Often times, we see stories that focus on organ donation and we don’t pay as much attention to the millions of lives that are saved and healed every year from tissue donation in the United States. In 2021, 2,082 heroic tissue donors from our region of Colorado and Wyoming helped save thousands through skin grafts, spinal fusions valve replacements and more.
Yet thousands in our region are waiting for tissue transplants to return to their full lives. Did you know that just one person can save and heal more than 75 others through tissue donation alone?
Tissue donation differs from organ donation in several ways. There is no waiting list and the tissues are available when someone needs them. While donated organs have to transplanted within hours of recovery, tissue donations can be preserved and transplanted for up to five years. Donated tissues can be used to help heal people in several different and meaningful ways.
Here are just a few of the amazing ways that tissue donation can save and heal lives.
Lillian’s Story: A Donated Heart Valve
Lillian is an outgoing 3-year-old who loves to play with her big sister, dance, make up songs, and play with her stuffed kitty. Looking at her, you would never know all she has been through and what her future holds.
Lillian was born with multiple congenital heart defects. Her pulmonary artery did not reach her heart’s right ventricle thus blood could not flow to her lungs. At just five days old, she underwent her first heart surgery. Lillian’s infancy was so much different than that of her older sister. Her parents weren’t able to hold her when she was first born, they couldn’t pick her up under the arms, and they had to do everything in their power to keep her from getting sick. Those first few months of her life were filled with many doctor appointments, infections, more surgeries, and even cardiac arrest.
At 7 months old, Lillian received a conduit made from a donor heart valve. Following her transplant, Lillian’s overall health improved. She continued to grow, getting stronger and healthier every day. Life just started to seem so much more normal. Lillian and her family feel fortunate to have met her donor’s family and learned more about her donor. “We could never find the words to express our gratitude and love for our donor’s family. Thanks to their generosity, Lillian is able to live a longer life.” said Sarah, Lillian’s mom.
*This story is shared by AATB.
Jeff Usually Saved Lives, Now He Needed Help
First responder, Jeff is in the business of saving others – but he needed help after a procedure to remove skin cancer from his nose. The traumatic procedure resulted in breathing issues. It took donor tissue to save the day for Jeff. “I promise that I will not take this gift for granted.” Jeff said.
*Jeff’s story is shared by LifeNet Health.
Kathleen Saved and Healed Lives All Around the World through Her Eyes
At the age of 31, Kathleen passed away suddenly. She always believed in donation and even though it was a difficult time for her family they honored her decision. Through the miracle of donation, Kathleen’s gifts of life helped a woman in Japan and a man in Colorado regain their eyesight through the gift of cornea donation.
Her mother Pat is so inspired by her daughter’s donation decision and legacy, she has become a passionate advocate for the cause.
All the ways in which tissue donation can save and heal those in need is amazing! Share these stories with your loved ones and community members. Talk about your donation decision with your family. Let’s honor and celebrate the tissue donors and their families who said Yes and have given the gift of life so others may find healing.