CLEARFIELD – The pain of losing a loved one can be a dark time in any person’s life. However, one person’s loss could be the answer to the prayers of up to eight others.
April is “Donate Life Month” and on Monday, Penn Highlands hospitals in Clearfield, Elk and Jefferson Counties celebrated with the Center for Organ Recovery and Education by raising a flag to help raise awareness for the need of organ donors, to celebrate the lives of transplant recipients and to offer hope to those waiting life-saving organ transplants.
When Lori Skebo lost her husband to a heart attack, it was a very dark time. However, her husband had been registered as an organ donor. Because of his selfless act, others were able to receive life-saving organs and tissue. Skebo said knowing her husband’s death has done so much for others has helped her through her grief.
“I was able to meet one of the donor families,” Skebo said. “They were very kind and it helped me see exactly how important being a donor is.” She said CORE was also extremely supportive and helped her through the process of the donations.
Living donors are just as important as donating the organs of an individual who passed away. Chrystle Showers made the decision to be a living kidney donor. Showers said her daughter was about to be married, which is usually a joyous time.
However, the upcoming union was overshadowed by the fact that the mother of the groom was growing weaker due to continued kidney dialysis treatment. When speaking to her future son-in-law, Showers learned that the first step in becoming a living organ donor is a blood typing.
Showers and the groom’s mother had the same blood type, but that was only the beginning. Showers said there was additional testing to determine whether her kidney would be a suitable match.
“The doctors told me that I couldn’t have been a better match if I had been her sister,” Showers said. However, shortly before the transplant was to take place, the head surgeon contacted Showers and said there was an anomaly with her kidney, which may prevent the transplant from taking place.
Showers contacted her pastor who prayed for her. Miraculously, the anomaly was gone and Showers was able to donate her kidney. Sadly, the recipient passed away a few years later, due to complications from hernia surgery.
“People ask me if I am sorry I donated my kidney, because she died,” Showers said. “I tell them absolutely not and I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
Showers said because of her donation, the recipient was not only able to see her son’s wedding, she was able to meet several of her newborn grandchildren before she died.
“I am so much more blessed because she was able to live,” Showers said.
Organ donation is probably not something an average, healthy 21-year-old thinks about. However, Craig Beary learned the importance of making the decision to be an organ donor all too well.
Beary said as a young man, he developed a rare bone-marrow disease known as Aplastic Anemia. Beary had received a life-saving stem cell transplant, but later developed complications, which soon damaged his lungs.
“I went from being a healthy, active person who participated in sports to struggling to breathe,” Beary said. “I got up, I went to work and I came home. I had absolutely no life outside of that because I couldn’t breathe.” Beary said.
He was put on the “waiting list” for organ transplant patients. Luckily for Beary, an organ donor was found, and he received a double-lung transplant.
“There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about my donor,” Beary said. “Five of his organs went to save other people and I am very grateful.”
Beary said because of his donor, his quality of life has drastically improved.
“Soon, I’ll be getting married. I am my parent’s only child and because of him, they will get to see their son walk down the aisle. I am truly grateful that he chose to be a donor.”
According to statistics provided by CORE:
- 114,000 people in the United States are waiting for an organ transplant, with 2,500 of those being from western Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
- A new patient is added to the national transplant waiting list every 10 minutes.
- Eight people can be saved by one individual choosing to become an organ donor
- 75 people can have their lives improved through tissue donation.
- 20 people die every day without receiving an organ transplant.
According to Angela Hockman, Liaison Officer for CORE, the theme for this year’s National Donate Life Month is “Life is a Beautiful Ride” and the symbol is the bicycle. Hockman said bicycles come in all shapes and sizes and represents the process of renewal and the moving cycle of life.
For more information, or to register as an organ donor, visit www.core.org/register.