Death of MB councilman's brother, leads to city effort for organ donation

Keith Wallace with his Dad.

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C (WPDE) - It's estimated every 10 minutes nationwide, someone is added to the organ transplant waiting list. In South Carolina, more than 1,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant, but many will die before they get one.

In honor of National Donate Life month, Myrtle Beach City Council is issuing a proclamation Tuesday honoring those who have already signed up to be donors and encouraging others to register.

The cause is special to Councilman Randal Wallace. In August of last year, his younger brother Keith Wallace died suddenly. Because he had signed up to be an organ and tissue donor, his death went on to save lives.

"Anywhere that I went, he went with me when he was growing up, when I'd go over there. I got a lot of really happy and good memories of him," Wallace shared in the living room of his home. "I saw him the Sunday before he died, and he was fine."

Inside Wallace's home, you can easily find pictures of his younger brother Keith. Wallace now has two of his favorite hats and a knife that arrived in the mail after Keith's death. Keith was sixteen years his junior, and Wallace said before Keith's death they were beginning to have more things in common.

"He was a big hearted guy, but he was lot of fun. He hunted and liked to fish. And he was an outstanding golfer and a pretty good basketball player and football player," added Wallace.

While with a friend, Keith complained of an "exploding headache." He suffered a brain aneurism and died at only 25 years old.

"They called an ambulance, and the guy drove him to meet him, because they were out in the country. This guy lived out in Clarendon County. By the time they got him to the ambulance, he was already kind of incoherent. By the time they got to the hospital, not responding. They put him on life support," said Wallace. "It was a complete and total shock to us, because there was no inkling that anything was wrong."

At the hospital, Keith's family learned he signed up to donate his organs. The request saved the lives of others. Keith's liver went to a recipient at the Medical University of South Carolina, his heart went to Georgia, his lungs went to Alabama, his left kidney went to Oklahoma, his right kidney went to Ohio, and his tissue went on to help 50 other people.

"You never think this is going to happen to you. You never think it's going to happen to your family members. But since then, I wanted to do a little more, so I hope it'll raise some awareness," said Wallace.

He'd also like to see the state legislature support Donate Life SC by allocating funds for the organization.

Click here if you'd like to become a donor or just learn more.