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Gift of Life Donor Program Leads U.S. in Organ Donation for 13th Consecutive Year

Region Demonstrates Extraordinary Generosity and Clinical Leadership Despite Pandemic Challenges: Most Organ Donors Every Year Since 2008.

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Philadelphia, PA – For the 13th consecutive year, Gift of Life Donor Program leads the nation in the most organ donors among all 58 U.S. Organ Procurement Organizations (OPO). Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of its community, Gift of Life has coordinated the most organ donors in the nation every year since 2008.

The federally designated OPO, headquartered in Philadelphia, coordinated life-saving gifts from 619 organ donors in 2020, resulting in 1,619 organs transplanted. Gift of Life’s annual donation rate, 55 organ donors-per-million-population, is among the highest in the world.

“Gift of Life Donor Program steadfastly advanced its life-saving mission, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Gift of Life President and CEO Howard M. Nathan.  “This is a testament to the dedication and expertise of our staff, the commitment of our hospital partners and the inspiring generosity of our donors and donor families.  Our compassionate community is the most generous in the nation, choosing to save lives and support families despite their grief and the many challenges of this past year.”  Zach, a 5-year-old who received a life-saving heart transplant during the pandemic, and his mother Sarah, express appreciation for his new heart in the video below.

Gift of Life also recovered life-enhancing tissues from 2,295 donors, including 1,385 musculoskeletal donors and 1,726 cornea donors. These donations can benefit more than 110,000 people, with bone donations for orthopedic and sports injuries, skin donations to heal burn patients and for reconstructive surgery, heart valve donations to repair life-threatening defects and corneas to provide the gift of sight. In this video, Alex Cummings talks about how cornea donation restored her vision and her independence.

Life-saving Mission Continues During Pandemic

In a year that brought major disruptions to people’s daily lives and widespread uncertainty amid the coronavirus outbreak, the Gift of Life team rapidly adapted to new challenges by implementing COVID-19 testing for donors, adapting procedures and communications with hospitals and families, and securing personal protective equipment (PPE) for its frontline clinical team to ensure its life-saving mission continued. The OPO also found special ways to support its clinical partners and hospital colleagues, providing PPE, care packages and meals, and donating ventilators to treat coronavirus patients.

Gift of Life partners with 128 acute care hospitals and 15 transplant centers across its service area to save and heal lives through organ and tissue donation.

“Gift of Life’s expert team addresses life-saving clinical situations every day, working side-by-side, 24/7 with critical care teams at the nation’s foremost hospitals and transplant centers to provide families with the opportunity for donation,” said Gift of Life Vice President of Clinical Services Richard D. Hasz. “Our hospital partners have staunchly continued to champion donation, along with the tremendous pressures of fighting COVID-19. Many have shared with us that donation and transplantation has been a silver lining offering hope to others during a very challenging year.” Gift of Life recognizes hospitals annually for championing organ donation with its Gift of Life Award. Hear this year’s award winner reflect upon caring for families and their partnership with Gift of Life in the video below.

More than 108,000 people are waiting for a life-saving organ in the U.S. and every day, 20 people die waiting. In Gift of Life’s service area, which encompasses the eastern half of Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware, there are currently more than 5,300 men, women and children awaiting a life-saving transplant. 

“Our generous community continued to demonstrate remarkable empathy and resilience in 2020,” said Gift of Life Vice President of Administration & General Counsel Jan L. Weinstock, Esq. “More than ever, we are so grateful to donor families. Many times, they couldn’t even be with their loved one in the ICU because of the pandemic, but in the midst of their grief, cared enough about helping others to say ‘yes’ to donation.”

Donation and transplantation would not be possible without the generosity of heroic donors and donor families.  Gift of Life pays tribute to donor heroes each year during its poignant and moving Life and Legacy Celebrations for donor families. View this year’s first-ever virtual ceremony below.

The need for life-saving organs is urgent. With the temporary closure of driver’s license centers in some areas in 2020 due to COVID-19, organ donor registration slowed, making the need to register more important than ever. Everyone can register quickly here.

Leader in Community Support

Gift of Life’s 619 generous organ donors enabled 1,621 life-saving transplants. Many had to travel far from home during the pandemic for care at our region’s leading transplant centers. Gift of Life Family House in Philadelphia remained open and made numerous changes to safely continue providing affordable lodging, meals and supportive services for transplant patients and their families. In addition, a robust webinar series was introduced for transplant patients and caregivers, covering a variety of topics, including managing during COVID-19, post-transplant mental health, caregiver wellness, among others. These free virtual support webinars were attended by more than 1,300 participants and provided the transplant community with important health and wellness information. In 2020, Family House staff and volunteers provided 4,396 lodging nights of care for 7,519 guests, 15,038 meals, and 426 rides to and from local hospitals. With community support, the Family House has provided 70,722 lodging nights for 129,201 guests, served more than 258,401meals, and provided more than $9.93 million in subsidized care to families since opening in 2011. Family House will celebrate its 10th Anniversary in July 2021. Learn about how Family House provided a safe and comfortable home away from home for lung transplant recipient Maggi and her partner George during the pandemic here.

Gift of Life’s work would not be possible without hundreds of volunteers throughout our region. Despite the pandemic, these ambassadors helped virtually educate the public, attended trainings, donated food and materials to the Family House, and participated in dozens of programs with schools, houses of worship, hospitals and other community organizations to support our life-saving mission.

Leader in Innovation and Education

Gift of Life is recognized internationally for its leadership and scholarship in the field of organ and tissue donation. The OPO works jointly with investigators from a host of government, academic medical and nonprofit institutions to support the advancement of donation and medical transplantation.

Michael McVey’s legacy went on to transform donation across the United States through his mother’s passionate advocacy and Gift of Life’s leadership.

The year 2020 marked the 25th anniversary of Gift of Life ’s first organ donation after circulatory death (DCD), which took place thanks to a young hero and his compassionate family. Michael McVey’s legacy went on to transform donation across the U.S. through his mother Susan McVey Dillon’s passionate advocacy and Gift of Life’s teaching and leadership. Since then, Gift of Life has coordinated a total of 1,682 DCD donations, resulting in 3,009 organs transplanted. Nationally, DCD donations have been responsible for saving more than 44,000 lives. Now, more than two decades later, DCD heart donation has become a reality thanks to an innovative preservation technology. Gift of Life coordinated the region’s first DCD heart recovery in May, followed by three additional successful DCD heart donations. DCD hearts offer hope to those desperately in need of a life-saving transplant and are expected to expand the donor pool by as much as 30 percent. Learn about Michael McVey’s history making legacy and his family’s important partnership with Gift of Life which transformed donation in the U.S here

In January, Penn Medicine announced the birth of Benjamin Gobrecht. Baby Benjamin was the second baby in the U.S. to be born following the transplantation of a uterus from a deceased donor. Gift of Life Donor Program partnered with Penn Medicine, coordinating the donation for the Uterus Transplantation for Uterine Factor Infertility (UNTIL) Trial that resulted in this clinical milestone. This donation and transplant innovation offers hope to women born with Uterine Factor Infertility (UFI), a previously irreversible form of female infertility that affects as many as five percent of reproductive-aged women worldwide. Learn more about the UNTIL trial and the Gobrecht’s transplant journey here.

The Gift of Life Institute is an international training center for organ and tissue donation professionals, offering comprehensive, interdisciplinary resources to increase donation outcomes, including skills-based learning, continuing education, collaborative research, and consulting services. Since its inception in 2004, the Institute has facilitated more than 450 workshops with 58 OPOs and multiple tissue banks, training over 11,000 professionals from across the U.S. and 33 countries around the world. In 2020, the Institute successfully pivoted to an all virtual platform, conducting training for more than 1,100 participants.

The Institute’s Transplant Pregnancy Registry International (TPR) studies post-transplant parenthood and the effects of medications on fertility and pregnancy. Since 1991, TPR has tracked more than 5,000 post-transplant pregnancy outcomes, sharing information with countless transplant recipients and their healthcare teams making family planning decisions. TPR is the only Registry of its kind in the world. Its team has presented their findings in more than 76 peer-reviewed publications and presented at 530 academic forums worldwide.

Gift of Life Donor Program

Gift of Life Donor Program is the non-profit, federally designated organ procurement organization, working with 128 acute care hospitals and 15 transplant centers to serve 11.3 million people in the eastern half of Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware. Thanks to its compassionate community, for the past 13 years, Gift of Life has coordinated the most organ donors in the United States. Its annual donation rate, most recently 55 organ donors-per-million-population, ranks among the highest in the world. Since 1974, Gift of Life has coordinated more than 53,500 life-saving organs for transplant, and more than 2 million tissue transplants have resulted from the generosity of donors and their families. One organ donor can save the lives of up to eight people, and a tissue donor can improve the lives of more than 100 others.

Consider saying YES to saving lives. Register to be an organ donor today.