“You can’t be a member of the Organ family and not be an organ donor.”
Those words were engrained into George Organ’s mind from his father years ago. Organ, now a supervisor with protective services at OhioHealth Grady Memorial Hospital, said his dad was always someone who would do what he could to help; a man who would do what he could to give to others.
In 2010, Organ’s father died of a massive heart attack.
“We were in shock,” Organ said.
After grieving as a family in those first few hours, the Organ family met a representative from Lifeline of Ohio. Organ’s father was a registered organ donor who was going to give to others, one last time.
“Of course, my dad was an organ donor. It was on his driver’s license. We knew it as a family,” Organ said.
April is National Donate Life Month. The gift Organ’s father gave, the gift of life, is now being given more and more around the state and here in central Ohio.
“We are a very giving community, and that says a lot,” Andrew Mullins, director of Partner Services with Lifeline of Ohio said. “Nearly 60 percent of Ohioans are registered donors, and in Delaware County, there are 76.2 percent registered. What we hear many people say is, of course, why wouldn’t you want to help someone else at your time of your death.”
Lifeline of Ohio has worked hand-in-hand with OhioHealth hospitals for years, including Grady Memorial Hospital.
Denise Anderson is a nurse administrator at Grady Memorial and has been the liaison between the hospital and Lifeline of Ohio for five years.
“I worked at Grant Medical Center before coming here to Grady and took care of patients in intensive care. Many were organ donors, including my cousin,” Anderson said. “After each death has been declared, we contact Lifeline of Ohio within one hour. They are very professional, and the team that comes in is absolutely great.”
After a donation, sometimes donor families and recipients write one another to see where the donations go and who they help.
Organ’s father helped 51 people. His family received two letters from grateful recipients.
“That was huge as far as the grieving process, hearing back from families,” Organ said.
In one letter, a family told them Organ’s father helped one man live two more weeks. That might not sound like much, but to Organ, it meant everything.
“When my dad died, it was so sudden. We never got to say goodbye while he was still with us,” Organ said. “But this family, because of my dad’s gift, they were able to bring family and friends to the hospital to say their goodbyes. He was able to live a few more weeks, and that letter brought more closure for me than anything else at that time.”
Mullins says all correspondence from donor families and recipients goes through Lifeline of Ohio and remains confidential until the parties both agree to exchange contact information. But whether there is contact or not, these gifts of life can have a ripple effect for generations.
“Think about it, one individual, being an organ, eye, and tissue donor, and what that impact might be,” Mullins said. “One person donating organs has the potential to save eight lives. One person donating tissue can enhance the life of more than 50 people. One person donating corneas can restore sight in two people. You think about that impact now, and also the generational impact, you are talking about decades of life through the gifts they receive.”
Each day in April, and when a donation happens throughout the year, Organ raises the Donate Life flag outside of Grady Memorial Hospital. That gesture means so much to him and his family.
“Each time I do it, I think of my dad. I think of those people he helped and how they are doing now. It’s very personal to me,” Organ said.
Nationally, 115,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant. That number is 3,000 in Ohio and 600 in central Ohio.
“Let your family and friends know that you want to be an organ donor. We want your family to know your decision so they aren’t surprised. ” Mullins said. “Death can be unexpected. We don’t know when it will occur. But when families know their loved ones’ wishes, it brings such comfort to the family.”
“The biggest way you can help is giving the gift of life,” Organ added. “Your loved one is doing something very special for someone else and their family.”
To become an organ donor, visit lifelineofohio.org. Individuals can also sign up at their local Bureau of Motor Vehicle offices.
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