An organ donation can save a life. Sometimes, it is the only thing that can, and knowing as much as possible about how the organ donation system works could help save many lives.
According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, 118,211 people are waiting for an organ, 18 people will die each day waiting for an organ, and a single organ donor could save as many as eight lives.
Spurred by a member of the congregation who needs an organ transplant and his family, Philadelphia Presbyterian has been actively promoting organ donation awareness.
Doctors discovered a tumor in Philadelphia Presbyterian member Tom Watson’s liver last December, and since mid-February, Tom has been on the list for a new liver, which is the most-needed organ transplant in the U.S., with 96,249 people on the waiting list.
“It’s definitely the support to know that people are surrounding us and trying to take this opportunity to move forward and help people in the future so that there are more people aware of the good things about being an organ donor,” said Mardy Watson, about what the program has done for her and her husband.
Philadelphia has been working with LifeShare of the Carolinas, an organization that has worked to acquire tissue and organ donations in North Carolina for more than 40 years. LifeShare has representatives in all the hospitals in the area, and Koontz worked with them when he was serving as a hospital chaplain.
Koontz and company at Philadelphia Presbyterian have been working with LifeShare as part of the ongoing effort.
Philadelphia Presbyterian has been hosting speakers and promoting organ donation awareness, and will continue to promote and talk about it, keeping the initiative open-ended.
The first speaker, Ann Newman, whose husband was an organ donor in death, spoke about her experience. Next Sunday, June 2, Judge Robert Luoosa will speak about his experience as a kidney and heart transplant recipient.
When you’re waiting for an organ, that’s a really hard wait and it can be a really long wait,” Koontz said. “And particularly with someone in our congregation like Tom, who’s waiting on a liver, it’s something we want to continue to do, and we feel like it’s good because it will help people recognize how faithful it is to be an organ donor and to register if they are not yet registered as organ donors.”
Koontz said one of the primary benefits of their effort to increase awareness about the ins and outs of organ donation is that it has given people a chance to think ahead, and plan for that moment.
“I think a lot of people register as organ donors and they know that they have the little heart on their driver’s license, but then when that moment actually comes when a loved one has passed away and they are an organ donor and people in the hospital come to you and ask you, ‘Are you willing to have your loved one’s organs released?’ that moment is really hard, even If it’s something that you know is a possibility,” said Koontz. “In that moment, it’s really hard to make that decision.”
The decision to become an organ donor does not end with signing up, and Koontz said that is a big part of what they are trying to do at Philadelphia.
“That’s a big part of what we’re trying to do, just prepare people for that moment,” Koontz said. “Because in that moment of grief it’s very hard to make that decision, particularly because it involves basically, that act of letting go of your loved one, and that’s something very few of us are prepared to actually do.”
Throughout the effort, the congregation at Philadelphia has listened to speakers from both outside the church and from within the congregation, speaking about what organ donation is, and their experiences with organ donation.
Koontz said one of the main focuses of the effort is to participate in the waiting time with Tom and Mardy as a community of faith and to walk beside them on their journey.
“The church, actually just the whole community has stepped right up,” Mardy said.