PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 16, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Gift of Life Donor Program - the non-profit, federally designated organ procurement organization (OPO) serving the eastern half of Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware – led the nation once again with the highest number of organ donors recorded by an OPO. The organization proudly celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2014, and built on its strong track record by successfully coordinating 1,133 life-saving organ transplants from 447 generous donors. Gift of Life recovered the tissue from 2,458 giving individuals, whose donations may benefit up to 60,000 people - including bone donations that have repaired fractures and prevented amputations, skin donations that have healed burn patients and heart valve donations that have repaired life-threatening defects. This number also includes 2,173 cornea donations that will give the gift of sight to recipients. Since each donor is able to save the lives of up to eight people through organ donation and enhance the lives of up to 50 individuals through tissue donation, these gifts are far-reaching and hugely impactful.
Gift of Life's ability to save and enhance lives would not be possible without donors and donor families saying "yes" to organ and tissue donation. This selfless choice, along with the strong partnerships between Gift of Life and the region's 15 transplant centers and 129 acute care hospitals, make donation a reality and help thousands of people each year. People like Macungie, PA resident Todd Stickel.
Just a year and a half ago, Todd received the gift of life at the age of 49. Before his transplant, he never imagined that he would be able to lead such a healthy and active life. Since receiving his transplant, he finished a 5K race at the Dash for Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness, participated as part of Team Philadelphia – a group of recipients and living donors who compete in the Donate Life Transplant Games of America - and represented Gift of Life at the Philadelphia International Dragonboat Festival, where he paddled with his team, the Donor Dragons, down the Schuylkill River and brought home a bronze medal.
Todd was born with a congenital heart defect and had his first open-heart surgery to replace his aortic valve at 23. Over the next twenty years, he had two more open-heart surgeries before his condition worsened and he was added to the organ transplant waitlist for a new heart. "I hope that I have a long road ahead of me. Every day, I try to live like it's my last," Todd said. He has been in contact with the donor family who saved his life and is tremendously grateful for the decision that they made. "They gave me another chance at life and I'll always be thankful." Many people who are on the transplant waitlist are not as fortunate as Todd. On average, 21 people die each day in the U.S. while waiting for a transplant.
"I'm proud of the life-changing work that Gift of Life has done this past year, but it's important to remember that we still have a lot of work to do. In our region alone, there are more than 6,300 men, women and children who are waiting for an organ transplant," said Howard M. Nathan, President & CEO, Gift of Life Donor Program. "There is a critical shortage of transplantable organs, which is why it's so crucial for people to register to be an organ donor. It only takes 30 seconds to register and is a great New Year's resolution. By 'resolving to register' today, you can help someone in the future."
In June 2014, Markita Lewis' bravery and giving spirit allowed many lives to be saved. When she received a phone call that her son, Marquis Wood, had been airlifted to the hospital, she knew that the prognosis would not be good. She arrived at the hospital to be by her 13-year-old son's side and learned that he had an asthma attack and went into cardiac arrest. After Marquis was pronounced brain dead, Markita was given the option for him to be an organ and tissue donor.
Markita was diagnosed with lupus and learned that organ failure and transplantation may be necessary in her future. When she shared this information with Marquis, he responded by saying, "Don't worry, mom. You can have my organs." Even at such a young age, Marquis was an extraordinary young man with a selfless and generous nature. After he passed away, Markita honored his kind words by agreeing to donate his organs to benefit others. Markita said, "Having that conversation with Marquis before he died gave me the strength, on the worst day of my life, to make the decision to give the gift of life." Today, Markita is passionate about sharing her son's story and has become an advocate for Gift of Life. She is a member of Gift of Life's Multicultural Affairs Coalition and has spoken to local churches and Philadelphia high school students about the importance of registering as an organ and tissue donor.
In addition to Gift of Life's tireless efforts to save lives, it also offers transplant patients and their families "a home away from home" at the Family House. In 2014, Gift of Life Family House provided more than 8,000 lodging nights of care. Since its creation in 2011, it has provided 20,000 lodging nights, housing 39,265 guests and 903 unique families. Family House offers many services for patients and their families, such as Home Cook Heroes - a volunteer-based program where groups of 10 people cook and serve dinner to guests. Volunteers for Home Cook Heroes served more than 31,000 meals in 2014, and 80,000 meals to date. Family House has also provided guests with 3,929 trips to and from area hospitals, transporting 8,440 guests a total of 34,340 miles.
Family House lightens the financial and emotional burden of transplant care by charging a minimal nightly cost and offering services to support the patient and their caregiver during the challenging journey of transplantation. North Carolina native and Family House guest, Deb Shah, has been staying at the House while her son, Dhillon, waits for a heart transplant. "Family House is a beautiful and comfortable place, but most of all it's the other families who are here that understand what we're going through, said Deb. "They've become like family. We just could have never had that in an apartment."
Gift of Life Institute, a global leader in donation education, also had many accomplishments in 2014. It trained nearly 700 donation professionals, both in the U.S. and abroad, in family communication, authorization and hospital development through instructor-led classes and eLearning, and launched its first virtual classroom training for tissue donation. Established in 2004, Gift of Life Institute is the pre-eminent resource for proven clinical and innovative educational programs, serving the organ procurement community and training more than 7,000 donation professionals from 33 different countries since its inception.
About Gift of Life Donor Program Since 1974, Gift of Life has coordinated more than 37,000 life-saving organ transplants and over 550,000 tissue transplants. Gift of Life serves as the link between donors and patients awaiting life-saving organ and life-enhancing tissue transplants. Serving nearly 11 million people in the region, Gift of Life's coordination of over 40 donors-per-million-population ranks among the highest in the world. For more information about donation and to register, visit us at donors1.org.
SOURCE Gift of Life Donor Program