Wineka: Organ donor gives the gift of life

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 19, 2011

By Mark Wineka
SALISBURY — Through the years as she dealt with serious health challenges, Karina Evette Moss would drop subtle reminders into conversations with her parents.
It might be over dinner or while shopping with her mother, Shirley, but Karina would mention she was an organ and tissue donor. If she died, she wanted to give a gift of life.
When 34-year-old Karina died the morning of Jan. 18 at an assisted-living facility in Spencer, Grady and Shirley Moss knew, once they emerged from the shock of her passing, what Karina’s wishes were.
They made the arrangements with the hospital’s help.
This month, the Mosses and their son, Ernest, celebrated Karina’s gift when they presented a cloth square the parents designed to Carolina Donor Services, a federally designated organ procurement agency serving 7 million people in 78 counties of North Carolina and Danville, Va.
Their square and those from other donor families become part of a quilt that is displayed at community and state events, health fairs and during public awareness campaigns.
The quilts also are part of three annual “Celebration of Life” ceremonies held each April during Donate Life Month. The regional celebrations take place in Winston-Salem, Durham and Greenville, and Moss family members attended the Winston-Salem gathering at the Hawthorne Inn.
Ernest Moss spoke for the family at the ceremony, and they also watched a video memorial tribute to Karina and the other donors being honored.
Made with the help of Granite Knitwear, Karina’s 13-inch square includes her photograph, the dates of her life and the words “Victory is Mine,” the title of her favorite song.
Ernest, a former track star at North Rowan High School and now a coach at Raford University in Va., says his sister’s gift as a donor was her true expression of love, service and honor.
“It shows everything she stood for every single day,” he says.
Karina’s aunt and godmother, Frances McCray, says Karina was “an especially giving person.”
“I hope so that many people sign up for this program,” she adds.
Next April, the Mosses will be able to return to the Celebration of Life ceremony and see the completed quilt, honoring 2011 donors.
Granite Knitwear actually produced an extra square for the Mosses, and it might end up in a national quilt, Shirley says.
Before her health completely limited her driving, Karina registered as an organ donor on her driver’s license.
Karina graduated from North Rowan High School in 1994 and received certifications in child care, sign language and phonics from Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. She was employed for a time with Home Child Care Centers Inc.
In high school, Karina Moss participated on cross country and indoor and outdoor track teams. She was a charter member of the Rowan Express Track Club and also belonged to the Durham Strider Track Club. She was a North Rowan High Band member, an Archonette of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and a 1994 debutante queen.
Her mother says Karina began taking dance lessons at 5 and became talented in jazz, tap, ballet and modern dance. “She was often asked to dance at special events,” Shirley says.
On the community side, Karina was a strong advocate for the young, old and people with disabilities, according to her family. She volunteered at the Lutheran Home and as a storyteller for Rowan Public Library. She also worked for Summit Civitan Club and held local and state positions with the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Karina collected angels and was known for writing poems and short stories.
“This is our biggest test that God put before us,” Shirley Moss says of losing her only daughter. Shirley and Grady met at Livingstone College and have been married 40 years. Shirley is a retired and beloved educator, known especially for her long teaching career at Knox Middle School.
From her days as a late teen, Karina suffered from blood clots and had survived several life-threatening scares. The need to be near emergency care eventually forced her into the assisted-living facility, Shirley says.
Still, her death Jan. 18 was a surprise, because there was no indication in the days leading up to her death that she was having troubles.
Shirley says she talked with her daughter two to four times a day and last spoke with her the night before she died.
In that conversation, Shirley shared the news that her mother, Cornelia Cartwright — Karina’s grandmother — was going to have a street named for her in the Lonsdale neighborhood of Knoxville, Tenn.
The official ceremony is scheduled for this summer. Cartwright was a well-known community activist for Lonsdale.
“It was big news for our family,” Shirley says. “We were talking of plans to go.”
The family has received several things in Karina’s honor since her death. Carolina Donor Services gave them a handsome “Gift of Life” donor medal and a silver starfish pin, a symbol for making a difference.
The U.S. Surgeon General’s office has sent the Mosses a certificate paying tribute to Karina. They also have received a letter of thanks from the North Carolina Eye Bank.
Carolina Donor Services says one organ donor can save up to eight lives, and one tissue donor can save or improve the quality of life for up to 50 people.
The Mosses don’t know exactly how many people Karina may have helped through her gift.
They just cherish the time they had with her and know she’s still making a difference.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or

Carolina Donor Services says there are three easy ways to register as an organ, eye and tissue donor in North Carolina:
• Place a heart on your driver’s license at the Division of Motor Vehicles
• Register online at
• Complete a paper enrollment form and return it to Donate Life North Carolina
For more information, contact Carolina Donor Services at 800-200-2672, or