One Organ Donator Saves Five Lives… Recipients Gather to Celebrate

When Mary and Don Perry’s grandson passed away last year, five other people were given a new lease on life.

Thirty years after Susan Garrison underwent a voluntary, life-threatening surgery, her son is still alive because of her.

An Ohio State University fan named Lindsay Arnold Wenrich is having a voluntary operation to help save the life of a Penn State University fan she’s never met.

More on their stories in a moment. Of course, we’re talking about organ donations. Some say it’s the greatest act one person can do for another person.

Not Enough Available Organs

According to WebMD.com, there are approximately 123,000 people in the United States waiting for an organ donation.

Every 12 minutes – five times an hour – someone is added to this list of organ donation hopefuls.

Most need a kidney or a liver or even a heart. Unfortunately, more than 6,500 of them die before that organ becomes available.

To put it into perspective, that’s 21 people per day. They’re not picky. They’ll take anyone’s organs if they’re a match. There just aren’t enough organs to fill the needs.

Most Donations Come From the Deceased

Some organ transplants come from living donors. About 6,000 of these transplants occur each year.

A majority of them, however, are from recently deceased donors. When someone fills out an organ donation card with their driver’s license, they agree to donate all or some of their organs when they die.

The vast majority of people don’t do this. They know they won’t need their organs after their death, but most don’t even think about doing it.

Of course, people with serious medical conditions shouldn’t be donating organs. Such as those with kidney or heart disease, or cancer, diabetes or HIV. But most people with healthy organs can donate if they choose to.

Organ Recipient Pays It Forward

Mitchell Myers is certainly glad his mother decided to risk her life for his. At age 3, he received his mother’s kidney. It saved his life.

“They did tell us that it was highly probable that one of us wouldn’t live through the surgery,” said Susan Garrison, Mitchell’s mom. “We did have a priest come in and give us last rights.”

Mitchell, now 33 and healthy, dedicates his life to helping kids with special needs. He also encourages people to donate organs in order to save lives.

“For someone to not only be your parent, but to also go to lengths like that to save your life – that’s a bond you can’t break,” Mitchell said.

Teenager’s Death Keeps 5 Alive

Almost exactly one year ago, 19-year-old Teddy Perry died from a gunshot wound. His heart, lungs, liver and both kidneys were transplanted into five individuals who desperately needed them.

That in itself is an incredible story. But Teddy’s grandparents took it a step farther. Last week they hosted a gathering, with all five organ recipients attending.

“I feel fortunate. It’s kind of special (to be part of this),” said Ed Melde, who received Teddy’s heart. “I wanted to get to know (Teddy’s family).”

All five recipients of Teddy’s organs reached the one-year mark without their bodies rejecting the transplants.

Rival Fan Steps Up to Help

George Labecki, 63, a Penn State fan, needs a kidney. He certainly wasn’t expecting any news about his situation when his doorbell rang one day.

It was 34-year-old Lindsay Arnold Wenrich, dressed up like a Penn State mascot. She held up signs reading, “We Are” and “Penn State.” Then she pulled off the head of the costume and said she was actually an Ohio State fan.

At that point she also revealed that she and he were a match. And that she wanted to donate one of her kidneys to him.

The two had never met, but Wenrich had attended the high school where Labecki had been a teacher.

How to Be an Organ Donor

If you are interested in donating any of your organs following your death, you can register with your state’s donor registry (OrganDonor.gov). Or fill out an organ donor card the next time you renew your driver’s license.

It can be a difficult decision. And a very important one. The bottom line is, organ donors save lives.

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