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Browse through the latest highlights of Gift of Life Donor Program in local and national news.


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The gift of organ and tissue donation can change someone’s life and rewrite their story. Every story has the potential to save a life. Will you share yours?

June 2018
Teen to graduate after life-saving kidney transplant

By Mark Hall

June 8, 2018

Nicole King (living donor) and Saderiah Wallace (kidney recipient)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – It has been a tough road for Harrisburg High School senior Saderiah Wallace.

She had to endure the disappointment of two kidney transplant cancellations, but things have changed dramatically and she is looking forward to graduation this weekend.

Wallace received her kidney transplant before the beginning of the new year. During the surgery, she had a dream.

“All I kept hearing was the kidney is working, the kidney is working,” she said.

As soon as she woke up, she got the good news.

“I’m like, are you serious? And they are like yes, you have a beautiful kidney and it’s working and everything,” Wallace said.

Read the full story here.

Philly teens promote Gift of Life in their schools

By Steve Tawa

June 2, 2018

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Several Philadelphia high schools brought their classroom projects to the Gift of Life Donor Program on North 3rd Street to promote organ and tissue awareness in their schools.

Bodine High School 16-year old Junior Jay Chen and his friends at Youth Volunteer Corps designed a miniature golf course, shaped like a liver. When he gets his driver’s license, he’ll talk it over with his family about signing up.

“I want to do it,” Chen said, “but I’m not sure that they’re on board with it.”

Todd Franzen is a supervisor in Gift of Life’s Community Relations Department.

“We want to not only reach the students, but the teachers, and ideally, those at home as well – the parents and grandparents,” Franzen said.

Gift of Life says 95% people surveyed in the U.S. support organ donation. Franzen points out they’re trying to improve Philadelphia’s lowest in the Commonwealth donor designation rate.

“It’s at about 31%,” he said. “And, I know we can do better.”

The statewide average is better than 48%. At Saul High School, teacher Mary Creighton’s students in a 9th grade health class created Public Service Announcements.

“We posted it to YouTube,” she said, “and they had a competition for likes on their video.”

Read the full article here.

May 2018
Transplant Registry International helps organ recipients navigate pregnancy

By 6abc

May 11, 2018

This weekend, the spotlight will be on moms. They’ll be treated to special gifts, meals and more for Mother’s Day.

For a young Mayfair woman, being a mother has extra meaning.

“Isla is 5, and she’s my princess. She wants to be dressed up, she wants her hair cut a certain way,” says Rachel Riley. “Aevyn is my bulldozer. She will bulldoze through anything and everyone. Nothing fazes her,” she adds.

Rachel relishes motherhood after being told for years it wasn’t an option.

That’s because, as a rebellious teen, Rachel let her diabetes go out of control.

“I stopped taking my insulin,” she recalls, adding, “I just wanted to do what everybody else was doing, and eat what everyone else was eating.”

In time, Rachel’s kidneys failed and she needed a transplant. At 26, with a new kidney and committed to controlling her diabetes, Rachel got a green light to start a family.

Read the full article here.

April 2018
Thousands of organs are lost before they can be donated. Here’s how to save them.

By Ted Alcorn

Courtesy of Shutterstock

There is something near-miraculous about the organ donation system, which allows tens of thousands of Americans a year to give up parts of their body they no longer need to extend the lives of others.

And yet tens of thousands of viable organs are also lost each year rather than going to patients desperately in need of them. Researchers recently estimated there are only half as many donors as there are deaths with potential to donate.

Given how life-changing an organ transplant can be, and the scale of demand, how could we ensure that every potential donation finds its way to a recipient?

We tend to focus on the surgeon as the key figure in the equation. But as it turns out, the success of organ donation hinges just as much on other links in the chain.

If we supported the entire organ transplant system and held it to better account, we would ensure that more organs from the dying could become a gift of life for someone else.

Here’s how that might work.

There’s an urgent need to increase the number of organ transplants

2017 was a record year for organ donation and transplantation, as the number of deceased people whose organs were recovered for donation surpassed 10,000 for the first time. Those donations, combined with organs offered by nearly 6,000 living people, together meant that 35,000 desperately ill people got lifesaving transplants.But that same year, more than 50,000 people were added to the waitlist.

Source: Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
Courtesy of Vox

Of those people currently on the US transplant waitlist, 81 percent need a kidney, 12 percent need a liver, and the rest need a heart, lung, pancreas, or intestine. They suffer from conditions as varied as diabetes, alcohol abuse, or hepatitis C, but what they have in common is that one of their vital organs is irreversibly failing.

As organs become available for transplant, they are matched with the sickest nearby patient with whom they are compatible, following a complex protocol that takes physiological and geographic factors into account. To reach the front of the line, patients may have to wait until their illness is very advanced, and, as a result, undergo surgery when they are least able to physically tolerate it.

Transplant centers control which patients are added to the list; they can be conservative in putting forward only those who they believe will benefit. Dr. Seth Karp, director of the Vanderbilt University Transplant Center, estimates that only one in 10 patients who die of liver disease in Tennessee was even on the waiting list for a liver.

Read the full article here.

Donors are Heroes, Gift of Life host annual THE Party

For Digital First Media

April 19, 2018

Gift of Life Donor Program President & CEO Howard Nathan and his wife, Liz Nathan, enjoy the event.
Courtesy of Faith West Photography

PHILADELPHIA — The 16th annual Donors Are Heroes and Gift of Life Donor Program THE Party was held on April 13th at The Bellevue Hotel. THE Party aims to raise funds to help maintain public awareness programs, school summits and teaching initiatives to educate and dispel myths about becoming an organ and tissue donor and the need for life-saving transplants.

Guests mixed and mingled while enjoying cocktails and plates from more than thirty of Philadelphia’s premier restaurants and bakeries, including Aqimero at the Ritz Carlton, Caviar, Davio’s, James, Moonshine Philly, Ocean Prime, Rouge, The Palm, Urban Farmer, XIX and more. Guests will also enjoy entertainment from DJ Eddie Tully & Jessy Kyle. All proceeds from this event benefit Donors Are Heroes in support of Gift of Life Donor Program and its mission to increase awareness about the critical need for organ and tissue donation.


National Donate Life month has deeper meaning for some

April 17, 2018

PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) – April is National Donate Life month, a chance to raise awareness for the need for organ donation, for goodness’ sake.

“Nationally, there are 15,000 people waiting for a transplant and right here at Jefferson there are 700 people waiting for that call for that gift life,” said Howard Nathan.

Nathan, of Gift of Life, reminds all that every April, the nation recognizes National Donate Life month. For many, statistics are not the thing that makes the largest impact.

“I’ve been a donor for decades, but I had never really thought about what it meant,” Rittershausen said.

The potential impact of being an organ donor changes when people have an opportunity to listen to the stories of those who have received the gift of life.

“My husband had end stage liver disease. No family ever wants to hear that someone they care about has end stage anything,” Rittershausen stated.

Donna stood there with her husband, just months removed from his liver transplant and shared the struggle of the family and their young children hoping for a second chance at life.

“There are a lot of families that wait and pray and hope with no end in sight,” Rittershausen explained.

Read the full article here

Study: Record overdose deaths easing organ shortage

By Megan Frank

April 18, 2018

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A record number of drug overdose deaths is helping to ease America’s organ shortage, according to a new study.

In 2000, the number of people who died from an overdose and donated an organ in the U.S. was an average of one percent. In 2017, the number was up to around 13 percent.

The Drug Enforcement Agency reports that on average, 13 people in Pennsylvania die of an overdose each day. In 2016, there were over 4,000 overdose deaths, up from just over 3,000 in 2015. Eighty-five percent of deaths involved an opioid like heroin or prescription painkillers.

Chief Matt Bailey of Susquehanna Township EMS believes more people are dying because the drugs they seek are more potent than ever.

“We’ve seen cases where they will specifically look for the type of heroin that has caused a fatal overdose in someone else and go for that because they know it’s very strong and will give them a bigger high,” Bailey said.

Read the full article with commentary from Gift of Life President and CEO, Howard M. Nathan.

18-year-old saves another with organ donation

By Bo Koltnow

April 17, 2018

Five years after McKayla Wall made a Facebook video about donating her hair to kids with cancer, the 18-year-old continued her spirit of giving.

Only this time, it was with her organs. The teen died in February.

“She’s living on somewhere. Her life didn’t end, it’s continuing on,” her mom Lauren Wall tearfully said.

Lauren Wall was one of several speakers at St. Luke’s event to highlight organ donation for the celebration of National Donate Life Month.

Read the full article here. 

23rd Annual Gift Of Life Donor Dash Hopes To Raise Awareness

By Anita Oh

April 15, 2018

PHILADELPHIA (CBS)  In the rain and cold on Sunday morning, thousands of people had a heartwarming reason to clock some miles.

“It’s been an amazing experience. It’s given me a second chance at life,” said Arlinda Smith, who received pancreas and kidney transplants.

The 23rd annual Donor Dash took place near the Art Museum in Philadelphia to celebrate the lives saved through organ and tissue donation, to honor the donors who have passed, and to encourage others to consider giving.

Megan Kienzle of Malvern didn’t hesitate.

“She was really, really sick. She didn’t have that much time,” Kienzle said of her friend, Leanne Purcell.

Nearly three years ago, she donated half of her liver to Purcell, who suddenly fell ill.

Read the full article here.

‘Only silver lining’: Forks family honors son’s organ donation at annual walk

By Kurt Bresswein

April 13, 2018

April 15, 2018, marks the fifth Gift of Life Donor Dash in which the family of the late Cody Souders will be participating in Philadelphia. Here is their team, “Cody’s Crew and Savannah’s Too,” from a previous Donor Dash. The event raises money and awareness for organ donation.
Courtesy of Lehigh Valley Live.

Cody Souders graduated June 17, 2013, from Easton Area High School. He died from a drug overdose four and a half months later at age 18.

When he’d gotten his driver’s license at 16, he chose to become an organ donor. That decision would help improve the lives of more than 50 people, his mother, Amy Souders, said this week.

On Sunday, Souders and about 30 family and friends of her late son will take part in the 23rd annual Donor Dash in Philadelphia, a fundraiser and awareness event for the nonprofit organ donation organization Gift of Life. Their group does the 3K walk, offered in addition to 5K and 10K runs, and includes Delaware County resident Tom Burke, the recipient of Cody’s liver.

“That’s like the only silver lining in the whole thing,” Souders said of her son’s organ donation. “And the fact that we’ve met some of his recipients, it’s amazing to know that their lives have been extended.”

Cody was a freshman at Penn State University — “just a real outgoing, artsy kind of kid,” said his mother, who lives in Forks Township. “Real smart, witty and just everybody liked to be around him. Good kid.

Read full article here.

Kutztown woman owes life to teen: ‘Thank you for this gift’

By Joy Howe

April 11, 2018

Newspaper article telling story of Fegely’s transplant.
Courtesy of WFMZ-TV

KUTZTOWN, Pa. – In her Kutztown home, Diane Fegely keeps an old newspaper article. It’s yellowed over time, but then again, it’s almost 18 years old now. The story is about her. It’s also about a young man in his late teens.

“I think about him all the time,” Fegely shared. “I do things. I might meet someone who doesn’t remember that I’ve had this situation, and we’ll get talking about something and it does. It hits me many times.”

Just after her son’s wedding in 1999, the wife and mother of two discovered she had an auto-immune disease that was destroying her liver. Fegely was put on a transplant list and went to Pittsburgh when she got the call.

Doctors gave her a new liver. It came from a teenager who died in a car accident.

“I do not know the young fellow’s name,” Fegely said, adding that his family made the choice to donate the 18-year-old’s organs.

“My children were just slightly older than that, so it really took a toll on me to realize that yes, I was given this special gift, but his family suffered,” she said tearfully.

Read the full article here.

Training for the Broad Street Run after a serious health event

By Derek Fitzgerald

April 11, 2018

Take what your body gives you. It’s good advice for runners of all levels. But for those who have survived a health scare, like me, those words are especially important as I train for the Broad Street Run in May.

One of the most important things that I came to understand after receiving a heart transplant is that I need to seize the day. For me, that means running — completing multiple marathons, Ironman triathlons, and dozens of other events.

Derek Fitzgerald crosses the finish line of the 2015 Ironman World Championships in Hawaii.
Courtesy of Derek Fitzgerald

But what’s the best way to start running while recovering from a major medical event? Every case is different, and you should always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program, but there are some important rules that I have learned that I’d like to share with others.

Rule No. 1: Listen to your medical team. The professionals who know your body will tell you what your boundaries are so you can stay within them.

I take anti-rejection medication at 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. every day to ensure that my immune system gets along with my new heart. Sometimes that means stopping in the middle of a race to reapply sunblock to avoid unwanted side effects from exposure to sunlight. (I buy sunblock by the gallon.) I also avoid many of the common energy bars and gels that are offered to runners during a race because they contain caffeine, another risk of unwanted side effects. And I haven’t eaten anything with pomegranate in half a decade.

All this means that I will never be the guy standing on the pedestal but that doesn’t deter my happiness when I reach the finish line. My care will always come first, competition comes second.

Rule No. 2: Don’t run too fast. It’s very important to listen to your body and do what it’s telling you.

Read the rest of Derek’s guide to running after serious illness here.

April is National Donate Life Month: How Business Leaders Can Support the Cause

Submitted by Howard M. Nathan, President and CEO, Gift of Life Donor Program

April 9, 2018

Every April, National Donate Life Month raises awareness about organ and tissue donation. Across the country, activities take place to inspire Americans to register as organ, eye, and tissue donors. There are many ways you and your company can support this life-saving effort.

Critical need for organ donors

The need for organ donors is a serious public health issue, affecting your employees, your customers, and their families. Approximately 115,000 people are waiting for an organ in the U.S., and 20 people die waiting every day.  In our region, 5,300 men, women, and children are waiting for a life-saving transplant.

As business leaders, you can help them by raising awareness about the importance of registering as an organ donor.  The need is especially pronounced in Philadelphia County, which has the lowest organ donor designation rate in Pennsylvania.

Just one organ donor can save up to eight lives and one tissue donor can benefit as many as 75 others. Last year, our region, with its world-renowned transplant centers and generous donor families, led the nation in the number of organ donors and life-saving transplants. Imagine what we could do if we all worked together to improve registration rates.

Read the full article here.

CHOP Event Highlights Importance of Organ Donation

By Justin Udo

April 9, 2018

Danielle Benscoter and Tyler.
Courtesy of KYW 1060

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Gift of Life Donor Program are making a push to increase awareness about the need for lifesaving organ donations.

In 2014, Marquis Wood had an asthma attack and went into cardiac arrest.

“While we sat in the hospital for a couple of days we decided to donate his organs,” said Marquis’ mother, Makarita.

Makarita says that decision saved the lives of three other children.

“He was able to donate his heart, his kidney and his liver,” she said.

During an event Monday to kick off Donate Life Month at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Makarita talked about the importance of being a donor, and how it could may potentially help one of the 75 kids on the donor waiting list at the hospital.

Read the full article here.

Two families brought together through Gift of Life Donor Program

By Ali Gorman, R.N.

April 6, 2018

A chance meeting at the local Gift of Life race has brought two families together physically. But emotionally, they were already connected.

It’s an incredible story about two boys and their families. One is now a teenager and is living with a hero’s heart.

Noah Lamey, 13, loves basketball and really – all sports.

“I just like being a part of a team and running around,” he said.

But four years ago, Noah could hardly breathe. His parents say he was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy. He’d been waiting for a heart transplant for 6 months.

Meanwhile across town, another family was also struggling. Markita Lewis’s son Marquis, who was 13 at the time, had suffered a fatal asthma attack. Markita decided to donate his heart, liver and kidneys.

Read the full article here.

Chester County Hospital officials laud organ donors

By Digital First Media

April 3, 2018

Chester County Hospital Security Manager John Mullin and hospital President and CEO Michael J. Duncan raise the Donate Life flag in honor of organ donors and recipients Tuesday kicking-off Donate Life month to promote the success of organ, eye, and tissue transplantation and the extreme need for registered donors.
Courtesy of Pete Bannan, Digital First Media

West Chester — Each day, 20 people in the United States die while waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. Chester County Hospital is proud to join the Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP) and Gift of Life Donor Program and organ procurement organizations throughout the country to inspire and encourage individuals to register to become an organ, tissue and cornea donor.

“The number of people in need of transplants far exceeds the number of organs, tissues and corneas that are donated, and at Gift of Life, we’re passionate about educating people on the need to become an organ, tissue and cornea donor,” said Howard M. Nathan, President and CEO. “Registering to become a donor only takes about 30 seconds, but it’s one of the most meaningful ways individuals can inspire hope and change the life of someone waiting for a transplant.”

Chester County Hospital is participating in the Donate Life Campaign throughout the month of April. During this time, hospital employees will be encouraged to sign up to become organ donors and to share the importance of organ donation with their patients, family and friends. Members of the clinical teams at Chester County Hospital will participate in organ donation related in-service events, hold presentations during executive leadership and board meetings and continue their education on organ donation best practices. The hospital’s month of recognition began Tuesday with a “blue and green” celebration and organ donation flag raising ceremony.

Read the full article here.

Bangor man saves 6 lives

By Joy Howe

April 4, 2018

Courtesy of WMFZ-TV

BANGOR, Pa. – You go to the barber shop for something new.

A new look, or a fresh cut, or in 23-year-old Michael Debiase’s case, a fresh start at Platinum Cutz in Bangor, where the owner hired him as an apprentice.

“He loved it here,” says Lisa Rigione, Mike’s mom.

We met Lisa at the shop, and she told us about the fresh start Mike gave six people.

Not a haircut – something that will last much longer.

“There’s no greater gift than to save somebody’s life. How many people can say they saved six lives?” Lisa asks.

A few years ago, Mike didn’t wake up for work.

Rushed to the hospital, the doctors said he was bleeding in his brain.

Lisa recalls the nurse asking her questions: “Was he in an accident, did he fall, did he hit his head? And I said, ‘no, not that we’re aware of’,” Lisa says and then adds, “And I said, should I start calling family. She said if I was you, I would.”

Read the full article here.

March 2018
Celebrating the Gift of Life in This Year’s St. Patrick’s Parade

By Bill Michlowski

March 10, 2018

SCRANTON, Pa. — Some organizations in this year’s St. Patrick’s Parade in Scranton took the opportunity to showcase their cause.

Chris Polk, who helped steer a festive float through Scranton, received a kidney transplant through Donate Life.

Polk worked with his fellow organ recipients to build the float by hand.

Read the full article here.

February 2018

Loved ones honored at organ donor event

By The Pennsylvania State University

February 13, 2018

Liver transplant recipient, Wesley Mallicone hands out roses at the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center Rose Parade Donor Remembrance Ceremony Sunday, February 11, 2018. individuals representing those donors received a personalized certificate, a replica of the actual rose and vial placed on the Donate Life America float symbolizing their loved one’s gift.
Courtesy of Penn State

HERSHEY, Pa. — Every year, Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center hosts an event to honor the families whose loved ones gave the gift of life. Ninety-four individual donors between July 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017, did exactly that. On Sunday, Feb. 11, representatives from more than 20 of those families turned out to receive the heartfelt thanks of many – including a transplant recipient.

“They are all still alive in their own special way,” expressed Wesley Mallicone, who himself received a liver transplant in August 2011. Diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease as a teen, Mallicone’s health progressively deteriorated. By the time he turned 34, he says he wouldn’t have survived without a transplant — or a willing donor. “This selfless act has allowed me to live my life, and your loved ones are each making a difference in their own special way,” he added.

Attendees were moved to tears as one by one, their loved one’s name was called at the Rose Parade Organ Donor Remembrance Ceremony where each accepted a personalized certificate, a Donate Life pin and a colorful rose in a replica vial from the Donate Life float commemorating their family member and their decision to become a donor. The event was co-hosted by the Gift of Life Donor Program, the regional nonprofit organ procurement organization that serves Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

Learn more about this ceremony in the full article here.

January 2018
Transplant Mecca: Philadelphia leads the U.S. in organ donations, surgeries 

By John George

January 18, 2018

Howard M. Nathan, CEO of Gift of Life Donor Program in Philadelphia.

Call it a 10-peat.

For the 10th consecutive year, Philadelphia-based Gift of Life Donor Program — with the successful coordination of life-saving organs from 565 organ donors in 2017 — ranked as the country’s leading organ procurement organization. The donations resulted in 1,546 organs transplanted.Both numbers are national records that help strengthen the Philadelphia region’s status as a leading provider of advanced medical care. Gift of Life works closely with 130 acute-care hospitals and 15 transplant centers across its region.“Philadelphia has become a place where people come for a transplant,” said Howard M. Nathan, president and CEO of Gift of Life. “Temple and Penn, together, did more lung transplants (a combined 224) than anywhere else last year. There’s no question Philadelphia has become a mecca for transplants because of the expertise of our surgeons and their teams and because of the volume of donors in the region.”Transplant surgery is big business for the region’s 11 transplant centers, which generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues providing the procedures as well as pre- and-post surgery care for patients. Advertising by hospitals with transplant centers has picked up recently as medical centers seek to grow their presence in the service line.

“It’s competitive and I think it’s always been fairly competitive,” said Dr. Larry Kaiser, president and CEO of the Temple University Health System, of transplant surgery. “There is only a finite number of donors.”

Kaiser performed the first lung transplant in this region at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where he started Penn Medicine’s lung transplant program, in 1991. He made increasing the volume of advanced medical procedures — such as transplants — a priority for improving the Temple Health System’s fiscal health after he was hired to lead the North Philadelphia-based health care provider in 2011.

By Sandy Bauers

January 19, 2018

When Eric Smith was killed in a car accident, his mother, Mary decided to have his organs donated. One of the recipients was Arlinda Griffin, who got a kidney and his pancreas. But it didn’t stop there. Mary and Arlinda then met through the Gift of Life program and have become good friends. Here, Arlinda, left, and Mary greet each other outside Arlinda’s North Philadelphia home on August 26, 2016.
Courtesy of Ed Hille, Staff Photographer. The Philadelphia Inquirer

In what has to be the most wrenching time for a family – watching a loved one whose death is imminent – a crucial decision often has to be made.

Should the loved one’s organs be donated?

The people who approach the families to ask the question have a compelling offer: life for someone else.

We recently spoke with Howard M. Nathan, CEO of the Gift of Life Donor Program, the federally designated, nonprofit organ and tissue transplant network for eastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey and Delaware.

Founded in 1974, it is the oldest and largest of 58 such programs in the nation. The programs have been set up for one reason: to recover organs and tissue for transplantation into patients who need them.

Earlier this month, officials announced that this region’s program leads the nation for the tenth consecutive year, with 1,546 organs transplanted from 565 people.

Nathan has been with Gift of Life since 1978, and his first job was to approach families to ask that pivotal question.

Why is organ donation so important?

One organ donor can potentially save eight lives. By organs, we mean the kidneys, heart, liver, lungs, pancreas and intestines. And then there are tissues — corneas, bone for orthopedic surgery, heart valves. Skin is used for burn victims and reconstructive surgery. One tissue donor can change the lives of 75 to 100 people.

Last year in the U.S., 33,000 organs were transplanted. Almost two million tissue transplants were used in life-enhancing surgeries. All that comes from donors.

As for the need, 116,000 people nationwide are waiting for an organ transplant. Someone is being added to the list every 10 minutes. Unfortunately, about 7,000 people died last year, waiting.

In our region, we’re going to perform more than 1,500 transplants this year. But 5,300 people are waiting for a transplant.

Learn more about organ donation by reading the full article here.

Most Generous Region in United States 10 Years in a Row

News provided by Gift of Life Donor Program

January 8, 2018

PHILADELPHIAJan. 8, 2018 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Gift of Life Donor Program is the leading organ procurement organization (OPO) in the United States for the 10th consecutive year, with the successful coordination of life-saving organs from 565 organ donors in 2017. These selfless gifts resulted in 1,546 organs transplanted – the most organ donors and transplants of any OPO in the nation in one year.  It represents an ongoing legacy of new beginnings from grieving families to those awaiting the “gift of life.”

Gift of Life leads U.S. in organ donors for 10th year. Leads nation in organ transplants in 2017.

As a non-profit, federally-designated OPO, Gift of Life serves 11.2 million people across the eastern half of Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware.  Its annual donation rate continues to rank among the highest in the world, equating to 50 organ donors-per-million-population.

In 2017, Gift of Life also recovered tissue from 2,468 donors including 1,281 musculoskeletal donors and 2,112 cornea donors. These life-enhancing donations can benefit as many as 88,000 people, with bone donations to improve mobility, heart valve donations to repair life-threatening defects, skin donations for reconstructive surgery and to heal burn patients, and approximately 2,575 individual corneas to provide the gift of sight.

“Our growth is possible only because of the selflessness of the donors and donor families who consistently make this the most generous region in the country. This year, they saved and improved the lives of nearly 90,000 people,” says Gift of Life President and CEO Howard M. Nathan.  “We are so grateful to them for providing their precious gifts, often in the face of overwhelming loss.”   This profile tells one family’s story of grief, life-saving generosity and ongoing advocacy.

See the full release here.

Organ donations from drug overdose victims rising with opioid death toll

By Joel Wolfram

January 11, 2018

Gift of Life Donor Program’s Transplant Information Center gets a call every time someone dies in a hospital in its service area.
Courtesy of Joel Wolfram, WHYY

Inside the Gift of Life Donor Program’s headquarters in Philadelphia is a room that serves as a sort of mission control for organ donation. Three rows of desks face a huge screen that displays records of potential organ and tissue donors. Workers manning the phones get a call every time someone dies in a hospital.

“These guys are the hub of the wheel,” said Howard Nathan, Gift of Life’s president and CEO. “They get the referral from the donor hospital, they separate the patients who are potential organ donors, and notify our coordinator on call. We have 15 people on call per day in three states that go out to the hospital.”

Gift of Life is the federally designated organ procurement organization in a territory that covers 11.2 million people in Eastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey, and Delaware. It receives 38,000 calls per year, which are increasingly reporting deaths from drug overdoses, Nathan said.

“Ten years ago, only about 4 percent of organ donors were from drug overdose,” he said. “In 2017, it’s 27 percent of our organ donors.”

Find out more in the full article here.

December 2017
Lancaster Bible College professor and organ recipient will delve into ethics of transplantation

By Earle Cornelius

December 2, 2017

Mark Farnham
Courtesy of Lancaster Online

Who should get an organ transplant? What role does personhood play in organ transplantation? What is the donor’s medical history?

On Friday night, Mark Farnham will discuss “How Far Will We Go: The Medical Ethics of Organ Transplantation From A Recipient,” hosted by the Row House Forum.

Farnham, 51, is a professor of apologetics and director of pre-seminary majors at Lancaster Bible College. A former Baptist pastor, he previously taught ethics courses at Calvary Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.

As the title of his talk suggests, he also is an organ recipient, having received a kidney from his brother in 2010.

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing in Richmond, Virginia, more than 116,000 men, women and children are on organ transplant waiting lists in this country.

In a brief interview earlier this week, Farnham said the growth in the number of people who need organ transplants has highlighted the importance of knowing key factors surrounding transplantation.

Some of those factors include the recipient’s age, medical condition and ability or willingness to follow physicians’ orders following an organ transplant. In Farnham’s case, he said doctors had to be confident he would continue to take medication to keep his body from rejecting the kidney.

Find the full story here.

November 2017
Foundation set to open second ‘Nick’s House’ for families battling cancer

By John George

November 28, 2017

Cheryl Colleluori with her son Michael outside the new Nick’s House in Swarthmore.
Courtesy of John George, Philadelphia Business Journal

Inside a house on the 200 block of Chester Road in Swarthmore, cans of paint and buckets of spackle are everywhere as workers are busy transforming the seven-bedroom dwelling for a new use.

“This house was on the market for three years,” said Cheryl Colleluori. “Nobody wants these monsters anymore, but as soon as we saw it we knew this was the place we’d been looking for.”

Cheryl Colleluori is president of the Headstrong Foundation, a nonprofit organization started by her son Nick to help cancer patients and their families. Nick Colleluori was a college lacrosse player at Hofstra University who grew up in Holmes, Pa. He started the foundation from his hospital bed while he was undergoing treatment for cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which would claim his life in 2006 when he was 21 years old.

The foundation now led by his family is in the middle of a $1.5 million fund-raising campaign to support the creation of its second Nick House, which will provide support, relief and comfort to patients battling cancer and family members who travel to Philadelphia for treatment.

Part of those funds will cover the cost of buying the Swarthmore property and turning it into a Nick’s House. About $500,000 in funding will be needed to sustain and maintain the 7,000-square-foot house in the future.

Read more here.

AGH Leads the Way as Each AHN Hospital in Pennsylvania Earns Recognition in HAP’s Annual Donate Life Challenge

By PRWeb

December 14, 2017

PITTSBURGH, PA (PRWEB) – Allegheny General Hospital’s (AGH) titanium-level finish sparked Allegheny Health Network (AHN) to another strong showing in the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania’s (HAP) annual Donate Life Hospital Challenge. This marks the first year HAP raised the bar for its highest-level designation to titanium, which recognizes hospitals that engaged in unprecedented levels of outreach activities in order to raise awareness for organ donation and encourage new donor registrations.

Every other AHN hospital in Pennsylvania earned platinum-level recognition this year. That includes Allegheny Valley, Canonsburg, Forbes, Jefferson, Saint Vincent and West Penn hospitals. Each of the hospitals was recognized today at the Center for Organ Recovery & Education’s (CORE) Hospital Challenge Awards Luncheon at Fox Chapel Golf Club. Additionally, AHN took home platinum honors in CORE’s health system category.

Learn more about the HAP Donate Life Challenge and Gift of Life’s involvement in the full article here.

Three years ago, Lehigh Valley man had his own Hanukkah miracle on last night of holiday

By Michelle Merlin

December 18, 2017

Brian Zionts-Bernstein keeps a small dreidel in his pocket at all times, not just at Hanukkah.

Each side of his traditional holiday toy is inscribed with Hebrew letters forming an acronym for nes gadol hayah poh, meaning “a great miracle happened here.”

The letters refer to the time more than 2,000 years ago in Israel when Judah the Maccabee and his followers reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. While only one day’s worth of oil was left to light the temple’s menorah, it lasted eight days.

But for Zionts-Bernstein, his wife Kym and their son Sam, the dreidel also symbolizes their own miracle, which happened here, in Pennsylvania, on the last night of Hanukkah three years ago.

“The first words I heard were ‘Brian, we have lungs for you,’ and I had trouble listening to it after that because I started crying and got very emotional.” — Brian Zionts-Bernstein

That’s when Zionts-Bernstein of Upper Saucon Township underwent a double lung transplant that saved his life.

The operation took place six years after he was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, an often-fatal disease that usually strikes people who are middle age and older.

IPF, as it is called, produces scar tissue, which cause the lungs to lose their elasticity, making it hard to get oxygen to the brain and other organs, and to remove carbon dioxide from the bloodstream.

Read Brian’s story in the full article here.

An 8-year-old boy is now able to write, eat and get dressed on his own, thanks to a double-hand transplant performed just a few years ago. The case study, published Tuesday in the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, highlights a procedure performed by a team of doctors at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The patient—still enjoying the full function of his hands today—is proof that limb transplantation can be safely and successfully conducted on the youngest of patients.

The patient, Zion Harvey, lost his hands after suffering from sepsis that required a double amputation. Doctors said Zion was an especially good candidate for the transplant because he was already taking immunosuppression drugs at the time of the surgery—to prevent the rejection of a donor kidney from his mother.

After the successful 10 hour and 40 minute procedure, Zion experienced some minor setbacks; his body rejected the limbs eight times. With the help of several months of rehabilitative services, including occupational therapy and psychological counseling, Zion slowly made a recovery.

“Hand transplantation is not lifesaving, but for many patients, the improvements in function and quality of life justify the commitment to lifelong immunosuppression and prolonged functional rehabilitation,” the researchers write in the paper. “In children, concerns underlying the risk–benefit balance of hand transplantation are more nuanced than in adults.”

Retired Cinnaminson principal was so much more

By Rose and Robert Maher

July 21, 2017

Harold Miller, the founding principal of Cinnaminson Middle School and the creator of Project Challenge, a district gifted program, recently passed away. To us, he was much more.

Between the two of us, Miller was a seventh-grade teacher, a vice principal who gave one of us demerits in high school, an adviser, a mentor, an encouraging cheerleader for our own work in education, our boss and a lifetime friend. He was there for us at key moments of our lives, as he was for so many others.

Miller was chosen to be the first Cinnaminson Middle School principal in 1969. He was quoted as saying he had a wonderful staff, but the feelings were mutual. The staff had a lot of respect for him, and they embraced his vision to move away from the traditional junior high school model and move to a small “house community,” with each house having its own team of teachers, providing a challenging curriculum in a supportive and caring atmosphere. Sports were strictly intramural, with a no-cut policy. Miller said, “The greatest pleasure I received was from the kids. Not one day did I wake up and not want to go to school.”

Retirement consisted of starting his own school transportation company, continuing his 39-year career as a New Jersey track and field official, and volunteering thousands of hours to Philabundance and Gift of Life.

We were fortunate to have a number of conversations with him in his last few weeks. We told him that we never knew anyone who spent each day giving back to others as much as he did. He gave back to his family, his students, track athletes, his staff, his friends, his church, his community, and made a difference in so many lives. Getting up, showing up and giving back to others was Harold Miller.

By The Health Resources and Services Administration

July 28, 2017

The Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Workplace Partnership for Life Hospital Organ Donation Campaign recognized more than 1,000 hospitals and transplant centers across the nation for their efforts to promote organ donation awareness and registration between October 2016 and April 2017. The following 15 Pennsylvania hospitals were among those who were recognized:

  • Allegheny General Hospital
  • Bradford Regional Medical Center
  • Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center
  • Conemaugh Meyersdale Medical Center
  • Conemaugh Miners Medical Center
  • Conemaugh Nason Medical Center
  • Meadville Medical Center
  • Saint Vincent Hospital
  • UPMC Bedford Memorial
  • UPMC East
  • UPMC Hamot
  • UPMC Northwest
  • UPMC Presbyterian
  • VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System
  • Washington Health System Greene

Created by HRSA in 2001, the Workplace Partnership for Life has grown to include a network of partner organizations at both the national and local level to foster efforts to increase donation. HAP joined the HRSA Workplace Partnership for Life Campaign and has supported these efforts through its Donate Life Hospital Challenges.

HAP has partnered with the Center for Organ Recovery and Education (CORE), the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and the Gift of Life Donor Program to support the 2017 Pennsylvania Donate Life Hospital Challenge. This program encourages Pennsylvania hospitals to increase organ donation awareness and designations within the hospital and in the community. This year’s challenge runs from April 1, 2017, to August 31, 2017.

For more information about Pennsylvania hospitals’ efforts to support organ donation, contact Mary Marshall, HAP’s director, workforce and professional services.

June 2017
Francis effect infuses St. Augustine in Philly

Peter Feuerherd

EDITORIAL: Hero in life — and death

By the York Dispatch

March 22, 2017

A local firefighter who died responding to a call for help gave the gift of life to others through organ donation.

The life-saving gesture was not unusual for Harrisburg Bureau of Fire Lt. Dennis DeVoe. He was answering a call of duty he had answered thousands of times before, his wife, Amy DeVoe, said.

Gift of Life, the organization that worked with Denny DeVoe’s family in the organ donation, said he was an exemplary firefighter and, now, organ donor.

Along with the organ donations, body tissue from Denny DeVoe will be ready for use in the coming weeks in as many as 100 surgeries, according to Amy DeVoe.

“It’s remarkable to think about Denny being able to help a child who may be in a burn unit or knowing two people will wake up and see the sunrise tomorrow,” she added.

Read the full article here.

Organ Transplant Recipient Talks About the “Gift of Life”

By Donald Wittkowski

March 19, 2017

Photo Credit: OCNJ Daily.

Every year, on Sept. 15, Joe Pratt sends a “thank you” card to a family he has never met.

That date is the anniversary of Pratt’s life-saving surgery in 2013. He received two transplanted lungs from an organ donor who was killed in a car crash and was just 23 years old.

“This is all the information we have on my donor,” Pratt said of the man’s age and how he died. “I wish I knew more.”

Pratt, 74, of Upper Township, sends the cards to his donor’s family members to thank them and let them know he is in good health now. The cards are forwarded to the family by the Gift of Life Donor Program, but Pratt has not yet received a reply.

“Hopefully, one day I’ll have an opportunity to meet my donor family,” he said.

Pratt shared his story Saturday with 15 people who came to the Macedonia United Methodist Church in Ocean City to hear about the national organ donation program and how it is literally “the gift of life.”

“If it was not for my donor family, I would not be standing here today,” Pratt said.

Read the full article here.

February 2017
Heart transplant recipient reflects on her second chance

By Staff Reporter, Daily Local News

February 16, 2017

Photo Credit: Daily Local News.

Resident Wanda Griffith has a lot to be grateful for, and around Valentine’s Day she reflects on her second chance after receiving a heart transplant.

“It’s very hard as a recipient to express my gratitude,” Griffith said, a Caln native. “Talking about my story helps me feel like I’m spreading the joy and opening someone else’s eyes about a donation. It’s hard to put into words how grateful I am. I don’t know my donor’s family, but I made a resolution this year to share my story and get involved to pay their gift forward.”

Wanda was diagnosed at 29 with heart disease. She didn’t let it stop her though. She loved being with her family and friends, going out dancing and just having fun. She embraced life and enjoyed being a mother and having a family of her own. Then one day everything changed.

She dropped her daughter off at daycare and then began to drive to work. When she came to a red-light, she felt like she couldn’t breathe and knew something was wrong. She was literally at a crossroads. Making a left-hand turn would take her to work. The hospital was to the right. She turned right and later learned that saved her life. She had congestive heart failure. Her doctors told her that she would have died if she didn’t get to the hospital when she did. She spent two weeks in the hospital. For the next 15 years she was blessed with good health.

Read Wanda’s full story here.

January 2017
Spice things up for a cause at Forgotten Boardwalk

By Tommy Paolino

January 26, 2017

Photo Credit: Jerry Carino, Courier Post.

Forgotten Boardwalk Brewing Co. in Cherry Hill has long been a supporter of The Gift of Life, raising awareness about organ donations.

Sunday starting at noon, the brewery will host its 3rd Annual Spice of Life Event, featuring spicy and smokey beers. Not  Your Mama’s food truck will also be available outside.

Craft beer fans can drink for a cause. They can also shop among local vendors from chocolate makers to hot sauce purveyors and more. And they can gather They can gather health info, including about how to become an organ donor and how to prevent kidney disease.

The event is inspired by Forgotten Boardwalk team member staffer Seth Dolled’s successful kidney donation to his mother, Sharon 11 years ago.

Proceeds will benefit the National Kidney Foundation, Living Kidney Donors Network and The Gift of Life Donor Program.

Learn more about the fundraiser in the full article here.

Local Organ Donation Program Recorded Highest Level Of Donations In 2016

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The tri-state region has helped a local non-profit reach a milestone in the history of organ donation. The Gift of Life recorded more than 5-hundred organ donations in 2016.

Gift of Life President and CEO Howard Nathan said the people in this region are very aware of the benefits of organ donation, and that may be one reason for the record setting number.

Nathan explains how one body can benefit many.  See the full report here.










Rose Parade Features Boy Who Had Double Hand Transplant In Philly

PHILADELPHIA (CBS)– Zion Harvey, the Maryland boy who made headlines last year for being the first child in the world to undergo a double hand transplant in Philadelphia, will ride on the float at the Rose Parade today in California.

Nine-year-old Zion joins 23 others selected to ride on the float to promote organ and tissue donation.

For the past 14 years, Donate Life America has participated in this celebration.

Gift of Life Donor Program – the organ procurement organization (OPO) serving the eastern half of Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware – is supporting Zion Harvey’s journey to California, along with his mother, Patti Ray.

Read the full recap of Zion and Patti’s Rose Parade experience here.

December 2016
Local Gift Of Life Donor Helps Save Burn Victim In Australia

By Stephanie Stahl

December 20, 2016

Turia Pitt and her partner, Michael visit Gift of Life Donor Program with the Tissue Recovery Team.

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A story of giving and gratitude this holiday season. The Gift of Life program here in the Philadelphia region helped save a young athlete in Australia.

Turia Pitt, 29 was hospitalized for months with burns covering most of her body in excruciating pain, but she survived — in part with a donation that came from an unidentified family here in our area.

There was a hug for some of the people from Gift of Life who helped organize a transplant that saved Pitt’s life.

“I ended up getting burned over 65 percent of my body,” Pitt said.

She’s from Australia, a mining engineer and elite athlete. During an ultra-marathon in 2011, Pitt was trapped and burned by a brush fire.

She needed extensive skin grafts but there were none available in her country.

“I was in critical condition with kidney and liver failure, thankfully they found skin in America,” Pitt explained.

Gift of Life coordinated donations from 16 Americans; one came from the Philadelphia area.

Find more on the story of Turia Pitt in the full article here.

Elite Athlete Raises Awareness for Tissue Donation

December 20, 2016

An elite athlete, former model and mining engineer spent the day in Philadelphia raising awareness about tissue donation, a cause that saved her life.

More than 65% of Turia Pitt’s body was burned when a freak firestorm trapped her in the Australian outback.

Physicians struggled to save her life because at the time no donated skin was available in Australia. So they turned to the Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation. 16 Americans, including donors from the Philadelphia area, helped save her life. On Tuesday, she shared her story with employees and supporters of the Gift of Life Donor Program.

See the report on 6abc’s website here.

82 percent of Pennsylvania non-organ donors willing to accept transplant if they were sick, injured

By Megan Finnerty

December 14, 2016

Most Pennsylvanians who aren’t registered as organ donors would be willing to accept an organ if they needed one.

Four out of five non-donors, or 82 percent, said they’d accept an organ donation if necessary, a survey by Donate Life PA found.

When asked if only registered donors should be eligible to receive an organ transplant, nearly 9 out of 10 said no.

Find more information about this survey in the full article here.

November 2016
Support for organ donation high, registration numbers low

By Chris Eckstine

November 16, 2016

HERSHEY, Pa. (WHTM) – New statistics released by Donate Life PA say 90 percent of the state’s residents support organ donations, but less than half are actually registered.

Checking a box is all that has to be done to save a life.

Of those not registered to donate in Pennsylvania, 82 percent say they would accept a donation.

So why aren’t they registered?

Twenty-three percent say they didn’t take the time, but Gift of Life representative Dwendy Johnson said it can be done online in 30 seconds.

Twenty-one percent of the people not registered say they didn’t think they were healthy enough.

“There is no age too old or too young,” Johnson said.

See the full report from ABC 27.

A family’s loss to opioid addiction becomes a gift to others

By CBS News

November 16, 2016

Courtesy of the Grugan Family. Photo via CBSNews.

The heroin epidemic has brought tragedy to thousands of families, but some have found comfort in a trend quietly picking up momentum.

The Grugan family of Pennsylvania is among those who’ve donated the organs of a loved one who died from a drug overdose to help save other lives.

Eileen Grugan said her son, Charles, had checked off the organ donor box years before his death from a heroin overdose at age 33.

“He was checking it off because he believed it was the right thing to do. Not that he would ever be called on to do that. He had big dreams,” she told CBS News’ Kenneth Craig.

But an addiction to painkillers derailed those dreams and swept Charles into the nation’s opioid epidemic. He had his first pill in high school, and by age 30, he had moved on to heroin. Three years later, he overdosed in the family living room.

Learn more about the Grugan family’s story in the full article here.

On-campus campaign gives students the option to register to become an organ donor

By Taylor Horn

November 18, 2016

Temple advertising students create the H8theW8 campaign to raise awareness for organ and tissue donation on campus.

On Monday, the first day of the H8theW8 campaign, students spoke to a janitor on campus whose daughter, an organ donor, passed away last year.

“It was very touching to talk to him,” said Craig Diviny, who has been registered as an organ donor since he was 17 years old. “If I can save someone’s life when I’m gone and I don’t need it anymore, then why not? It doesn’t make sense not to be.”

Diviny is a senior advertising major and a member of Temple’s student-run advertising agency Diamond Edge Communications. DEC teamed up with Gift of Life and Donate Life Pennsylvania — two organizations encouraging people to become organ donors — to create H8theW8, a week-long, on-campus campaign that hopes to register as many interested students as possible to become organ donors. DEC also had a goal to register 500 students by today.

Read more about the campaign hosted by Temple Students in the full article here.

Family of organ donor shares special dinner, lifetime bond with recipients

By Bob Brooks

November 19, 2016

Families gathering for a Thanksgiving turkey dinner is as traditional as it gets.

But what’s not traditional is the way one Philadelphia family was formed.

“Our 20-year-old son, Ethan, was killed tragically by a drunk driving accident in 2010,” said Linda Moyer, mother of organ donor.

Linda and Ron Moyer lost their son, Ethan, six years ago.

But it’s because of Ethan’s decision to be an organ donor that 72-year-old Ellie Doerr and 6-year-old Josie Crawn get to enjoy this meal.

Watch the segment featuring these families giving thanks.

Donate Life America Announces Winners of 2016 Pinnacle Awards

November 21, 2016

RICHMOND, VA — Donate Life America (DLA), a national non-profit organization committed to increasing the number of donated organs, eyes and tissue available to save and heal lives, presented twelve Pinnacle Awards at its Annual Meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The Pinnacle Awards recognize programs successful in inspiring more people to register as organ, eye and tissue donors and establishing donation as a cultural norm.

2016 Pinnacle Award Recipients in the following categories (please see below for more information on each award):

  • Affinity: Live Nation Partnership, Southwest Transplant Alliance
  • Clinical Partners: Pennsylvania Association Community Health Center Challenge, CORE and Gift of Life Donor Program
  • Events and Innovation: The Gift of Life Poetry, Storytelling, Short Plays, New England Organ Bank
  • Miscellaneous: Legalizing the Donate Life Texas Mobile Scan App, Donate Life Texas
  • Volunteers: Providing Hope, Offering Comfort: Donate Life No-Sew Comfort Blankets, Center for Donation and Transplant
  • Youth Education: Sign Up! Lunchtime Donate Life Drive on Campus, Sierra Donor Services
  • Best Remix: LGBT Outreach, Lifeline of Ohio
  • Media and Innovation: Donate Life Hotspots — WiFi Sponsorship Program, Donate Life Maryland
  • DMV and Platinum: Bells for Life, Donate Life South Carolina and South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles

Congratulations to the above organizations for inspiring more individuals to say “yes!” to organ, eye and tissue donation.

Find out more about Donate Life America and the Pinnacle Awards here.

Cherry Hill Resident Reaches 200,000 Students with Life-Saving Message

By Gloucester City News Network

November 22, 2016

Tom and Vivan Gano

Twenty-nine years ago, Tom and Vivian Gano’s lives were changed forever.  Their teenage son, Curtis, 16, was riding his bike to a friend’s house when he was struck by a van.  When doctors told the family that Curtis was brain dead, Vivian looked beyond her pain and asked doctors about donation.  The family had watched a documentary about organ and tissue donation several years earlier that inspired her to ask.

In the darkest time of their lives, Tom and Vivian said “yes” to organ and tissue donation, and prayed that this heartbreaking event could have something positive come out of it.  Tom said, “For me, I never wanted anyone else to feel how I did when Curtis died. I wanted to save as many people as possible.  We prayed for a miracle that Curtis would be okay, but when we knew that wasn’t going to happen, we prayed that he could be a miracle for someone else.”

Curtis was able to be an organ and tissue donor.  He saved four lives through organ donation and benefited countless others through tissue donation. His liver was donated for scientific research. “I’m 75 and I will never have the life-saving legacy that Curtis did.  He was only 16, but he was able to save lives.  I speak at schools in New Jersey mostly – and sometimes in Pennsylvania and Delaware – to share our story.  It makes me happy to talk about Curtis and for kids to know who he is.  I always pass around a picture of him. So many people know his name and have seen his picture.” said Tom. 

Read more about Tom Gano’s amazing accomplishment here.

Grateful Transplant Recipient Encourages Organ Donation

By Gia Mazur

November 27, 2016

Photo Credit: Michael J. Mullen, The Times-Tribune.

Diane Scheuer got a second chance at life at 61.

The Clarks Summit resident, now 66, was in her mid-30s when her doctor noticed she had elevated liver enzymes and diagnosed her with primary sclerosing cholangitis, or PSC, a chronic disease that damages the liver’s bile ducts. Mrs. Scheuer knew she might need a liver transplant at some point, but circumstances weren’t dire.

“It wasn’t good news, but you take the medicine and just cope with the thing you have,” said Mrs. Scheuer, who eventually ened up on a Philadelphia hospital’s transplant list.

As time went by, her liver enzymes increased. She started to face issues with fluid and swelling, so much so that she could no longer bend her knees and needed a walker to get around. Since Mrs. Scheuer’s liver didn’t filter her blood, ammonia built up in her system and caused confusion. Her abdomen filled with fluid and pressed on her lungs so much she couldn’t breathe. Her skin became fragile and peeled off, and the whites of her eyes turned red.

With her health rapidly diminishing, Mrs. Scheuer’s local doctor urged her to seek a different hospital with a shorter transplant list to increase the chances of getting a transplant.

Learn more about Diane’s story in the full article here.

October 2016
Pennsylvania coroners, organ donation groups debate law

By Megan Trimble

October 2, 2016

State coroners and lawmakers are split over proposed overhauls to Pennsylvania’s anatomical donation law more than two decades after the commonwealth led the country in passing legislation to bolster organ and tissue donation.

Pennsylvania passed a law in 1994, requiring hospitals to develop referrals for deceased patients. Today, more than 8,000 patients await transplants in Pennsylvania. The proposal would, in part, revamp who can authorize donation.

The state Coroners Association has distributed letters against the law. It says the measure could harm criminal investigations and only lead to more profits in a multi-billion dollar industry.

Bill supporters, including non-profit donation group Gift of Life, say donations and criminal investigations are not mutually exclusive. They say the law will align Pennsylvania with other states and preserve coroners’ rights while saving lives.

Learn more about Senate Bill 180 in the full article here.

Local legislators support ‘gift of life’ organ recovery bills

By Margaret Cambest

October 6, 2016

When state Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill got the news that her father needed a heart transplant, she started documenting the days on Facebook.

The fact that Jay Phillips needed a transplant wasn’t surprising. At 74, the former physical education teacher had been dealing with complications from a pacemaker installation for a couple of years but was otherwise healthy. So when doctors told him his heart would soon fail, he told them he’d prefer the transplant go to someone younger, someone with more of their life left to live.

Then, just before 5 in the morning, the call came.

Nov. 21, 2013: “Dad’s new heart was beating in his chest today,” Phillips-Hill wrote the morning after her father’s transplant surgery. Updating as many friends and family members as possible gave her something to do to pass the time. It also let her spend more time with her family.

“It’s hard to put into words what you feel,” the York Township Republican said. “There are these little moments when you realize how incredibly blessed you are. “

Read the full article here.

French woman receives double hand transplant

By Robert Moore

October 12, 2016

A 28-year-old Parisian woman recently received a double hand transplant at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in a collaborative effort between Penn Medicine, Paris Descartes University and the Gift of Life Donor Program.

Laura Nataf became the first international patient to receive a double hand transplant in the U.S, and is only the second adult to be transplanted at Penn Medicine. At 19-years-old, Nataf’s hands and feet were amputated due to sepsis, an infection of the blood that can cause tissue damage, organ failure and death.

Over the past year, the teams worked cooperatively to locate suitable organs for transplant. Nataf was actively listed for transplantation in May, and receiving the transplants in August.

Vascularized composite allotransplantation (VCA), or bilateral hand transplantation, is a complex operation that contains surgical and non-surgical elements. After many medical screenings and evaluations, a potential recipient may be listed to receive a transplant. If donor organs become available, the organs must be evaluated by a surgical team.

Learn more about this life-changing transplant here.

Their daughter’s lungs saved his life: recipient meets late donor’s parents

By Steve Novak

October 22, 2016

Photo Credit: Saed Hindash, Lehigh Valley Live.

Michael Mania Jr. didn’t know what to say.

For the first time, he was meeting the parents of the woman whose lungs draw his breath. Her death, a tragedy for one family, had provided a miracle for another: the organ transplant Mania so needed.

What would he say? What could he say?

Mania, a 56-year-old father of two from Bayville, N.J., had suffered from sarcoidosis — an inflammation in the lungs — following a botched surgery in 2003. Ten years later, he found himself on a transplant waiting list for nearly six months.

Sam’s lungs were given him on Sept. 7, 2013. The otherwise-healthy 23-year-old from Alpha — a three-year field hockey starter at Albright — had died days earlier after suffering a brain aneurysm while driving.

Within days of her death, Sam’s family donated her organs. Her heart, lungs and liver saved three lives, they said.

Within weeks, the first Sprint for Sam 5K was run in Pohatcong Township, raising some $4,000 for the Philadelphia-based Gift of Life Family House, which provides patients awaiting organ transplants a place to stay.

Read the full article here.

September 2016
York Hospital Dedicates Organ Donor Quilts

By George Richards

September 1, 2016

Photo credit: George Richards, ABC 27

YORK, Pa. (WHTM) – Wellspan York Hospital is honoring the spirit of organ donations with a special story-telling donation.

In conjunction with the Gift of Life donor program, the hospital dedicated two special quilts from the families of organ donors. The unique quilts are made up of individual squares from families that tell the life stories of the donors.

On hand at this week’s ceremony were family members of the 16 organ and tissue donors on the quilt along with local residents who received lifesaving transplanted organs.




Organ donation advocates press for action on update to Pa. procedures

By Charles Thompson

September 19, 2016

Time is ticking on the ability for advocates for all kinds of causes to get action on bills important to them before the sun sets on the Pennsylvania General Assembly’s 2015-16 legislative session.

House and Senate leaders are not expected to take up significant floor business after the Nov. 8 general election, so that leaves roughly four weeks of scheduled session days.

First out of the block to plead their case in the abbreviated pre-election session Monday were advocates for a upgrades to Pennsylvania’s 22-year-old law governing organ donations.

Pennsylvania was considered at the forefront on the issue in the early 1990s, noted Cheri Rinehart, a former chair of the Pennsylvania Organ Donor Advisory Committee. Now, Rinehart and others say, the state needs a re-write to get in line with what 49 other states are doing.

The overarching intent of the current bills is to increase the numbers of organs available for harvest, thereby cutting into often life-or-death waiting lists faced by patients in need.

And the need for organs is great. Learn more here.

Hundreds of people ‘dying’ in Harrisburg to help save lives

By Rebecca Knier

September 19, 2016

HARRISBURG – Hundreds of demonstrators gathered at the steps of the Capitol this morning. They say that at the end of the day, this is all about saving lives. The bell tolls every 18 seconds to represent every person that dies every 18 hours waiting for a transplant.

“Just in the state of Pennsylvania, this is how many people are passing away for something that’s such an easy fix.” Said Marty Brown has been waiting for a transplant for the last 3 and a half years. “I was born with a congenital heart disease which ended up destroying the left side of my heart when I was about 20 years old. I’ve been on this pump for the last 3 and a half years which is doing all the work for the left side of my heart until I do get a transplant.”

Bruce Edwards received new corneas years ago. His passion for being there comes not only from his new eyes. “I would say the passion comes more from my daughter’s death than my cornea transplant.”

Learn more about the rally in Harrisburg here.

Two groups battle over possible changes to organ donation law

By Bryant Maddrick

September 27, 2016

There’s a battle going on inside the Capitol over organ donations and the reasons why coroners and medical examiners deny donations.

House Bill 30 would bring changes to the states organ donation laws.

On one side you have organ donation groups, like “Save a life PA,” they have a problem with coroners denying donations.

On the other side, you have the PA Coroners Association that says there are investigations coroners need to look at and they can’t release the organs.

The coroners association has an issue with how the bill is written, which would allow organ donation groups rights to a body prior to a coroners investigation.

Save A Life PA says this legislation is about saving lives.

Gift of Life brings donor families and recipients together

By Paul Jablow

September 30, 2016

Arlinda Griffin (left) and Mary Smith met through Gift of Life after Smith’s son died and donated a kidney and pancreas to Griffin.
Courtesy of Ed Hille, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

As Arlinda Griffin stood alone on stage, singing a gospel hymn, and Mary Smith sat in the audience, fighting to hold back tears, no one could have guessed at the bond between them.

Griffin is a 37-year-old former security guard supervisor from North Philadelphia, her eyesight all but destroyed by diabetes. Smith, 59, is an insurance agency owner from Warminster who befriended Griffin five years ago. She had driven Griffin to the singing contest last July at First District Plaza in West Philadelphia.

What brought these women together is deep inside Griffin: a donated pancreas and kidney from Smith’s son, Eric, who died in a car accident.

The women exchanged letters and eventually met through a Gift of Life program that allows organ donor recipients and donor families to contact each other if both parties are willing.

The women regularly phone each other, have lunch, and go on errands together. “Knowing what a great person she is helps me deal with my grief,” Smith said.

Lara Moretti, who supervises the program for Gift of Life, the coordinating network for organ and tissue transplants in this region, says that it has been ongoing for at least 20 years. She reviews some 75 to 100 letters a month; the agency asks participants to exchange letters for a year before meeting in person.

Read the full story about Mary and Arlinda here.

July 2016
Transplant recipient brings home gold

By Stephen J. Pytak

July 5, 2016

Photo credit: the Republican Herald.

LAKE WYNONAH — The heart transplant Ron Boris Jr. received in 2009 gave him more than a longer life.

It also gave him the opportunity to play basketball, doubles badminton and darts in a national competition earlier this month. He brought home gold medals in all three categories.

“I just did my best and the cards fell the right way. I also brought home a silver medal in badminton singles,” Boris, 55, of Lake Wynonah, said June 28.

It occurred at the Transplant Games of America, held in Cleveland, Ohio, from June 10 to 15, according to Allison McDaniel, a spokeswoman for the Gift of Life Donor Program, Philadelphia.

“Members of Gift of Life Donor Program’s Team Philadelphia went head-to-head with more than 6,000 athletes from across the country, medaling in track and field, swimming, basketball, bowling and more at the 2016 Donate Life Transplant Games of America. Team Philly, made up of 78 organ transplant recipients, 15 living donors and 26 donor families, traveled to Cleveland, Ohio, to participate in the games from June 10-15, showcasing their athletic abilities and determination. Along with Team Philly’s athletes, donor family members, whose loved ones gave the gift of life, traveled as part of the team to cheer on the competitors,” McDaniel said in a press release June 23.

Boris competed as part of Team Philadelphia. Read more about Ron’s trip to the Transplant Games of America.

Gift of Life Program raises awareness of organ donations

By Ayana Jones

July 26, 2016

Photo Credit: the Philadelphia Tribune.

The Gift of Life Donor Program is gearing up to mark National Minority Donor Awareness Week.

The week of awareness, observed Aug. 1-7, serves to honor the generosity of multicultural donors and their families and underscore the need for minority communities to register as organ and tissue donors.

The Gift of Life Donor Program serves as the region’s organ and tissue transplant network. In Gift of Life’s region, more than 50 percent of those waiting for a kidney transplant are minorities. Nationally African Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans represent 58 percent of those waiting for a life-saving transplant.

Lisa McIntosh-Harris, a resident of Pine Hill, N.J., knows the importance of organ donation firsthand. She was diagnosed with kidney failure when she was 18 years old.

In just a few short years, McIntosh-Harris’ kidneys completely failed and she was put on dialysis.

Learn more about National Minority Donor Awareness Week here.

For organs kept alive before transplant, tantalizing possibilities

By Paul Jablow

July 29, 2016

Photo credit: Michael Bryant, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

For Robin Larocca, her lungs ravaged by a rare disease, the options were disappearing quickly.

In three months, her doctors said, she would be too sick for the transplant she needed to save her life. In a year or so, she would likely be dead.

There appeared to be no available match, particularly because Larocca needed a double transplant rather than the more common single lung.

Then doctors at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania offered her a chance to be in a clinical trial of a process that allows surgeons to better assess and eventually, perhaps, fix an organ that otherwise would have been rejected. She didn’t hesitate.

“I didn’t feel there was any other choice,” said Larocca, who lives in Jackson Township, N.J. “I wanted to extend my life and give my daughter a better quality of life.”

Read the full article here.

LCCC nursing program promotes Gift of Life

July 30, 2016

Photo credit: Times Leader.

Students of the LCCC Nursing 240 class conducted a community event on campus to focus on the importance of organ and tissue donation. Donor information was provided along with contact cards to register. Donations received benefit the Gift of Life Donor Program’s Family House which provides support for family members of transplant recipients.

June 2016
Six Delco Athletes to Vie in Transplant Games

By Patti Mengers

June 6, 2016

Photo Credit: Delco News Network.

Never a day goes by that Howard Pritchard doesn’t think about his younger brother, Matt, and the hours they spent together, laughing and watching classic movies.

“He is in my thoughts each and every day,” said the 64-year-old Parkside resident.

John Matthew Pritchard, who was born more than six years after Howard, died at age 42 on July 1, 2001, 31 years after he was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes and 10 years after Howard donated one of his kidneys to him, enabling him to be free of dialysis.

“He didn’t want me to do it, but I did it anyway,” Howard Pritchard told the Daily Times in 2012. “It gave him an extra 10 years and he was a great person.”

Since his younger brother’s passing, Pritchard has participated in seven Donate Life Transplant Games of America competitions and is about to embark on his eighth. This year the games are being staged June 10 through 15 at the Cleveland Convention Center, Cleveland State University and Quail Hollow Country Club in Ohio. More than 9,000 organ recipients, donors and supporters from across the country are expected to attend.

“One of the main reasons I do participate in the transplant games is to honor my brother,” said Pritchard, whose brother bowled at the U.S. Transplant Games in 1998 and again in 2000 when Howard joined him and participated in the 5 kilometer run.

Learn more about Team Philadelphia athletes and the Transplant Games in the full article here.

Gift of Life gives Coopersburg man new path to walk

By Joy Howe

June 8, 2016

COOPERSBURG, Pa. – Brian Zionts-Bernstein has always loved walks. For years, he took one every day.

But sometimes the path you’re on, takes a sharp turn.

“In 2007,” Brian begins, “I was diagnosed with a lung disease: idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.”

The cause is unknown, and life expectancy for most patients is less than 5 years.

“{My wife} Kym and I struggled with what do to in regards to our son. He was 11-years-old,” Brian says.

“As much as I didn’t want to see my husband hurt, you know, as a mother you feel for your child, and so I felt that I wanted our son to be able to have a childhood,” wife Kym says.

“We wanted him to live his life and not worry about Dad,” Brian adds.

So they did. They went on vacations, and spent as much time together as they could.

Learn more about Brian’s story here.

York County Families headed to Transplant Games of America

Photo via York Dispatch.

Keith Reinhold was a giving man, according to family members. His body was his final gift.

The 39-year-old Dover man was an organ donor, something his mom, Carol Reinhold, said helped save multiple lives in at least six states after he died of a heart attack in 2005.

Now, Carol Reinhold and her family members celebrate his life with people from around the United States during the biennial Donate Life Transplant Games of America event. This weekend, she and her daughter, Beth Reinhold, will travel with Team Philadelphia to Cleveland to watch recipients of organ donations compete in sports similar to the Olympics.

“We always go as a family,” Beth said. “We go along to support the teams and the players. It’s mostly about making connections with families who have been through this, too.”

Beth and Carol have been to the Transplant Games of America five times over the years. The duo said they find it awe-inspiring to see the recipients competing simply because they got a second chance at life through an organ donation.

Read the full article of the families’ journey here.

Kidney donation kicks off new lease on life for Allentown woman

By Joy Howe

June 10, 2016

ALLENTOWN, Pa. – Shawna Knipper is pure motivation. Not just because she can flip over a giant tire, or teach the classes at Full Circle Training.

Her story is motivating, because it’s amazing she’s able to stand here at all.

She begins to tell her story, “When you first have kidney failure, there are no symptoms.”

Shawna says she knew kidney problems ran in the family. First her grandfather, then her dad, and her aunt had kidney failure.

What she doesn’t know is why – doctors can’t explain it.

Her dad and aunt are both survivors, because they received transplants. (Her father received a kidney from his dialysis nurse, who he later fell in love with and married! Her aunt’s husband donated the gift of life to his wife.)

Read the full article here.

Parents Who Lost Son Hear His Heart Beat in Recipient’s Chest at Transplant Games

These two families are intertwined after Phillip Monroe jr died and donated his heart to Todd Stickel. (Credit: Jim Melwert)

CLEVELAND, OH – They may be called the Transplant Games, but it’s so much more than competition.

That was evident over the weekend when a heart recipient with Team Philly met the family of the man who donated his heart.

Todd Stickel will celebrate three years with his new heart over the July Fourth weekend.

“As thankful as possible can be for giving me my second chance on life, allowing me to spend more time with my family,” he says.

Todd’s heart comes from Phillip Malone, Jr. — a 38-year-old who drowned while swimming at an Ohio lake. His parents, Phil Sr. and Janice Malone, say it was an incredibly special moment to listen to their son’s heart beating in Todd’s chest.

Read the full article about these families here.

Camco residents win big at Transplant Games

PHILADELPHIA – Two Camden County residents won big at the 2016 Donate Life Transplant Games

Santosh Balany of Cherry Hill.
Photo Credit: Janette McVey Romano via Courier Post.

earlier this month.

Astrid Deleon, of Lindenwold, and Santhosh Balany, of Cherry Hill, traveled to Cleveland to compete on the Gift of Life Donor Program’s Team Philadelphia, going head-to-head with more than 6,000 athletes from across the country. The event took place from June 10-15.

The Transplant Games is a biennial Olympic-style competition for organ, corneal, bone marrow and tissue transplant recipients and living donors.

Team Philly was made up of 78 organ transplant recipients, 15 living donors and 26 donor family members. The team, ranging from ages 6 to 73, dominated the Games, bringing home more than 100 medals – 25 bronze, 35 silver and 40 gold.

Team Philadelphia, organized by Gift of Life Donor Program, has been in existence since the Transplant Games was founded in 1990.

May 2016
Giving someone a second chance at life

By Lucia Tejo

May 10, 2016

At front and center, John Mullin and India Lamar. Photo via Al Dia.

Four years ago India Lamar, of Northeast Philadelphia, received a phone call. Her son Peter had been shot.

“It was the worst day of my life,” she said. “But it was a blessing, not in the way that he was shot, but that he was brought here (to Temple). I can never thank them, they hold a special place in my heart.”

Lamar’s son spent eight days at Temple University Hospital (TUH). He died 10 days after his 26th birthday.

“My son was a loving person,” said Lamar. “He was always there for people. He always tried to help people.”

That is why, when Lamar was presented the option to donate her son’s organs, she said yes.

“I know this is something that he would have done,” said Lamar. “No matter what, he was there. No matter who it was, he was there. He was always there.”

According to Lamar, at least three people were given the chance of a new life thanks to the selfless act.

Learn more about the life-saving power of organ donation in the full article.

Delaware County Man Celebrates Lie After Two Transplants at 50th Kidney-versary

By Peg DeGrassa

May 27, 2016

HAVERTOWN –  Two transplanted kidneys and 50 years later, Havertown resident Stephen Henderson, is still going strong at 74 years old.  Earlier this month, approximately 45 of Stephen’s closest  friends and family members– some traveling from as far away as Maine, St. Louis, Vermont and Virginia – celebrated  Stephen’s life and 50th “kidney-versary.”

Held at Riddle Village in Middletown Township,, the recent celebration included a cake with a giant fondant kidney on top, Brie cheese shaped into a kidney and dozens of decorative cardboard kidneys throughout the room so the youngest guests at the party could  color them or  play with them creatively. A large banner, draped across a wall,  was also available for the children to “pin a kidney” in much the same way they would pin the tail on the donkey. When Riddle Village staffer Gloria Tursi heard about the kidney-versary, she immediately set to work helping to plan the festivities and supply many of the unique kidney-themed party foods and accessories.

“We thought of only serving “organ” foods at the party like liver and kidneys,” his brother Bill Henderson, who attended the party with his wife Nancy, joked. “But we had young children coming and I didn’t think they’’d be too crazy about those kinds of food..”

Read the full article here.

As lethal heroin overdose numbers rise, families find solace in organ donation

Interview by NPR “Here & Now”

May 26, 2016

Charles Grugan, center, stands with his two sisters, Carolyn Grugan Noll, left, and Jennifer Grugan Whitehouse, right. Charles’ mother, Eileen Grugan and his father, Charles Grugan Sr. sit in the front. Courtesy of Carolyn Grugan. Photo via Here & Now.

It’s hard to imagine an upside to the opioid overdose crisis in the United States. But some families are saying they’ve found one.

Organ banks around the country have noted an increasing number of organs becoming available from donors who have died of overdoses. The New England Organ Bank notes that in 2010 there were eight overdose victims who donated organs in the region; in 2015 there were 54. Nationally, 848 organs became available from overdose victims in 2015.

Here & Now’s Robin Young discusses the issue with Alexandra Glazier,president of the New England Organ Bank and Eileen Grugan, a Philadelphia mother whose son donated organs after dying of overdose in 2011.

Listen to the full interview here.