‘It has to stop because too many people are losing their lives,’ says donor mom
Terra DeFoe encouraged her son, Emilio, to sign up as an organ donor when he turned 18.
Little did she know that he would give that legacy of kindness only six years later. Her son experienced a heart aneurism in 2014 and became a donor when he was only 24, despite valiant attempts to save his life. His legacy of generosity lives on in the six people who were saved by his gifts.
“Emilio made a decision that he wanted to change the quality of life for someone else,” said DeFoe, a senior advisor to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.
She wanted to change lives, too. The former Executive Director to the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus, DeFoe has served two Detroit mayors and with a wide variety of community advocacy organizations throughout her career in public service.
She has also been a passionate ambassador for Gift of Life Michigan, encouraging people in multicultural communities to sign up as donors and dispelling misconceptions about the donation process.
“When you talk to the African American community and the faith-based community, there are different myths,” she said. “It has to stop because too many people are losing their lives because of this simple myth.”
The biggest one? That doctors will not work as hard to save the lives of organ and tissue donors.
“I know first-hand that that is not true,” she said. “I watched doctors try to save my son’s life – during the 10-hour surgery, they had to resuscitate him several times. I take offense when I hear people say they don’t want to be an organ donor because doctors won’t try to save their life.”
In addition to her role as advisor to the mayor, DeFoe is also a member of the Detroit Minority Organ Tissue Transplant Education Program (MOTTEP) Foundation board, serves as Community Engagement Chair for the annual MOTTEP LIFE Walk/Run, and she emcees the annual Sounds of Saving Lives concert.
She said it’s important to share the message and to as many people as possible. “It’s not about age, it’s not about race, it’s not about faith. It’s all about educating our community,” DeFoe said.
“There’s been a stigma, but more people are being helped with transplant hearts, eyes, skin, tissue and other various organs,” she added. “People are changing other people’s quality of life through a simple act of kindness.”