Several individuals impacted by organ donation shared their stories at the Shad Boaz Memorial Golf Tournament Monday afternoon at the Rolling Hills Country Club in Paducah, the namesake of which donated his organs following his death in 2008.
The son of McCracken Commonwealth Attorney Dan Boaz and Heidi Boaz, 21-year-old Shadrach "Shad" Boaz, was on his way to work at the McCracken County Road Department in July of 2008 when he was in a car wreck that ultimately cost him his life.
Nashville, Tenn., resident Don Baskin, the transplant recipient of the young man's lungs, spoke at the golf tournament Monday about the difference organ donation has made in his life.
In 2003, Baskin was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a rare lung disease for which there is no cure. Baskin said when he was diagnosed, a doctor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center told him he would die in five years without a double lung transplant. The father of four adult children said when he found out he was eligible for the lung transplants he, along with family, friends and members of the Sunday school class he attends immediately began praying that a donor would come along if it was God's will.
"And we look at a situation like this where, you know, Shad is in heaven; I'm still living. The only way that I could have explained that is that it's the will of God, and that satisfies me," Baskin said.
Baskin, who now advocates for organ donation, asked the tournament attendees to take organ donation seriously because "if you do, No. 1, God's going to smile on you and, No. 2, you are going to save someone's life."
"I think of Shad every day, every single day," Baskin added. "I think of Shad more than one time a day. And I can tell you right now, as I stand here breathing ... this is Shad's breath breathing through me, and I'm so thankful for his awesome, selfless act of kindness. And that's exactly what it is, and I tell you I look forward to seeing him in heaven."
McCracken Circuit Clerk Glenda Ransom expressed her respect for Shad and his parents for the decision to donate Shad's organs.
"I know they probably didn't know it at the time, but their decision gave an opportunity to save nine lives through transplants: the heart, the kidneys, the lungs, pancreas, liver, small intestine. Their decision also gave an opportunity to help at least 50 people between tissue, tendons, bones, corneas," Ransom said.
"So, organ donation does save lives, and organ donation does help people live on."
Ransom said her husband, James Ransom, is among the 900 people currently on the transplant waiting list in Kentucky. She said James is diabetic and in kidney failure. He's on the waiting list for a kidney transplant and trying to get on the list for a pancreas transplant.
The Rolling Hills Country Club is planting a tree to honor 27-year-old Carly Marquess of Paducah, who passed away in April and was both an organ donor and recipient. Carly's mother, Lil Marquess, was in attendance at the tournament, and Hopkinsville resident Jan Myers also spoke about Carly, her niece.
Myers said Carly had Type 1 diabetes from the age of 13, and received a pancreas transplant when she was 24. After her death, Carly donated 22 of her organs.
Myers said Carly had to wait five months before she received her transplant and, understanding the gift she'd been given, was emphatic that people become organ donors and designate their donor status on their drivers' licenses.
"Little did she know that in three years she would be transplanting her own organs," Myers said.
"But you know what? She had already made that decision. And she knew that that was going to be very, very important, not only for her, but for 22 other people who were able to be able to run again, be able to see again. All those different people."
Myers also passed on a message from Carl Marquess, Carly's father, saying: "Life can be taken in the blink of an eye, and it's important to know the difference you can make in someone else's life simply by donating your organs."
Dan Boaz said the country club also plans to plant trees in the memory of two members who died in May: Bob Jones and Janet Ann Haas Metzger. Bob's wife, Phyllis Jones, said he would have loved to donate his organs, but couldn't because he had a rare blood disease.
"He loved golf, and he would have been honored today to know that Rolling Hills Country Club would be planting a tree in his memory," Phyllis said.
"I heard something just the other day that really stuck in my memory. It said that a person never dies until he's forgotten. And I really like that. My husband was really a character, but he had a great heart."
Shad graduated from St. Mary High School in 2006 and was posthumously awarded a political science degree from Murray State University in 2008. The golf tournament, held in Shad's honor since 2009, raises money for a scholarship fund that benefits St. Mary's students who will attend MSU.
The recipients of this year's scholarships were Brad West and Kayla Spies. Dan said the students can renew the $1,000 scholarship each year for up to four years while they're at MSU.
Contact Leanne Fuller, a Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8653.