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Gift of Life Celebrates 35th Anniversary as National Leader in Organ Donation
Date:1/15/2009

1,152 gifts of life were transplanted because of the generosity of donors and their families

PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Paulie Penkala might have been the toughest kid on the football field, but he spent his life helping others and had aspirations of continuing that after he graduated high school. For a 16-year-old from Hazleton, Pa. to be contemplating missionary work or the Peace Corps is certainly unique. But as his father Paul Sr. talked about it, his son's aspirations seemed like the perfect fit.

"I always used to tell him, 'you're a catalyst - when you're around, good things happen,'" the father remembered. "He was quiet, but he always had a smile, and always was there to help. He liked to right the wrongs."

That is why Paulie's father knew his son would have been proud to be an organ and tissue donor and have the ability to save lives. Paulie passed away on October 3, 2008 following a car accident, and the generosity he and his family exhibited - including mother Diane and sisters Nicole, Rhiannon and Lucy - helped save five lives and provide hope to others. Knowing that Paulie was able to help others has comforted his family and allowed them to find some meaning in his death. It also reminds them of Paulie's focus on doing the right thing and thinking of others.

As with every transplant done in this region, it is only possible through the generosity of the donors and their families, who continue to make the decision to save or enhance lives through organ and tissue donation.

And in 2008, they did so in record numbers. In 2008, the gifts given by 428 generous organ donors allowed Gift of Life Donor Program - the organ procurement organization for eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware - to coordinate a total of 1,152 life-saving transplants over the course of the year. Gift of Life and its hospital partners lead the U.S. in the number of donors for the year, furthering this region's commitment to patients in this region and remaining a national leader in donation and transplantation.

Also unprecedented were the number of tissue donations given over the past 12 months, with more than 1,900 tissue donors. The gifts recovered from these generous donors provided 878 gifts of bone, which can help rebuild a damaged limb and save it from amputation, 1,752 cornea donations, which can be used to restore vision, and countless other tissue recoveries that will greatly improve the life of thousands of tissue recipients.

This record-breaking success comes as Gift of Life celebrates its 35th anniversary in 2009.

"We continue to see such a strong commitment from the people in this region, showing their dedication to saving lives in record numbers," said Gift of Life President and CEO Howard M. Nathan. "But our true success is giving second chances to the more than 1,100 patients in 2008, because of the inspirational acts of donors and their loved ones.

Additionally, 2008 proved to be a very successful year in other facets of the organization. In 2008, Gift of Life was proud to recognize the work of all of our hospital partners who help support donation and worked diligently to ensure every family has the opportunity to donate. The outstanding efforts of 18 of these hospitals were honored with Medals of Honor from the federal Department of Health and Human Services this past October - the most hospitals of any region in the nation.

New Jersey also took a significant step toward fostering greater education about donation within its state while making it easier for residents to become donors. On July 22, Acting Governor Richard J. Codey signed into law the New Jersey Hero Act, a groundbreaking piece of legislation that would help foster a greater understanding of donation while also empowering state residents with the means to say yes to organ and tissue donation. The proposal has two components - one that would create a curriculum about donation that would be taught throughout state high schools, and the other that would focus residents on saying "Yes" to donation. An online registry for residents to add the donor designation will be in place by April of this year.

On the public awareness end, 2008 saw Gift of Life organize its most successful Dash for Organ Donor Awareness to date, with more than 5,000 people participating. Success was also the name of the game for Team Philadelphia, which rallied the largest team at the 2008 U.S. Transplant Games in Pittsburgh, coming home with the most medals in the history of the Games.

2008 also marked development on the Gift of Life Family House, a new Ronald McDonald House-type program being designed for out-of-town families with a loved one who is a patient at an area hospital awaiting transplant, patients being evaluated or receiving follow-up care after a transplant, and those giving the gift of life as living organ donors. This year will serve as a springboard for the formal capital campaign focused on raising the necessary funds to support this critically needed project. To date, meal and food programs are being introduced by the Family House with local transplant centers to provide comfort and support to the families of patients awaiting transplant.

Gift of Life's work is far from complete, however, and 2009 will see a continued focus on more lives being saved. Currently, more than 6,000 people in Gift of Life's service region still await organ transplants, joining more than 100,000 patients remain on the transplant waiting list nationwide.

Since 1974, Gift of Life has served as the link between donors and patients awaiting life-saving transplants in the eastern half of Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware. In that tenure, the OPO has coordinated more than 27,000 life-saving organ transplants and hundreds of thousands of tissue transplants. For more information on organ and tissue donation, please call Gift of Life at 1-800-DONORS-1 (1-800-366-6771) or visit our website at www.donors1.org.


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SOURCE Gift of Life Donor Program
Copyright©2009 PR Newswire.
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