Every year, more than 30,000 lives are saved by organ donation*. At the same time, over 100,000 people – including 4,000 in New Jersey ** - are waiting for that match that could save their lives.
This article is the second in a series inspired by a lifelong Warren resident who underwent two separate transplant procedures, as well as an open-heart operation, in just one year. We hope you may be encouraged to learn more about organ donation – maybe even to register as a donor yourself.
In May 2018, Warren’s Mark Heuvelman received unfathomable news: his liver was failing. He had only weeks to live. Consultations at three major medical centers in New York and New Jersey all resulted in the same prognosis. Inoperable. Untreatable. Terminal.
But Mark refused to accept that as his fate. He was only 32 at the time, with decades of life in front of him – years he planned to take full advantage of. Finally, doctors at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania gave him hope. They believed they could save Mark’s life, and put on the list for a liver donor, highest priority.
A match was found, but that was only the beginning of Mark’s battle against his own body. He fell into a coma before his procedure, underwent an Easter Sunday kidney transplant when the liver transplant process devastated his renal system, and needed one more operation – to correct a heart condition that had been slowly depriving his liver of oxygen, leading to the organ failure that sparked the need for a transplant in the first place.
"I came through those procedures with an appreciation for the little things in life - knowing that every day I'm alive is a good day," Mark says. "I knew that I needed to look forward, not backward, and not worry about things I couldn't change."
Mark, now recovered, works as a healthcare concierge and patient advocate as he starts on the road to a career in healthcare – a career no doubt inspired by his own remarkable triumph over organ failure. That triumph, however, could not have been possible without the incredible generosity of organ donors – and this holiday season, you have the chance to become one of these life savers yourself.
If you’re not already registered as an organ donor, consider signing up so that patients like Mark can have a fighting chance. Here are some great places to turn to for information:
Organdonor.gov, a website run by the U.S. government’s Department of Health and Human Services.
Donatelife.net, an easy-to-navigate portal with details on living donation, pediatric donation, and the revolutionary allograft processes that may involve skin, bone, muscles, blood vessels, and nerves.
Nia.nhs.gov, where the National Institute on Aging offers resources for over-50 donors and recipients.
You can also reach out to Mark directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
No matter where you start your journey, choosing to be an organ donor is a noble decision that can impact more lives than you might imagine – think not only of the people you’ll save, but of their loved ones who won’t have to say goodbye to someone prematurely. This holiday season consider giving a gift that’s so desperately needed around the country: give the gift of life.
In the next issue, we’ll examine the state of organ donation in the U.S. today – including which organs are most needed, different types of donation, and how to register. For more information in the meantime, visit organdonor.gov.