Bradenton's St. Paul Missionary Baptist hosts organ donor seminar

BRADENTON -- The scar down the middle of Robert Dunlap's chest is a little more than three years old.

Yet its significance for him is timeless.

The 63-year-old nurse practitioner received a heart transplant back then that not only saved him, but gave a new purpose in life to the chief executive officer/president of Roger's Project Hope Inc.

"I feel like it's given me a ministry to go out and tell other people to make them aware of the importance of organ donations," Dunlap said. "I don't think people are aware of it in this community. Organ donation is a gift of life. It can save lives."

To that end, St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, 525 Martin Luther KingAve. E., Bradenton, will host "Tissue & Organ Donation Awareness" 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 8 in Bradenton.

Admission is free, the public is invited and a light lunch will be served.

The issue's urgency manifested itself for Dunlap when he was living in Nashville, Tenn., when he began suffering from congestive heart failure.

"The heart muscle was not contracting, working at 10 percent," he said. "Fluid was building up in my feet and legs. I couldn't breathe, sleep at night. It was horrible."

Doctors wanted to put him on a heart transplant list then, but Dunlap chose to return to Bradenton where he has family, to have the procedure.

It was done on July 5, 2009, at

Tampa General Hospital.

Dunlap was like a new man.

"After going through it, I feel a lot better," he said. "I have a lot more energy."

A new mission, too.

Dunlap said he not only wants to enlighten people in the community about the ability to be potential tissue and organ donors while they're living, but start a resource center for it, too.

"If you have something you can give to someone else a life to live -- a kidney, bone marrow, part of a liver -- you need to be aware of it, all the ins and outs of it," he said. "What I'm trying to do is get more people on the registry for being organ donors. It's just so valuable and I don't enough people are aware of this."

What Dunlap and his supporters also intend to do Saturday is begin clearing up misinformation about organ donation.

"There are a lot of myths," he said. "For instance, people think if they signed up and they get hurt, if EMTs look on the license and see, oh, the person is an organ donor then they let you die.

"We have to straighten that out."

Vin Mannix, Herald columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055 or Twitter Tissue & Organ Donation Awareness

Where: St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, 525 Martin Luther King Ave. E., Bradenton.

When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 8

Information: Call 941-779-3598.