Gregory Council was always a man who knew how to motivate others. From his younger days as the owner of a barbershop in North Philadelphia to his work in the NJ School District, where he counseled and mentored at-risk youth who were facing possible incarceration – he had a gift at giving guidance to others and lending a helping hand.
He had always been a healthy man who was active and loved sports. He got married and had two children, and settled down in Wilmington, DE. His wife, Brenda, and him had known each other and dated since 1973. His challenge in life was that he struggled with Hepatitis C, a disease that was destroying his liver and his health.
In 2009, his health continued to deteriorate and he was listed on the organ transplant waitlist for a liver. He also had to begin dialysis because his kidneys were no longer functioning. The strain of his sickness took a huge toll on his physical health. He was very ill and was bed ridden for much of the time that he waited for a liver transplant. He also required continuous care, so both of his adult children moved home to help take care of him.
Even during such a challenging time, he never gave up hope on himself or on other people. Although he was confined to his bed, he still welcomed the opportunity to counsel people. He offered support to a young man who was having issues and was in the foster system. Even physically ill, he used his ability to motivate and benefit others. “He always strived to let people know the value of life, and to help them have the opportunity to appreciate it.” Brenda said.
Then, in September 2010 his generosity with others was returned to him – someone said “yes” to donation and saved Gregory’s life. He got the call that a liver was available and he immediately went to the hospital. His surgery was a success and he healed quickly. Just two weeks after his transplant, he was at Gift of Life Donor Program volunteering and out in the community sharing his amazing story.
“As soon as he was able to, he starting volunteering and giving back.” said Brenda. “He got his transplant and was so excited to be alive. He saw the beauty in everything. Somebody gave him another chance to live and he wanted to give back. He was rediscovering everything and had such an appreciation for his family, his neighbors and friends.”
Sadly, Gregory has since passed away, but his legacy lives on through his wife, children and grandchildren. Brenda is a huge advocate for Gift of Life and for organ and tissue donation, speaks regularly and does community outreach. She is also a member of the Delaware Coalition and has promoted donation throughout the state.
Currently, more than 5,700 people in Gift of Life’s region – eastern PA, southern NJ and DE – are awaiting a life-saving organ transplant, and minorities are the group that is affected the most. National Minority Donor Awareness Week, held August 1-7, honors the generosity of multicultural donors and their families, while also underscoring the critical need for minority communities to register as potential organ and tissue donors. Nationally, minority communities represent 25% of the population, but represent a startling 58% and more of those waiting on a life-saving transplant. In Gift of Life’s region, more than 50% of those waiting for a kidney transplant are minority. Gift of Life believes this week is an important platform to build upon because lack of education is crippling minority communities.
“I speak with so many people in the minority community who lack trust and have a lot of misconceptions about organ donation.” said Brenda. “I want to encourage people to give others another chance at life. I don’t think people realize how many individuals are waiting and how great the need is.”