Douglassville, PA native, Jacob Hafer, was born on Valentine’s Day with a “broken heart.” Jacob was just an infant when he was diagnosed with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, a rare heart defect that resulted in him needing a transplant. He was listed on the organ transplant waitlist after being diagnosed, and his parents waited nervously for a heart to become available.
Many individuals – especially children – wait months, if not years for a life-saving organ transplant. Jacob was one of the lucky ones. Just seven months after being listed, his family received the call that a heart was available for him. The heart was generously donated by the family of a five year old boy from Atlanta, GA who tragically passed away in a car accident. Doctors were concerned that the five year old’s heart may not fit into the small body of seven month old Jacob, but were able to successfully perform the transplant without any issues.
Today, at 18 year’s old, Jacob says that his life has been a normal one – growing up and being active just like other children. “I ran track and played basketball in school. I’ve been able to do what my friends do. My doctors thought that I may have difficulty running track with my heart, but it was never a problem for me. Besides taking medicine twice a day, I have had a life like any other healthy person,” he said.
February 14th is a special day for Jacob – not only because it is his birthday, but because it’s also National Donor Day. Observed annually, Donor Day encourages people to register as organ and tissue donors, and educates the public about the more than 123,000 men, women and children nationally who are awaiting a life-saving organ transplant. In the state of Pennsylvania, more than 8,500 people are waiting for a second chance at life.
Jacob and his family are passionate about telling their story wherever they can – at churches, schools and community meetings. They want to help others understand the critical need and importance of becoming an organ and tissue donor. A few years ago, they began volunteering with Gift of Life Donor Program by hosting Gift of Life information tables at the Reading Phillies games and participating in Gift of Life Family House’s Home Cook Heroes Program. As a Home Cook Hero, Jacob – along with several of his friends and family members – prepare home cooked meals for the transplant patients and their families who are staying at the House and receiving transplant-related care in the Philadelphia area.
“I think if everyone really knew how sick people on the waitlist are, they would register,” Jacob said. “Healthy people don’t realize that individuals on the waitlist just want to be healthy and be able to fully live the lives that they deserve. I’m going to do all that I can to show people that transplantation works and that they have the power to register and save lives – just like my donor did for me.”
Currently, 21 people die each day waiting for a transplant in the United States. But there is hope, and you can make a difference! Take action and join the movement to help save lives. Register today and encourage your friends and family to do the same. It only takes 30 seconds to register at www.donors1.org.