Interview with Don L. Hawkins 

Interviewed by Shannon Carpenter on October 28, 2000 & November 24, 2000

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH: 

 

Don Hawkins grew up in St. Louis, and joined the Navy.  He was diagnosed with Sarchoid, a virus which attacks various organs throughout the body, in 1978.  His lungs were affected, which led to being place on disability in 1985.  He was also diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.  Mr. Hawkins had a double lung transplant in 1997.  Now living in Norfolk, VA, Mr. Hawkins has been extremely active in organizations such as Life-Net, an organ procurement organization, and the Transplant Olympics.

 

Excerpts from Transcript

 

Excerpt 1 | Excerpt 2 | Excerpt 3 | Excerpt 4 | Excerpt 5

 

Excerpt 1

 

Background: 

Mr. Hawkins discussed the long-term effects of lung transplantation.  He began to speak about having to go out in public after transplantation.

 

Excerpt:

One of the things that some people who have had lung transplants, you'll see even today and they've been out post surgery three, four, five years--when they're out into the public domain, they have that mask on.  And to them that mask is a symbol of something that's happened to them.  To me wearing that mask is a symbol that means that I'm different, I'm special.  Not that I'm different and not that I'm not special; I've had a transplant.  But should I mark myself that way?  I don't think so; the smart thing to do is if you go out in a large group of people, just keep an eye out.  Be conscious of where you're at.

 

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Excerpt 2

 

Background: 

When asked if he would change anything about his experience, Mr. Hawkins recalls a story about the unawareness that lung transplantation is an option.

 

Excerpt:

Shortly after I got out of the hospital one of the places that I visited, of course I went over to see our pulmonologist and then went next door to DePaul Hospital.  One of the ladies that Connie baby-sat for worked there, one of the nurses.  We went to see her, and there were four or five other nurses there at the same time, "No, no they don't do lung transplants.  I've never heard of that."  These were professionals in the medical field, they didn't know that lung transplants were done.  Education of the public about what organ donations can do, what it can mean.  The awareness.

 

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Excerpt 3

 

Background: 

Mr. Hawkins discussed arranging and meeting his donor family on the way to Washington, D.C.

 

Excerpt:

It was, I don't want to say I was surprised, but it was just he was a very young man when he died.  He was 40 years old, he died of a geoblastoma which is a tumor in the brain that had exploded on him at work, and they took him to the hospital...they took him to Norfolk General.  That was on a Friday, Sunday was their wedding anniversary, and he died on Monday.  I was transplanted on Tuesday.  But we've met we had an opportunity to talk and we still keep in contact via e-mails.  The son is doing real well, takes care of his mother like he's supposed to...  It just was hard to meet them. I thought it was going to be very difficult; as it turned out it was just very natural and on the way up to D.C. we just, we did a lot of talking, I don't even remember what we talked about, we just talked.

 

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Excerpt 4

 

Background: 

Mr. Hawkins discussed his experience with the Transplant Olympics.  In particular, he was very moved by the various tributes to the donors and their families.

 

Excerpt:

One of the things that they had in the student union there (Ohio State University), they had a donor quilt, donor quilts.  That was, I first started walking down, I went down to here, and started walking back this way towards the other end of it and I got to a point where I had to stop, I couldn't go any further.  I got to one pane, I looked at that and I had to stop I couldn't go, the dates on it were February 9th 1991, February 10th 1991.  She was a donor...  And every one of those that were on that wall helped a whole lot of people live...  Without them a lot of us wouldn't be there.

 

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Excerpt 5

 

Background: 

Mr. Hawkins discussed the need for people to make their feelings about donation clear to their families in the event that something may happen to them.

 

Excerpt:

...nothing happens until the family says yes.  So it's up to every individual who wishes to be an organ donor to ensure that their family understands this is want they want.  No equivocation: if anything should happen, I want this to happen.  I want anything that I have that's usable to be donated so that others can have a second chance."  Connie's always saying, "Well who wants my eyes?" and I say, "Somebody who can't see."

 

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For more information, contact Dr. Mary Jo Festle, Associate Professor of History at Elon University.

Email: festle@elon.edu

This page last updated 11/24/02