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Gift of Life Celebrates Saving Lives and Setting Records in 2007
Date:1/18/2008

1,054 gifts of life were transplanted because of the generosity of donors and their families

PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- For 3-year-old Ally Heintz, of Perkiomenville, 2007 was a year that brought the greatest joy after what might have been the darkest low. Waiting for a multi-organ transplant, her parents Shane and Jill watched their young daughter teeter near death in April, hoping for a miracle.

That wish was answered just three months later in July, when her parents received a call that there was a life-saving transplant available for her. Since then, Ally has been on a steady road to recovery, and her parents are anxious to watch their little girl begin her life anew, thankful to the donor who made that possible.

Ally's story is just one of the hundreds that proved organ and tissue donation saved lives in 2007. Gift of Life Donor Program, the organ procurement organization for eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware, has diligently worked with area health care providers and families for more than three decades to facilitate donation and promote it as a life-saving means, and last year proved to be one of the most successful years.

In 2007, the gifts of 389 generous organ donors helped Gift of Life coordinate a total of 1,054 life-saving transplants over the course of the year. This was able to take place because of those donors and their family members who looked past their own tragedies and chose to save or enhance someone's life, like Ally and many others.

Last year, Gift of Life also coordinated a record-setting 698 bone recoveries, 416 skin donations and 1,391 cornea donations, among countless other tissue recoveries that greatly improved the life of thousands of tissue recipients. While not as readily publicized as organ donation, these gifts are no less miraculous. Transplanted bone can help rebuild a damaged limb and save it from amputation. Donated corneas can restore sight, and burn victims can receive donated skin to help them heal.

"This community continues to show just how committed it is to helping out its neighbors who are in need. Our continued success is a direct consequence of this altruism, the diligence of the Gift of Life staff, and our trusted hospital partners," said Howard M. Nathan, Gift of Life President and CEO. "We will continue to work in the hopes that one day all patients who are in need of a transplant receive their second chance at life."

Outside the clinical environment, Gift of Life has continued to work in the community to bring a greater awareness to donation and encourage people to register as donors. In Pennsylvania and Delaware, that process has been made easier for its residents with the continued success of online portals, supported by the states' departments of transportation. Both state-centered Web sites were enhanced in the past year and promoted as a means for people to add the donor designation to their driver's license or state I.D. at any time, without having to wait until it comes up for renewal.

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 December 20, Senate President Richard J. Codey unveiled 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, and do so online.

To aid in these efforts, donation is strongly supported by the 150 hospitals in the Gift of Life region that have worked diligently to ensure every family has the opportunity to donate. The superlative efforts of 20 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.

Among new projects in 2008, a top priority will be the construction of the Gift of Life Family House, a new facility 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, as well as living organ donors. This year will mark the commencement of construction, with plans for completion by the first quarter of 2009.

Gift of Life's work is far from complete, and 2008 will see a continued focus on more lives being saved. As of last month, more than 5,400 people in Gift of Life's service region still await organ transplants; nearly 100,000 patients remain on the transplant waiting list nationwide.

Gift of Life is a nonprofit organ procurement organization that coordinates organ and tissue donation and transplantation in the eastern half of Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware. For the last 34 years, Gift of Life Donor Program has served as the link between donors and patients awaiting life-saving transplants, coordinating over 25,000 vital organ transplants and tens of thousands of tissue transplants. For more information, please call Gift of Life Donor Program at 1-800-DONORS-1, or visit the Web site at http://www.donors1.org.


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SOURCE Gift of Life Donor Program
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