Just days before his unexpected death, Dwight James Tate spoke his last testimony surrounded by family and friends. “I’m not perfect and I make mistakes, but I always put God first,” he said. On February 12, 2018, DJ, a loving father and son, died of a sudden heart attack at age 37.
DJ’s mother, Stephanie Farmer Tate Martin, didn’t know he was registered as an organ donor when she arrived at the hospital that day. However, after speaking with team members from ARORA, Arkansas’s largest organ and tissue recovery agency, she learned of DJ’s generous decision.“They were able to recover bone tissue, eye tissue and heart valves from DJ after he passed,” Martin said. “It brought me comfort that he was able to donate tissues and bless other people.”
Martin knows that DJ’s corneas were able to restore the sight of two people and his heart valves were recovered and donated to a nine-year-old boy in California.
DJ had one daughter, LaDonna, who was just 13 at the time of his passing. Besides spending quality time with LaDonna and working at Riceland Foods in Stuttgart, he managed several other interests, from rapping and producing music with friends to selling scented oils.
“DJ was very charismatic, passionate, and a stick of dynamite,” Martin said. “He was real loving, caring, and kind. He was very affectionate. He was really creative.”
DJ was fearless, his mother said, and he trusted and believed in God. DJ was known to share biblical scripture with his friends from an early age, and even went out of his way to help spread the message among unhoused people and others facing challenges and difficulties; fitting for a man who never met a stranger.
DJ’s story of an unexpected heart attack is tragic, yet not unheard of for many African Americans. People who are members of communities of color often face disproportionately higher rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease that contribute to organ failure, especially kidney failure, pronouncing the need for organ donation and transplants.
August is National Minority Donor Awareness Month (NMDAM). It was founded in 1996 by the National Minority Organ Tissue Transplant Education Program (MOTTEP), bringing heightened awareness to donation and transplantation in multicultural communities. NMDAM focuses primarily on African American, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander and Native American communities.
Of the more than 100,000 people awaiting a life-saving organ transplant, nearly 60% are from multicultural communities. Transplants can be successful regardless of the ethnicity of the donor and recipient. However, the chance of longer-term survival may be greater if the donor and recipient are closely matched in terms of their shared genetic background.
Martin says she now realizes how registering as an organ and tissue donor can help save and restore lives.
“Registering as a donor means giving life to someone in need,” Martin said. “If you’re not already registered as a donor, be a light and save a life.”
At his memorial service, DJ’s friends serenaded him with the gospel hymn“This Little Light of Mine,” as an ode to DJ and all the lives he touched. Everyone can follow DJ’s example and let their light shine during National Minority Donor Awareness Month by registering as an organ and tissue donor.
Arkansans can register to become an organ and tissue donor when renewing their driver’s license at their local DMV office. However, a trip to the DMV doesn’t happen every day so ARORA offers two other convenient registration options. Arkansans can log onto www.donatelifearkansas.org to register online. Or, they can log onto the ARORA website at www.arora.org/kiosk to locate a donor registration kiosk where they can register in a matter of seconds.
To learn more about ARORA and organ and tissue donation, go to www.arora.org or follow ARORA on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter.
ARORA was established in 1987 as a nonprofit, independent organ procurement agency. Serving 64 counties across the state, ARORA is headquartered in Little Rock and has a satellite office in northwest Arkansas. ARORA’s mission is to restore lives through the recovery of organs and tissues for transplant. For more information, visit www.arora.org.
Story written by ARORA partners and published in The Stuttgart Daily Leader, The Pine Bluff Commercial, and The Eagle Democrat.