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"Donate Life Month" Highlighted by Tax Collector Joe Tedder

A New Liver at Age Five Saved a Life

Mattie Joyner is one Polk County high school senior with a bright future; she will attend Florida Gulf Coast University to study history next fall to become a college professor one day. The gift of organ donation is invaluable for families like the Joyners. Ultimately, her health and success are thanks to a liver transplant she had as a toddler.

Courtesy Kristi Joyner

Before her life-saving transplant surgery, Mattie's family knew she desperately needed a new liver in order to live, but also to improve her quality of life and longevity of life.

The Office of the Joe G. Tedder, Tax Collector for Polk County (TCPC), is celebrating stories like Mattie's throughout Donate Life Month in April, urging more people to consider becoming organ donors as well.

"Any time a person gets a driver license or ID card at one of our service center counters, they are asked the question 'would you like to be an organ donor?'" Tax Collector Joe G. Tedder explained, "and we hope people truly consider answering 'yes.'

"One day, that 'yes' answer could be life saving for those like Mattie Joyner," Tedder remarked.

At two years old, Mattie was in liver failure and desperately needed a new one to live. She was matched with a liver from another young child who tragically died in a car crash, when that child's mother agreed to organ donation.

"That mama saved my baby's life, and so that's just a significant thing that stays with us," said Kristi Joyner.

That's why the Joyners continue to encourage others to say 'yes' to organ donation, too. Last fall, a little more than half of the people who were asked the question in a TCPC service center said 'yes.' Tedder hopes even more people will decide to become organ donors.

Courtesy Kristi Joyner

Mattie Joyner (center) visited the Polk County Tax Collector's Bartow office to share her transplant success story. Each April for National Donate Life Month, the Tax Collector's team designs and builds a themed backdrop to recognize those who agree to be organ donors at the time of their driver license and ID card services.

"It's been a journey for Mattie to go through the abnormality of being a person that has a genetic disorder that led to a liver transplant and to have to go to the doctors regularly and everything that comes with it," Kristi Joyner continued, "but she's alive and she's normal and she's thriving!"

According to Donate Life Florida's partner agency LifeLink, there are more 100,000 people in need of a life-saving organ across the country; of those, 5,000 are in Florida.

"That's our friends, and our neighbors and family members," LifeLink Public Affairs Coordinator Erika Flores expressed, "so don't limit yourself. Anyone can register to become a donor!"

"Let them be usable. If [organs are] allowed to be transplanted and are healthy and everything, let them be used. It makes sense...I think it's a very important thing to do, a very important issue that is like not discussed a lot" Mattie Joyner urged.

 

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