Over 5,700 of the 121,000 people across the country in need of organ transplants live right here in Philadelphia, many of whom are Penn Transplant patients. To raise awareness about organ, eye, and tissue donation and to inspire more people to become donors, Penn Medicine has partnered with Gift of Life and the Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP) again this year for the 2017 Pennsylvania Donate Life Hospital Challenge. Our goal at Pennsylvania Hospital is to earn state-wide recognition for our efforts to highlight this critical need.

To build momentum around the campaign, the PAH team gathered on July 12 to celebrate the gift of life and to honor organ donors and their families. Satoshi Furukawa, MD, chief of Cardiovascular Surgery and professor of Clinical Surgery, welcomed guests and discussed the important role PAH plays in the organ donation process. Gift of Life CEO Howard Nathan also spoke, and guest speakers Markita Lewis and Kathi Clapham shared their personal experiences with organ donation.

In 2013, Markita Lewis’ 13-year old son, Marquis, suffered a severe asthma attack and went into cardiac arrest. Only three days later, he was pronounced brain dead. As she sat by her son’s side, she reflected on a conversation she had with him a few years earlier about her lupus diagnosis and the possibility that she would need a kidney transplant someday. It was then she decided that “on the worst day of my life, something good would come out of it” and chose to donate Marquis’ organs.

As a “proud donor mom,” Lewis noted that she now gets to “wake up every day and look at these three young men on my mantel – his heart recipient, his left kidney recipient, and his liver and right kidney recipient. Those three young men were the perfect match to my son.”

Kathi Clapham was born with cystic fibrosis, but while her childhood was mostly marked by coughing fits, she became extremely ill during a difficult pregnancy. She constantly needed oxygen to counter frequent lung infections, and she ultimately could only make it to 26 weeks before her health issues became too threatening. After the birth of her twins, she was told she required a double lung transplant.

“You don’t realize how your breathing affects everything. Now I’m a healthy mom, I have energy, and I can keep up with my twins,” Clapham said. “My donor and their family never really leave my mind. Everything that my kids and I do, especially with Gift of Life, is in honor of my donor.”

As a Hospital Partner in the HAP Donate Life Hospital Challenge, PAH encourages all staff to educate our community and to personally sign up as donors. By taking a few minutes to officially register, you may be able to give the priceless gifts of life, sight, and mobility to another. To register, visit www.donors1.org

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