Alabama Student Saves Lives through Organ Donation

Natalie Baine, a junior at Alabama from Roswell, Ga., passed away from injuries sustained in a car accident in Montgomery while she was returning from the BCS National Championship game in Miami, Fla. Baine was able to save the lives of four individuals across the country by donating her organs to those in need.

By Jack McCallion

TUSCALOOSA—The post-BCS National Championship euphoria was shattered January 8 as the victorious University of Alabama cheerleading bus smashed into a pickup truck filled with Alabama students in Montgomery. All of the students escaped the accident unscathed, except Natalie Baine, a junior from Roswell, Ga., who was rushed to Montgomery Baptist Hospital in critical condition.

On Friday, Jan. 11 at 3:58 p.m., Baine passed away from injuries sustained in the accident, surrounded by her friends and family.

The family and friends mourned their loss as rain battered the hospital, until a sudden glimmer of hope appeared in the form of a small piece of plastic. Recovered from the wreckage of the accident was Baine’s driver’s license, and the words “organ donor” were written in the corner.

“After death organs can still function,” said Angela Haffarnan, an organ procurement transplant coordinator for the United Network for Organ Sharing. When many people are getting their drivers licenses they are “too busy” or “don’t think it’s important” to sign up to be an organ donor and simply ignore checking the box that would make them eligible to be an organ donor, said Haffarnan. Even when they do choose to become an organ donor many people do not truly recognize the magnitude of their decision.

“A lot of people check the box to become an organ donor not knowing what it truly means,” said Baine’s step-sister, Lauren Korowitz, who is also a junior at Alabama, along with her twin sister Lexi. “She made a decision that wasn’t mindless. She knew exactly what she was doing.”

Since Baine’s passing, her organs have already saved lives. Baine’s heart was transplanted to a 13-year-old girl, her liver was sent to a middle aged man, and her kidneys were distributed to a 17-year-old female and a 28-year-old man.

“It is something that touches your heart,” said Haffarnan. “Organ donors are true heroes.”

In the United States there are currently 115,000 men, women and children in need of organ transplants. Despite this startlingly high number, only 28,535 organ transplants happened in 2011. This lack of available organs can cause those in need to wait for years in hope of finally being selected to receive organs.

Baine’s selflessness and generosity led the hospital to dedicate a flag emblazoned with the words “Donate Life” in her honor. The rain that had pounded relentlessly all day miraculously stopped as Baine’s friends and family filed out to the flag pole to see the  raised in her honor.

“It was hard looking up there knowing what it meant,” said Lexi Korowitz. “But I felt relieved that she was helping other people and she was at peace.”

The flag flapped above the hospital in sudden melancholy calmness after a day of chaos.

“That was a very special moment for the whole family,” said Lauren Korowitz. “It made everything real. Natalie was helping people. Only a few people get that kind of honor.”

The flag flew over Montgomery Baptist Hospital as long as Baine remained there, honoring her selflessness and dedication to helping others. Afterwards, Baine’s family was given the flag as a memento of her generosity.

Many people will remember Natalie for her ferocious competitive tenacity and her record 111 varsity starts for the Roswell High School Lady Hornets basketball team. Her sisters in Alpha Chi Omega will most likely remember her infectious laugh and easy going smile that could light up any room she entered. Her close friends will remember the girl who would rather beat a bunch of boys at bowling on a hot summer afternoon than go shopping with her girlfriends.

For more information about organ donations and how to become an organ donor please visit www.donatelife.net