A ‘Miss’ With A Mission

Local Lung Transplant Recipient Set To Contend For Virginia Crown

Posted: February 27, 2014

Madison Shinaberry, a double-lung transplant recipient, was named Miss Southwestern Virginia at a pageant in Roanoke in January, making her a finalist for the Miss Virginia competition. The local teen, who turns 19 on Friday, plans to use the stage as a platform to raise awareness about organ donation. (Photo by Nikki Fox / DN-R)

HARRISONBURG — Madison Shinaberry takes every breath with donated lungs, and she’s not about to forget it.

The local teen, who turns 19 on Friday, is a finalist for the Miss Virginia competition taking place this summer, and she plans to use the stage as a platform to raise awareness about organ donation.

Shinaberry, who lives just west of Harrisonburg, received a rare double-lung transplant within two years after she was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension at the age of 11. The disease restricts blood flow to the lungs and can make simple tasks, like walking up stairs, challenging even for athletes like Shinaberry, who has been a dancer as long as she can remember.

Since then, she’s been working to raise awareness about the need for organ donors, and to dispel myths that deter many people from signing up. She was named Miss Southwestern Virginia at a pageant in Roanoke in January, and she will compete in the statewide Miss Virginia pageant in June.

The stage could be just what she needs to get the news out on a larger scale.

“It would bring my platform to a much larger stage and I would have the opportunity to educate so many more people about organ donation,” she said. “Hopefully, a lot more people would be able to make more informed decisions about whether to be an organ donor.”

Every 10 minutes, someone is added to an organ transplant waiting list, and an average of 18 people die every day because they can’t get the transplants they need to survive, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Shinaberry has been visiting schools around the region since receiving her title, sharing her story and asking older students to consider becoming organ donors and teaching younger kids about general health and wellness practices.

“It’s really shocking for me to look at 11-year-old kids now, which is when I was diagnosed, and imagine that I was going through what I was at that age,” she said. “I was aware of everything, all along, but I had a lot of great support around me and I was very driven to get through the disease and the surgery.”

The Miss Virginia candidate, a sophomore politics and accounting and business major at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, has long been interested in the political process. She’s been working with Del. Dickie Bell, R-Staunton, on organ donation legislation for about three years, which is giving her valuable experience for a potential career.

It’s a long way off, but she’s interested in running for office someday, whether it’s for the House of Delegates or maybe for the White House.

“Working with Del. Bell and seeing the legislative process and everything that goes into that has just sparked my interest in politics and I really enjoy it,” she said.

Most recently, she and Bell spoke at a Virginia Department of Education meeting in October about adding organ donation education to the state’s ninth-grade health curriculum. The health Standards of Learning, which are state-mandated aspects of school curricula, are under review; public comment will be taken by the Department of Education through March 10.

“She is such a smart, intelligent and poised young lady that when she made that presentation, I don’t think anybody felt like they had a choice but to do what she asked them to do,” Bell said.

Bell helped Shinaberry land a spring internship in the office of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and she’s looking forward to getting an inside look at what happens in Congress.

“I’m tickled to death for her,” Bell said. “I’m very proud of her for what she’s been able to overcome and been able to do. She’s so passionate about her cause, it just rubs off on anyone who comes in contact with her. I think [Miss Virginia] gives her a new platform, being a [organ] recipient herself, this opens up a whole new world of opportunity for her to raise awareness.”

Shinaberry also has been doing charity work for the Children’s Miracle Network, which raises money for affiliated hospitals. She must raise a total of $650 for the organization before heading back to Roanoke for the final Miss Virginia competition — the winner of which will head off to compete for Miss America.

The Miss Virginia pageant will be held June 26-28.

Want To Help?

Madison Shinaberry, who has been doing charity work for the Children’s Miracle Network, must raise a total of $650 for the organization before heading back to Roanoke for the final Miss Virginia competition To donate to the cause, visit www.missamericaforkids.org/donate/madisonshinaberry .

Contact Kassondra Cloos at 574-6290 or kcloos@dnronline.com



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