1979 graduate celebrates life

Jerry Banks doesn’t want your sympathy so much as he wants you to know about organ donation.

Banks, who last month celebrated one year since his liver transplant, said he has a genetic disease called Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, which attacks either the liver or the lungs.

In his case, it was his liver.

It started in 2006, when he dropped a board on his foot. A visit to the doctor’s office revealed he had a problem, although he said he felt perfectly healthy at the time and had never drank or done drugs. His doctor told him that would not last forever, and by 2008, he was on the transplant list. Within a year, he was down to 109 pounds and the Wolfforth EMS crews were regularly coming by his house, located just blocks outside of Wolfforth.

On Feb. 17, 2010, he was headed home from Methodist Dallas Medical Center and got a call while in Abilene that a match may have been found. But the doctors on the phone told him it was between him and a 9-month-old baby, and a surgeon had to decide.

“I’m not as religious as I should be,” said Banks. But he said he asked God, “If he had to pick between me and the baby, please do not pick me.

“That was real tough on me, not knowing for 15 or 20 minutes, not knowing if I was going to get the liver.”

In the end, the surgeon decided Banks was the best candidate, and told him to get there within a few hours.

Banks said he was told the surgery would last more than five hours, but he said he was wheeled in at 5:30 a.m. and by 9:30, he was back in his room, talking to the doctor.

“She said everything went so perfect, like clockwork,” said Banks. “At 10:30 a.m., I was up walking the halls.”

Banks had not been able to walk for months, and yet he said with assistance, he was able to walk and his color was already almost normal.

“Really, it was a miracle. God was on my side, and it just wasn’t my time to die,” said Banks.

Now he takes eight pills a day to keep his body from rejecting the liver, but he said he is back at work for Plains Pump Company, where he said his boss, Randy Field, had been very understanding during his medical problems.

But he said he really wants people to know that organ donation is easy. Because the mother of a 14-year-old made a decision to donate her child’s organs, he lives, he said, and others could do the same.

“There’s a lot of people in need out there,” he said. Donating is as simple as signing the back of your driver’s license, but he said people also need to let their loved ones know.

“Let them know that that’s your wishes. Let them know that you’d like to donate your organs to save another life,” said Banks.

Banks has five children and seven grandchildren, and has been married to his wife, Donna, for 21 years.

“I don’t deserve to be here, but I’m very thankful,” said Banks. “I look at life with a totally different perspective.”

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