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Organ donors give others second chance to live again

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By The Staff

We always hear so many negative happenings and negative outcomes. So, it was a joy for me to be in Pittsburgh for the U.S. Transplant Games from July 11-16, where hope and positive energy abounded.

Along with 29 members of Team South Carolina, there were 19 donor families, five living donors and many support family members, totaling 121.

Lancaster was represented by two athletes, Ed Heins and Amy Saylors. We again realized what a small world this is when we saw Brenda Pogue and her granddaughter, Sierra Young, from Lancaster, a donor family.

I had the privilege of seeing 1,300 miracles in action. All 1,300 of them had received a transplant, and with that transplant they have been able to live a full and gratifying life. They ranged in age from 2 to 80. I heard so often the comment that when you receive a second chance, you live life to the fullest. In fact, the entire week was a celebration of life. When I saw this group with its positive attitude toward life, 1 wondered how so many people in the United States can continue to complain and gripe about their lot in life.

Have you ever seen a group of children 5 years of age and under swim (even with swimmies) for 25M? What a chill you get when you realize each of them has received a heart, kidney or some other transplant and see what they can now accomplish.

History was made in the women’s 50M butterfly event – for the first time, all three medal winners were double lung transplants. And a young woman from South Carolina took the gold medal in that event.

At the opening ceremonies, all of the athletes, along with hundreds of living donors and donor families, marched onto the floor of Pittsburgh’s convention center by states/teams.

What a thrill to see these teams marching in, carrying their state flags and exhibiting such team spirit. Each living donor had given someone a second chance and each of the donor families had lost a loved one but had made the decision to donate organs so someone else could live.

Having been in that position to make that decision, I can get a small feeling for how many of these families felt at the death of their loved one, who quite possibly was in the prime of life, being a child or a teenager.

When you see these families you realize that decision may have been a hard one to make at the time of a tragedy.

Being the mother of a transplant recipient (kidney from her sister and pancreas from someone in Texas), her sister a living donor and the donation of corneas and tissue when my spouse died, I would like to plead to all families to consider donating organs for organ transplantation.

Consider being an organ donor yourself. The figures are astounding. Every day 19 people in the United States die waiting for organ transplantation. There are 99,377 people on the waiting list in the United States right now, according to unos.org.

In Lancaster County, we have numerous people who have had organ and bone marrow transplants. They know the value of a second chance. For me, I’m just an avid amateur family supporter. There are numerous professionals who can give you all the facts and figures.

Ed Heins and Amy Saylors have been available for many years to talk to groups and clubs regarding organ transplantation. And they are always glad to spread the word about organ donation.

Barbara L. McKinnon is a resident of Lancaster County.