December 6, 2017

Three Arkansans to be Honored in 2018 Rose Parade

Dec. 6, 2017 | Thirty-eight-year-old Melissa Owen of Little Rock died on Christmas Eve 2014 after suffering a brain aneurysm and a stroke. Two days later – just one day after being placed on the transplant list — Yolanda Harshaw, also of Little Rock, received a call that the heart she needed for a life-saving transplant was available.

Paul Owen, father of Melissa Owen, talks about his daughter’s death Christmas Eve 2014 and her decision to donate her organs. She and the woman who received her heart, Yolanda Harshaw, will be honored on the Donate Life float pictured on the screen.

Both women will be featured on the 2018 Donate Life float in the 2018 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 1. Owen will be honored as one of 44 organ donors depicted in floragraphs in the center of the float. These portraits, created out of natural materials such as seeds, spices and flower petals, will be the centerpiece of the parade float as the face of an Azetc calendar as a reminder of the enduring power of the generosity of donors and families. Harshaw plans to ride on the float as one of the honored organ recipients.

Owen’s family, friends and members of the UAMS transplant program gathered at the hospital Nov. 30 to add finishing touches to her floragraph and bring awareness to the lives changed through organ donation.

The floragraph event also honored Austin Elder, a 19-year-old from Fort Smith who died after a fall during a camping trip in the Ozark Mountains. His corneas and tissue were donated to help others. His portrait will also be featured on the Donate Life float.

Richard Turnage, M.D., senior vice chancellor for clinical programs and CEO of UAMS Medical Center, recognized the physicians, nurses, lab personnel, schedulers, pharmacists, case managers, financial counselors, dietitians and quality management staff dedicated to the UAMS transplant program. Ninety solid organ transplants and hundreds of cornea transplants have been performed at UAMS in 2017, along with tissue used by UAMS surgeons for restorative surgeries.

The first kidney transplant was done at UAMS in 1964, and more than 1,900 transplants have taken place since them. More than 350 liver transplants have been performed since the first one at UAMS in 2005. There are 240 Arkansans waiting for a kidney or liver transplant.

For more information about organ donation in Arkansas, visit the Arkansas Regional Organ Recovery Agency.