being held back. Last
year, he was part of the track team at Gwinnett County's Archer
High, and he's pestering his doctors for the green light to play
football at Middle Georgia State University in Macon this fall.
"I keep doing things not for me but for the kids out there
who live their lives in fear," he says. "I want to show that if I can do
it, you can, too. As many times as I've been told I should not have
lived [another] day, I have no time to live in fear."
Sherrell Gay, Waynesboro
That day in 1994 started with chest
pains, but Sherrell Gay wasn't deterred;
she had a shopping trip planned. Within
an hour, she couldn't walk, but her doctor
recommended medicine and rest.
A few days later, Gay was in the
emergency room, where she learned that
her heart was twice its normal size and
functioning at 20 percent capacity. The prescription: medicine and bed rest for a year.
After venturing to the breakfast table
one morning, Gay collapsed; her heart stopped on the way to the
"I woke up a week later with my own defibrillator and had
three surgeries just for that," she recalls. "But I had no energy.
Finally, the cardiologist said my only chance was a transplant."
Gay's wait was short. Within a few weeks, she underwent a
four-hour surgery for a new heart that gave her the strength to
walk a mile after just three weeks.
"It was such an amazing feeling to be able to breathe and
talk at the same time," she says.
Seven years later, though, Gay was back on the heart transplant list when rejection set in. This time, the wait was 17 months,
eight of which were spent in the hospital.
"Then my kidneys were failing, so they decided I needed a
new kidney at the same time," she says.
In December 2012, two perfectly matched organs were
found, and Gay underwent a 17-hour surgery. The recovery was
"I had to learn to walk again," she says. "But now I'm living life
to the fullest and am so thankful for the decision those donors
In the five years since the transplant, Gay has seen her children finish college and has welcomed three grandchildren. And
she's become a mentor to volunteers, both recipients and donor
"As a mentor, you share your story as the face of hope," she
says. "I've got a story with all these complications, but it lets
people see that transplants are successful."
COURTESY SHERRELL GAY
Susan Puckett's son Thomas,
Become a donor
* Fill out a donor card when renewing your driver's license
or learn more at dds.georgia.gov/organ-donor-program.
* Register with Donate Life Georgia at donatelifegeorgia.org
or the national donor registry at registerme.org.
* Learn about LifeLink's services at lifelinkfoundation.org.
More online at www.georgiamagazine.org
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia Magazine - April 2018
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - Intro
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - Cover1
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - Cover2
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 3
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - Contents
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 5
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 6
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 7
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 8
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 9
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 10
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 11
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 12
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 13
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 14
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 15
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 16
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 17
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 18
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 19
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 20
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 21
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Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 24
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 25
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 26
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 27
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 28
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Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 36
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 37
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - 38
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Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - Cover3
Georgia Magazine - April 2018 - Cover4