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 Natural Awakenings Lancaster-Berks

Leave a Legacy Through Organ Donation

Nov 28, 2016 08:50AM ● By Sheila Julson

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’, 22 people die every day while waiting for an organ transplant. Through organ donation—the act of removing healthy, transplantable organs after death and transplanting them into a living person—children, teens and adults get a second chance at life.

Organs that can be donated include kidneys, liver, heart, lungs, pancreas, intestines and also tissue, corneas, stem cells, bone marrow, blood and plasma. Gift of Life Donor program, a Hershey-based nonprofit serving eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware, was founded in 1974 and coordinates life-saving and life-enhancing transplants for people waiting for organ transplants. They also provide support for the donors and their families.

Dwendy Johnson, community relations and team leader of Gift of Life Donor Program, says that in Pennsylvania alone there are 8,000 individuals awaiting life-saving organ transplants, and 10 percent of those are teens. Nationwide, there are approximately 119,000 people awaiting transplants.

In Pennsylvania, people can register to donate by signing their drivers’ licenses or photo identification cards. People can also register online, and the process only takes about 30 seconds. Johnson notes that out of all the people in Pennsylvania who received a photo ID or a driver’s license, about 46 percent of those people have registered to be an organ donor. “That is good; however, we can be doing more,” Johnson says, “because out of all deaths that occur, only 1 percent can be vital organ donors, depending on the circumstances of death.”

Proper education about organ donation can also dispel common myths, such as that one thinks he or she is too old to donate. Doctors determine which organs are viable for transplants, and that’s based upon strict medical criteria, not age. Some people also think organ donation is against their religion, but Johnson notes that all major religions support organ and tissue donation and refer to it as the greatest act of charity and kindness.

“Organ donation is something that we can all give, and it’s something to think about as Christmas gifts and giving the gift of life,” Johnson says. “We often don’t think about it until it’s too late, but becoming an organ donor is an opportunity to leave a legacy and to help save peoples’ lives.”

For more information about Gift of Life Donor Program or to register as an organ donor, call 1-800-438-5093 or visit

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