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Your Healthy Family: Organ Donation - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Your Healthy Family: Organ Donation

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COLORADO SPRINGS -

April is Donate Life Month. UCHealth Memorial and the donor alliance are working to get the word out in about the importance of organ donation.  There are approximately 2,400 people on the transplant waiting list in Colorado alone.  Most people on the list will never receive the organ they need because the needed organ donations outweigh the supply of organs available.

The University of Colorado Hospital Transplant Center is celebrating two incredible milestones, it has now performed more than 500 heart transplants and 1,000 living donor kidney transplants, which is far more than any other hospital in the region.   

Jennifer Graham has had two heart transplants.  Her first came at the age of 18 at Stanford Medical Center.  When that heart began to fail in 2013, she received her second gift of life at UCH becoming part of the Transplant Center’s recent milestone.  Graham knows all too well what it's like wait for an organ.

"It's very stressful when you know you're dealing with a terminal illness.  I could tell physically, I wasn't feeling good, I was very fatigued and exhausted all the time.  It always hangs over your head when you're waiting for an organ, will you get one in time, will there be one you will be able to have?" Graham said.

Mike Hale also knows what it’s like to have his life saved through an organ transplant.  He received a new liver a little more than four years ago. "I was kind of on my last leg when I ended up getting a transplant, and it literally saved my life. I was literally dying.  I owe my life to my donor and for saying yes, and his family."

Strong feelings of gratitude are common among those who receive the precious gift of life through organ donation.  Jennifer says, "You always hold a special place in your heart for your donor, and it's somebody that is physically with you, part of them has given you life and so there is not enough thanks in the world."

Because of privacy, recipients aren't told much about their donors.  Mike knows only the basics,

"I only know he was an 18-year-old male from Colorado, and I owe him my life."

Jennifer says “All I know is my donor is a young man from Montana, and I can't thank him and his family enough; a thank you is not enough"

If you want to become a donor you can check the box on your driver's license application or renewal form.  In addition to the license, Kerry Holliday with Donor Alliance stresses you should tell your loved ones your wishes to have your organs donated before you’re in a situation where you can't.  "Most importantly, I would encourage people to share their wishes with their family.  Sometimes we cannot change the fact that someone will not survive.  Sometimes it's at the worst time and they make a really beautiful decision to help others.”

Over the years of working with families at the worst of times who have made the choice to make a loved one a donor, Holliday has seen the act of giving come full circle to many of the families who gave the ultimate gift.  “What I know from working with families over the years is that when they get a letter down the road or information about the outcome of their loved one's donation it brings them some comfort."

To become a donor - besides making your wishes known to your loved ones and checking the box on your driver’s license application - you can go on-line to donatelifeco.org.

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