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Stories of Hope: Markita Lewis

After son’s sudden death, local mother advocates for organ donation

A local mother is passionate about advocating for people to become organ donors.

Markita Lewis opted to donate her son’s organs after he suffered a fatal asthma attack and went into cardiac arrest in May 2014.

She had waited in the hospital for seven days, hoping that her son, Marquis Wood would wake up. After doctors ran a battery of tests, he was pronounced brain dead.

In the midst of her grief, she recalled a conversation with Marquis after she was diagnosed with lupus in 2008. They discussed the possibility of her needing a kidney transplant one day.

“My son told me that I didn’t need no one’s kidney and I could have one of his,” Lewis said. “I remembered the conversation that I had with him and my other two children and I just knew something good had to come out of this. I decided to donate his organs and in doing so he was able to save three lives.”

She has since interacted with the three young men who received Marquis’ heart, kidneys and liver. She physically met two of the recipients and has exchanged letters with the other.

Lewis takes comfort in knowing that her son has positively impacted the lives of others. She said Marquis, who was diagnosed with asthma as a baby, was a laid back, sweet and quiet kid who enjoyed playing golf with his father. She developed the Marquis WW Dot Foundation in his name, which provides CPR training to asthmatic families.

Lewis serves as an advocate for the Gift of Life Donor Program, a nonprofit organ procurement organization serving the eastern half of Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey and Delaware.

Since 1974, the organization has coordinated more than 46,000 organ transplants and approximately one million tissue transplants have resulted from Gift of Life donors.

“The reason that I decided to advocate for organ donation is I am very proud of my decision and that these three young men are doing everything that they should be doing and that really means a lot to me and keeps a smile on my face,” Lewis said.

“I always tell everybody at the Gift of Life my son saved three lives but organ donation saved my life too because I still have so much to smile about.”

“Another reason that I became very involved with the Gift of Life was hearing some of the statistics about how the African American community just believes so many myths and why we don’t want to become organ donors,” Lewis continued.

“It really touched me as being African American, that I have to get out into this community and let people know about how important it is. It saves lives.”

Lewis’ advocacy work comes as there are approximately 115,000 people awaiting a transplant in the United States with an average of 20 people dying each day waiting for an organ.

According to the Gift of Life, about 5,400 men, women and children in the local region are waiting for life saving organ transplants. One donor can save up to eight lives and help improve the quality of life for more than 75 people.

Thirty percent of those waiting for an organ transplant are African American. Lewis stated this is because African Americans are more likely to have a health condition such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure that leads to needing a kidney transplant.

Lewis wants to dispel the myths that surround organ donation. She said some of the common myths include the notion that doctors won’t try as hard to save your life if you’re a donor; that you may be too old or too sick to be a donor; that organ donation is not supported by religions and that organ donors can’t have an open casket at their funeral.

Lewis often talks about organ donation at community events, high schools, health fairs and festivals throughout the city and encourages people to sign up to become an organ donor at donatelifepa.org/registration.

“Through the Gift of Life, I have been able to be a strong advocate with them, to tell my story and get the word out into the community,” she said.