PHILADELPHIA – 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 — is the leading OPO in the nation for the eighth year in a row with its successful coordination of life-saving gifts from 483 local organ donors, which resulted in 1,291 organ transplants. Gift of Life exceeded its previous national record of 447 organ donors that it reached in 2013 and 2014. An additional 352 transplants were coordinated from other areas of the country, bringing the total number of organs coordinated by Gift of Life to 1,643. This is the greatest number of organs ever coordinated by an OPO in the United States.
Gift of Life also recovered tissue from 2,546 individuals, whose donations may benefit up to 100,000 people — including bone donations to repair fractures and prevent amputations, skin donations to heal burn patients and heart valve donations to repair life-threatening defects. This includes 2,265 cornea donations that will give the gift of sight to recipients.
“Being the national leader in coordinating the most life-saving organ donors is a great accomplishment. We are grateful for the generosity of donors and donor families who chose donation, along with the expertise and dedication of the region’s healthcare professionals and our strong partnerships with the 15 transplant centers and 129 acute care hospitals in our area.” said Howard M. Nathan, President and CEO, Gift of Life Donor Program. “Gift of Life staff also work tirelessly 24/7 to be excellent stewards of these precious gifts. Every day, I’m proud of the work that we do at Gift of Life.”
Gratitude is a feeling that the Rodriguez family knows well. Originally from Puerto Rico, they relocated to Philadelphia when their son, Kenneth, age 18 months, was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder that attacked his liver, resulting in him needing a transplant to survive. During their wait, they stayed at Gift of Life’s Family House for five months, and were grateful to have a supportive and comfortable place to stay. After months of waiting, they finally received the call that they had been desperately waiting for – there was a matching donor. Immediately after Kenneth’s transplant, his mother said that he looked like a different boy, as his jaundice dissipated and his skin and eyes lost their yellow hue. Today, Kenneth, age 4, is hard to slow down and is filled with energy. His mother, Maribel, said, “He loves to go on the swings, to run and to ride carousels. We are so grateful to Kenneth’s donor for saving our son. We feel blessed that he’s come this far.”
Donor mother and Gift of Life volunteer, Tamika Steed, often speaks about feeling blessed for her son’s legacy of giving. The Pennsauken, NJ resident’s 21-year-old son, Adonest, died in 2014 after suffering a seizure and cardiac arrest. She describes Adonest as a comedian by nature who knew how to make people laugh, and as a young man with an unparalleled passion for life. Tamika said, “Adonest passed too soon, but his death was not an end because he was able to save the lives of many others through organ donation. He always wanted to go everywhere and do everything. Even in death, he is able to. He lives on through others. That brings me comfort.”
Although Gift of Life’s accomplishments in 2015 are impressive, the organization’s work is far from complete. Today, nearly 5,900 people still wait for an organ transplant in the region — and more than 122,000 are waiting nationally. “While we continue to lead the nation in organ donors, there are still not enough organs available for transplant, resulting in 22 people dying each day while waiting.” said Richard D. Hasz, VP Clinical Services, Gift of Life Donor Program. “Gift of Life will continue to advocate for those who are waiting for a second chance at life, and will continue to ensure that individuals and families are offered the opportunity to say “yes” to donation.”
Since 1974, Gift of Life has coordinated more than 40,000 organ transplants and an estimated 600,000 tissue transplants. Gift of Life’s service area includes nearly 11 million people, and in 2015 the organization coordinated over 44 organ donors-per-million-population — ranking it among the highest in the world. For more information about organ and tissue donation or to register today, visit donors1.org. It only takes 30 seconds to register.