Les Stovall, a beloved coach at Carbon Hill High School, died while waiting for a liver transplant.
The school’s principal Saige Beaty released the following statement:
The students, faculty, staff, and administration at Carbon Hill are absolutely heartbroken over the tragic loss of Coach Les Stovall. Coach Stovall was an integral part of our school family. In addition to his teaching duties, he has helped coach numerous athletic teams over the past fifteen years. As an alumnus of Carbon Hill High School, Coach Stovall’s heart and soul went into helping his students and his athletes every day. He has touched the lives of many adolescents in our community, and our school family as well as the entire town of Carbon Hill is mourning this loss and thinking of his family tonight. In Lieu of Flowers, his family ask that donations be made to Carbon Hill High School Football – In honor/memory of Les Stovall.
Stovall’s sister, Tina McKenzie, said their family is amazed by hearing the stories about the lives he touched and the students he has impacted.
“We knew how much he loved the school now we’re seeing how much they loved him. That’s comforting,” said McKenzie.
McKenzie explains Stovall has been sick a majority of his life with health conditions and was told ten years ago that the day would come where he would need a liver transplant, due to the medications he was taking. She said the process was started back in April. McKenzie said her brother had been in and out of the hospital several times and was finally placed on the list a month ago. She said with that, he would have to go every week for labs. When their mother took him last Friday, Stovall ended up being admitted and was told over the weekend he was at the top of the list. They felt optimistic at that point that it would be just a matter of days for him to get a transplant, but Monday night his health started to decline.
“We know he’s in heaven and not suffering anymore and that’s what gives us hope,” said McKenzie.
McKenzie said their family encourages people to think about being an organ donor and to think of it as a gift.
“Our message is to encourage people to consider being a donor to give the gift of life to someone else,” she said.
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According to Legacy of Hope, 1,200 people in Alabama are waiting for an organ transplant. Nationally, there’s about 110,000 people waiting for a transplant.
“I think a lot of people don’t think a lot about organ donation until it impacts their personal life. Either they have a family member who’s died and now they are in a position to be a donor or they know somebody who needs a transplant. So people don’t think about how important the ‘are you an organ donor’ question is on your license, because it’s really a life saving question, more important than your height and weight and eye color in that sense. That one person who donates can save eight lives through organ donation and help countless others through tissue donation,” said Ann Rayburn, Legacy of Hope’s director of education.
Rayburn said last year in Alabama they had 90 people who died on the waiting list, which means they didn’t get their organ in time. There were 70 people who were removed from the waiting list due to being too sick to be transplanted.
However, there were hundreds of organs successfully transplanted.
“From Legacy of Hope last year, we offered or provided 714 plus or minus organs for transplant last year, so that’s a lot of people we are impacting, but the waiting list continues to grow and it’s not a need that ever goes away,” said Rayburn.
Rayburn explains in Alabama, the greatest need is kidney donations as far as the number of people who are in need of an organ transplant.
“We have struggle with chronic kidney disease in our state, a lot of high blood pressure, diabetes and things that can impact kidney function but I think for the person waiting, the biggest need is what they need and recognizing that some people, people with liver failure, don’t have dialysis like a person waiting for a kidney transplant would have, so how long can they be supported waiting for that transplant?” said Rayburn.
Organ donations are based on compatibility with the donor, which starts with blood type. Rayburn said there are other factors that are considered, such as size and if that organ is healthy for the person who is going to receive it.
“Just because someone is registered doesn’t mean that they can donate all organs for example, you might have someone who does have chronic kidney disease and they can’t donate their kidneys but could perhaps be a liver donor, so we look at it is every organ matters and every organ is a gift of life to somebody who receives it,” said Rayburn.
Anyone interested in signing up to be an organ donor can register online at their website, register through the health app, or through their drivers license.
“The law is very specific that if you’re an adult and registered, you’ve given permission for organ and tissue donation to take place,” said Rayburn. “It is helpful to have a family conversation about that because what that does is it lets your family hear from you that is something you really want to do and why, and you never know that conversation might encourage somebody else to register to be a donor too.”
Rayburn believes having those conversations gives the family confidence.
“I think hearing it directly from your loved one is more powerful than seeing it on a piece of paper,” she said.
Living organ donations are most common with kidneys, however can also be done for the liver and lung also. With deceased donations, people can do what is called a directed donation and can request that a loved ones organ goes to that person, but if it’s not a match, organs can also be shared outside of that.