If you haven’t considered becoming an organ donor, there’s someone you should meet.
Neal Stansbury of North Whitehall Township is a shining example of the difference organ donors can make.
Stansbury wouldn’t be alive today without the heart transplant he received four years ago. And he has put his new heart to work in extraordinary fashion. Two weeks ago, Stansbury won a gold medal in cycling in the 2022 Transplant Games of America, an Olympic-style competition, in San Diego.
He didn’t just win his age group. He beat the entire field of about 130 riders in the 20-kilometer time trial. That’s pretty amazing for any 60-year-old, let alone someone who was so sick four years ago he had accepted that he would die.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think that with a heart transplant that I could do these kind of things,” he told me a few days after returning from San Diego.
“The bottom line is, you can go through something like I went through … go through a near-death experience and realize you can get back to totally normal and with the exception of being immunosuppressed, you can basically lead a completely normal life and do normal things without being disabled or inhibited whatsoever.”
I met Stansbury about three years ago shortly after he received his new heart. It was needed because his heart was failing due to ventricular arrhythmia.
He shared his story publicly with me then to encourage organ donation. A champion cyclist, he was working to get himself back into shape when we talked. He planned to participate in the 2020 Transplant Games, but they were canceled because of the pandemic.
More than 106,000 people in the U.S. need an organ transplant. There are about 5,000 in the eastern Pennsylvania-southern New Jersey-Delaware region covered by the Gift of Life Donor Program.
“There’s a huge need and unfortunately there are so many people who die without getting that second chance,” said Rick Hasz, president and CEO of Gift of Life, the nonprofit that coordinates organ and tissue donation in the Lehigh Valley.
You can register to become an organ donor on the Gift of Life Donor Program’s website, donors1.org.
Morning Call columnist Paul Muschick can be reached at 610-820-6582 or firstname.lastname@example.org