By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
City of Birmingham employees can have up to four weeks of paid leave if they donate a kidney and up to one week of paid leave if they donate bone marrow, Mayor Randall Woodfin announced Tuesday during National Donate Life Month.
“This is the right thing to do for our city and it’s the right thing to do in support of our employees… Birmingham is the first Alabama municipality to have such a policy,” Woodfin said during the City Council meeting.
The mayor announced a new Human Resources policy that gives paid leave to those employees who have worked for the city for at least one year or have 1,250 hours in the past 12 months.
“Living organ donors sacrifice so much to save lives and this new policy is just one way I want us to show as a city and applaud our employee’s sacrifices to stand with them in their decision,” said Woodfin.
Two city employees have already donated organs: Jarralynne Agee, Special Projects Liaison in the Office of Social Justice and Racial Equity, donated a kidney to retired NFL player Gary Burley and Lieutenant Robert Tellis Jr., of Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service donated a kidney to his father.
“In January of this year, I walked into UAB (University of Alabama at Birmingham) with two healthy kidneys as God called me to do and a few days later, I walked out with one kidney and Gary Burley, my friend, has the other kidney now,” said Agee.
“On the way to making the decisions that I had to make in order to donate a kidney, I only felt I had one choice because I always knew for my whole life that if I was ever in that position to serve in this way that I would do it . . . the policy that the mayor has created puts heart, empathy and people first into a legacy that will help benefit people for many years to come. This policy will not only change lives but it’s going to save lives,” Agee said.
Councilor Steven Hoyt agreed.
“My nephew was on the kidney transplant list for about eight years and finally got a kidney and it changed his life… he’s still living and still thriving so we really know the importance of that,” said Hoyt.
Dr. Jayme Locke, a transplant surgeon at UAB Hospital said there are 100,000 people in the United States waiting for a kidney transplant and fewer than 20,000 actually occur every year.
“Believe it or not, there are enough American citizens if they are willing, we could actually eliminate the waiting list just with living donations alone, but there are many barriers that stand in the way of that including financial ones, and jobs.”
Locke said Agee didn’t just save Burley’s life she “saved so many more to come and we really, really appreciate it.”
April is Donate Life Month which is an entire month of local, regional and national activities to help encourage Americans to register as organ, eye and tissue donors and to celebrate those who have saved lives through the gift of donation.