Arkansas nurses to travel to Rose Parade to honor child whose organ donation saved Maine infant

Posted Dec. 14, 2013, at 2:26 p.m.

Four nurses from Mercy Fort Smith will travel to this year’s Rose Parade to assist in honoring the life of a central Arkansas boy whose donation of a heart valve helped save an infant girl.

In 2009, Elijah Cole McGinley was born with severe birth defects and taken off life support after surviving for just five days. His parents, Jodie and Jesse McGinley of East End, decided that if Elijah could make an organ donation to another child in need and possibly avoid having another family go through a similar situation, it would be worth it.

About a year ago, a 2-day-old infant girl from Maine received a heart valve transplant from Elijah. The McGinleys found out about it last week.

“Last Monday was just verification that we did make the right decision,” Jodie McGinley said, citing the struggle the family wrestled with and the relief she felt that another family would not have go through the same experience.

On New Year’s Day, four nurses with Mercy Fort Smith will join nearly 30 other volunteers — “Team Eli” — from Arkansas, to travel to Pasadena to help build a float for Donate Life, a nonprofit alliance of organizations dedicated to encouraging eye, tissue and organ donation.

This year’s float will feature floragraphs of the faces of several deceased donors, including Eli. The floragraphs are made of organic materials, such as dried and crushed onions, flowers, spices and other materials, said Becky Gertsch, hospital development coordinator for the Arkansas Regional Organ Recovery Agency, a nonprofit organ procurement agency in Little Rock.

Staff, volunteers and passersby spent Friday afternoon at Mercy Fort Smith adding granules to the floragraph for Eli. Those who contributed dipped a small paint brush into glue, spread it on the canvass and added the dried onion bits that made up the picture.

Jodie McGinley fondly remembered her son as Eli’s twin brother, Walker, and her 2-year-old, Ellie, who was named after Eli, scampered about wearing their Christmas outfits in the hospital’s lobby.

“We’re pretty proud parents today,” she said.

The four Mercy Fort Smith nurses taking the trip to Pasadena — Shirley Bearden, Kimberly Howell, Suzanne Henderson and Robin Wallace — don’t exactly know what they’ll be getting into once they get to California, but they are glad they got the opportunity to walk alongside the living organ donors and organ donation recipients and their families, who will participate in the parade.

“It’s very enriching. It’s emotional — it’s a true roller coaster ride of emotions,” Bearden said. “Everybody should go one time and be involved, to see what goes into the families’ stories.”

This is the second year Mercy Fort Smith has sent staff to the Rose Parade. It begins at 10 a.m. The Donate Life float is scheduled to be the 15th entry in the parade within the first half-hour.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

 

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