MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (AP) — Chris Amores still has a hard time talking about his 23-year-old nephew's recent death.
But making the decision to donate his organs was one way family members could help honor him, as well as his wishes, since his nephew had wanted to be an organ donor, Amores said.
"We wanted to abide by nephew's wishes, but we also wanted to fight for his life as hard as we could. And there's no doubt in my mind that the physicians and others taking care of him did as much as they could to try and save his life," he said.
"If there was a silver lining to the suffering that my family was enduring - after all the medical avenues had been exhausted - it was the idea of helping give life to someone else," Amores said.
"We've since gotten two letters — from a heart recipient and a kidney recipient — which is very touching, because we know lives are being restored. They now have a new door in life to open," he said.
That kind of experience strikes a responsive chord with Linda Roberts, LifeNet Health's regional hospital development coordinator, who describes organ donors and their families as "simply heroes."
It's a good time to think about this issue, because April is National Donate Life Month, said Roberts, adding that approximately 120,000 people are currently awaiting an organ transplant in the United States.
On average, 18 patients die each day waiting for an organ that doesn't come in time to save them, she said.
As a result, LifeNet Health (a federally designated organ procurement organization) is partnering with University Healthcare in April to encourage individuals to register as an organ, eye and tissue donor, said Teresa McCabe, University Healthcare vice president of marketing and development.
Many people are already registered through the state Division of Motor Vehicles to be an organ donor and nothing else is needed other than making family, friends and co-workers aware of that decision, McCabe said.
Interested individuals can register as a donor or get more information at www.DonateLifeWestVirginia.org.
Gerrardstown resident Chuck Price, who had a double lung transplant on April 28, 2013, and still remembers how it felt to be on a waiting list, now spends part of his time doing charitable work and encouraging others to make a difference by becoming an organ donor.
"I've never been able to breathe like this, and it had been 10 or 12 years since I had really been able to take part in life, so it is impossible to really say how much this gift of life meant to me. And that's why I encourage people to be organ donors every opportunity I get," he said.
Although injuries he received in a serious auto accident slowed him down for several months, Price said he never takes a day for granted — especially in terms of being able to breathe so much better.
"But the good news is that through all that I barely bruised my new lungs," he said.
"I have to say that 2013 was a rough, but also a blessed year for me," said Price, who is now tentatively making plans to participate in the Transplant Games of America this summer.
Because medical procedures can be expensive, Price has started his own nonprofit foundation — Chuckies Second Wind — to help others get the care they need.
"I try to make donations here and there, not just to lung recipients, but other causes such as multiple sclerosis and Relay for Life, too," Price said.
Additionally, some funds will be donated to help with Alpha 1 Antitypsin Deficiency research, he said.
"I'm not actually doing a lot which Alpha 1, which is my disease, but that's because they have a pretty strong program already in place. And I know from experience how many people need help, so I want to do what I can," Price said.
Information from: The Journal, http://journal-news.net/