Melissa Wilson, the 34-yerar-old Paris mother of three who received a New Year's Day heart transplant, is now an ambassador for organ donation.

Melissa Wilson, the 34-yerar-old Paris mother of three who received a New Year’s Day heart transplant, is now an ambassador for organ donation.

She took her story of survival, hope and blessings to some 1,100 women at the statewide P.E.O. Sisterhood (Philanthropic Educational Organization) meeting at the Embassy Suites in St. Charles recently.

Wilson was the keynote speak for the organization’s annual meeting.

“I did not think about organ transplants before I needed my new heart,” she said. “Now, I want to make certain people are aware of the need.”

Marcie Buckman, a member of the Paris P.E.O. chapter said Wilson’s story inspired women at the meeting.

“Women came up to her after her talk, stopped her and thanked her in the hallways,” she said. “Melissa touched their hearts.”

Buckman said that one woman attending the meeting was moved by Wilson’s story because of heart disease in her own family.

The woman’s son is a candidate for a heart transplant, but the family has been fearful of the surgery. Wilson’s story convinced her of the need for the heart transplant.

“She was in tears,” Buckman said. “She felt God had sent her to the convention to see Melissa.”

Wilson said the meeting the woman was overwhelming.

“I am so happy my story helped,” she said. “Another woman, about 60 or so, came up to me to tell me that she had a heart transplant last October…we hugged.”

Wilson said her main message to the group was to promote organ donation, as there are thousands of people each day on lists for all types of transplants. According to the National Institutes for Health, in the last 10 years, an average of just more than 2,000 people per year have received new hearts. Worldwide, the number tops 3,500. However, there are estimates that as many as 800,000 people worldwide have a heart defect that could justify a transplant.

And that is just for the heart. There are about 6,000 liver transplants in the United States in an average year, with a waiting list of about 17,000, meaning that many people die while awaiting a transplant because of the lack of a suitable donor, and because of their position on the transplant list. Other life-saving organ donations include the lungs, pancreas, kidneys and small intestines. There are many thousands of people on those waiting lists.

“Until my heart transplant, I never realized the need,” Wilson said, “now I want everyone to know how important it is to consider organ donation.

Wilson also used her talk to thank members of the P.E.O. for their assistance.

“P.E.O. has helped do so much,” said Wilson, who is currently unable to work because of her heart condition. “P.E.O. has paid my rent…I simply cannot say enough about their assistance.”

Buckman said that P.E.O. assistance is confidential and that Wilson has chosen to disclose the organization’s help in her life.

Wilson said she feels blessed to share her story with others, and to give thanks for the assistance she had received and for her many blessings.

She ended her talk to the P.E.O. meeting with a with a Bible verse: 2 Corinthians 9:12: “(New International Version) This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.”