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Heart transplant recipient paying it forward

Tyler Cummins is part of a campaign to encourage Ohioans to register as organ donors.

Are you an organ donor? If not, this story may move you to become one.

Right now, more than 3,000 Ohioans are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant.   

Lifeline of Ohio launched a virtual, online donor registration drive on Thursday called “Don’t Wait, Save 8.”  

The coronavirus pandemic has slowed down the registration of potential donors. So, the campaign hoped to encourage more people to sign up.

Tyler Cummins knows how important organ donation is because he’s learned how fragile life is.  At the age of 2, he was diagnosed with childhood leukemia. 

He beat the cancer only to face another life-threatening condition years later.

“I was noticing heart palpitations at night,” he said. “I was just laying flat on my back and felt like I was out of breath.”   

That was in 2015. He was vacationing with friends when he started experiencing some strange symptoms. 

“The biggest sign at the time was my legs. From the knee down, they were completely swollen,” Cummins recalled.

When he returned home to Columbus, he received yet another life-threatening diagnosis. At just 28-years-old, he had congestive heart failure.

“Essentially, your heart is enlarged and over time it starts to weaken and eventually won’t work,” Cummins said.

One of the chemotherapy treatments he received as a child damaged his heart. Without a new one, he would not survive. A heart transplant was his only hope.

“When people are on the waiting list, they are the sickest of the sick and unfortunately there are 3,100 people in Ohio today in that situation,” Sharon Cindrich from Lifeline of Ohio said.

That’s why becoming a registered organ donor is crucial.  The “Don’t Wait, Save 8” campaign was launched to encourage people to make the decision to become an organ, eye and tissue donor.  

There is significance to choosing October 8 of this year to hold the registration drive.

“We chose 10-8-20 because every 10 minutes, someone is added to the transplant list. Eight being one person can save up to eight lives through organ donations and 20 happens to be the number of people across the country who die every day because that organ didn’t come in time,” Cindrich said.

Cummins was fortunate enough not to be one of the 20. Now, five years after his transplant, he’s healthy, thankful and paying it forward.  

He’s sharing his story and joining the campaign to encourage more people to register.

“It’s the most human and the most selfless thing you can do is to register to become an organ, eye and tissue donor,” he said.

Cummins says understands the gravity of his situation. 

“In order for me to regain my life, I’m well aware that somebody has to sacrifice and lose their life,” he said. “That’s a pretty heavy thing to absorb.” 

Tyler wants his donor family to know that the sacrifice they made, makes their loved one a hero.

You can learn more about becoming an organ donor at donatelifeohio.org/save8.

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