Amy Tippins should have already been dead. Doctors told her parents that the 17-year-old girl with two dozen tumors in her liver might only last another week without a transplant.
That was 1993.
Monday, Tippins was in Columbus at Midtown Medical Center talking about how an organ donation from Mike James, a Phenix City police officer, saved her life 20 years ago.
On New Year’s Day in California, Tippins will be riding upon the Donate Life Float in the Rose Parade. Also on that float will be a floragraph, a portrait of James made entirely of flowers.
The floragraph honoring James was on display at the hospital where the highly decorated officer was brought on Valentine’s Day after suffering a ruptured aneurysm that resulted in him crashing his car. He was 47.
Tippins, who received her new liver on Feb. 20, was one of eight people receiving donations from James.
The organs were extracted at the hospital, then The Medical Center, and the transplant was done at Emory in Atlanta.
“He gave me the rest of my life with his last and most heroic act,” Tippins said.
She now is owner of a “high end” clothing firm, RockScar Designs, and is also a social media consultant with RTL Media in her hometown of Atlanta.
Also on hand Monday to promote organ and tissue donation was Jo West of Coker Creek, Tenn. James was her brother.
She said she and Tippins have become like sisters.
“My brother was a big believer in organ donation,” West said. “I think that is because on his job he saw so many people hurting.”
She said he “grieved” because his son, a Marine, had died two years earlier in 1991 in a automobile accident and he did not get to donate his organs.
She called the floragraph, “fantastic.”
One of the sponsors of the float is the Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem.
One of its members, former U.S. Surgeon General Kenneth Moritsugu, was on hand for the ceremony sponsored by Columbus Regional Health and Lifelink of Georgia.
He mentioned that there are 113,265 Americans are waiting for an organ transplant.
In 1992, he lost his wife in an automobile wreck and in 1996 lost a daughter in an automobile wreck.
“Both of them were organ donors,” Moritsugu said. “They understood the great need for donations of organs and tissue. To really know the importance you have to see the human impact, you have to meet people like Amy and see what a donation has meant to her family. That is when it really hits home.”