More than 100,000 Americans are desperately waiting for organ transplants. That's according to the Department of Health and Human Services. A Vancleave man is giving the gift of life to decrease that number.
Mark Shelnutt's family said the 32-year-old took his own life this week and his organs are being donated to those in need.
"My brother lost his life Monday, earlier than he deserved," Mark's sister, Crissy Reale said.
Jesse Shelnutt and Crissy Reale said it's hard to believe their older brother, Mark, once so full of life, is now gone. They considered Mark a role model and a best friend.
"We did everything together," Shelnutt remembered. "He was such a great person; he helped everyone."
The siblings said they're now dealing with his death a little better knowing a part of Mark will live on.
"We discovered at 15-years-old, he did this selfless act when he went to the DMV and told them that 'I want to be an organ donor,'" Reale said. "For that responsibility, he knew he wanted to help others live on."
Mark's heart, liver, pancreas, kidneys and other vital organs will go to a least five people waiting for transplants in our state.
"Even though we didn't have the miracle of saving him, I know that a mother will be able to hold her baby one more time and bring her home because my brother gave her his kidney," Reale said. "Someone who has been through bad burns will have the skin on their body, so they will live this life as a normal person."
Mark's baby brother said he will follow his brother's lead and someday donate his organs to save others.
"Actually in the last week, I decided I do want to donate my organs, so I can live on and be like my brother and help people even after I am gone."
This family is praying more South Mississippians will also find the courage to this gift of life.
"It is the greatest give you can give," Shelnutt said.
The family said a Mark Shelnutt Benefit Fund has been setup at all Hancock Bank branches.
Copyright 2012 WLOX. All rights reserved.
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