Sonia Taylor understands the organ, eye, and tissue donation topic from the perspective of being a recipient and being a donor’s aunt. The Baltimorean received a cornea transplant in May of 1994 because she was rapidly losing vision in her right eye. Taylor started having vision problems in her early twenties. Blurry vision led to wearing glasses and prescription changes. Her doctor at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute diagnosed her with a corneal abnormality called keratoconus. It could not be corrected with glasses.
“Contact lenses provided the best vision. However, my doctor recommended wearing them no more than two hours a day. The next solution was to have a cornea transplant,” Taylor said.
She recalls being “blown away” by the reality that “somebody would have to die” so that she could receive a cornea transplant.”
In a twist of events, Taylor went to church after her eye surgery was scheduled. She struck up a conversation with a stranger there and shared a little about why she appeared to be so antsy. It turned out that the woman was a nurse who worked for Taylor’s doctor. After arriving at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute and getting prepared for surgery, Taylor encountered the woman again. The nurse who was present during her surgery made Taylor feel better. After her right eye healed from surgery, Taylor was able to achieve 20/20 vision in that eye with glasses. Although her vision is not like it was in her twenties, it is much better.
Taylor found herself reconnected to the organ donation topic in 2007 when her 21-year-old nephew, Jordan Taylor Brown was killed. He had just left Taylor’s house in Baltimore. After the incident, Taylor and her family met at Sinai Hospital where Jordan was taken. Living Legacy Foundation of Maryland’s (LLF) role is an “organ procurement organization for Maryland,” according to LLF’s website. A nurse who worked for the foundation approached Jordan’s mother—Loretta Brown and Taylor because Brown’s license reflected that he wanted to be an organ donor.
Although no one in his family knew until the tragedy occurred, Jordan’s mother decided to honor his wishes to be an organ donor after Taylor influenced her to go through with it. Jordan saved seven people by donating different organs. He also restored sight in others by donating his corneas.
“After that I decided because I had gotten a cornea that I was going to make sure that Jordan’s legacy lived on forever and that I would make sure that I tell people the importance of being an organ, eye, and tissue donor,” Taylor said. “It’s important to share with your family that you are an organ, eye and tissue donor because if something tragic happens to you, they’re not thinking about your wishes to save other lives.”
Taylor became involved with LLF as a volunteer. She wanted to remind people, especially in the African American community, how important it is to give someone a second chance at life. A generous stranger gave her a second chance by enabling her to see.
More steps were taken to preserve Jordan’s legacy. Taylor, Jordan’s brothers (Sterling and Travis Brown), along with his mother and cousins started the Jordan Taylor Brown Foundation in 2008. Hosting basketball tournaments; hosting school supply giveaways; providing mentoring activities and assisting families with Thanksgiving and Christmas donations in Baltimore are some of the ways Jordan’s legacy is celebrated through the foundation. Taylor also said that Living Legacy Foundation and Donate Life of Maryland are partners. She is an ambassador for both organizations and a LLF board member.
“I’m so grateful that Jordan was able to offer the gift of organ donation to families – just like my donor offered to me,” according to information provided on LLF’s website.
She also reminded that choosing to become a donor does not mean that doctors will not attempt to save a person’s life if tragedy strikes. She recommends researching fallacies to understand more about the topic. Taylor also reminded that kidney donors can be living.
“In the African American community, I know there are several people who need kidneys who are on dialysis and things like that, so you can help other people live long if you just say yes to being an organ, eye and tissue donor.”
Visit https://register.donatelifemaryland.org/ to sign up to become an organ donor in Maryland.