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.”
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.
Nathan continues, “This important work takes tremendous compassion and around-the-clock commitment by our staff, transplant centers and hospital partners. I am so proud of them. Together, they ensure that we provide desperately-needed organs and tissue to those who need it most.” A young father talks about his gratitude and “second chance” in this blog post.
“We are so grateful to families for providing their precious gifts, often in the face of overwhelming loss.” — Howard M. Nathan
Gift of Life works closely with130 acute care hospitals and 15 transplant centers across its region. Abington – Jefferson Health President Meg McGoldrick talks about the collaboration and compassion this life-saving work requires: “Gift of Life provides invaluable expertise and support as we help families considering organ donation through one of the most difficult experiences they will ever have to face.”
Reducing the Waiting List
OPO and hospital partnerships are addressing a critical – and escalating – public health issue. With ongoing advancements in transplantation, the need for organ donation grows. Approximately 20 people die each day in the U.S. waiting for an organ transplant. There are more than 5,300 men, women and children waiting in Gift of Life’s region and almost 116,000 nationally.
According to Donate Life America, 95 percent of people support donation, yet only 54.7 percent of adults – 142 million people – are registered nationwide as organ donors either on their drivers’ licenses or online. In Gift of Life’s region, registration rates vary, ranging in Pennsylvania from a low of 31.4 percent in Philadelphia County to a high of 58 percent in Centre County, with an average of 47.8 percent across the state. The average registration rate is 40.2 percent in southern New Jersey and 51.6 percent in Delaware.*
Underscoring the need for more people to register, a 42-year-old woman talks in this video about her battle with Scleroderma and her wait for a double lung transplant at the Gift of Life Family House.
The Gift of Life Family House provides affordable lodging and supportive services to those who travel to Philadelphia for transplant-related care. In 2017, Gift of Life Family House staff and volunteers provided 9,439 lodging nights of care for 16,226 guests, 32,452 meals, and 1,554 rides to and from hospitals. Since its founding in July 2011, the Family House has provided more than 46,179 lodging nights for 87,042 guests and served more than 174,084 meals.
Gift of Life is recognized internationally for its leadership and scholarship in the field of organ and tissue donation. The Gift of Life Institute is the international leader in organ and tissue donation education, training close to 9,000 professionals from 37 countries since 2004. 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 4,000 post-transplant pregnancies, sharing information so that the legacy of donation can continue for generations.
This year, Gift of Life will send a contingent of transplant recipients and living donors to compete in the 2018 Transplant Games of America in Salt Lake City, Utah, August 2-7. They will be accompanied by donor families and supporters. “Team Philly” is always one of the largest teams at the Transplant Games of America, proudly representing the “most generous region in the country.”