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April has been designated National Donate Life Month to encourage people to register to donate their organs, tissues and eyes, and to honor those who have donated.

One donor has the potential of saving up to eight lives, but only a fraction of those who sign up end up donating an organ. Organs don’t remain viable for long after death; most come from people who suffer a traumatic brain injury and who don’t die until they are in the hospital.

“It’s a small number when you look at the big picture,” said Kathy Giery, the director of donor program development at LifeQuest Organ Recovery Services in Gainesville.

In Florida, the waiting list for organ donation is about 5,500 people. Nationally, it’s more than 120,000.

“The available organs for transplants can’t keep up with the national transplant waiting list,” Edwards said.

In 2006, the organ donation community began a campaign focused on the state registries, Giery said. In Florida, people can register online or at a driver’s license office.

Seven years ago, when the campaign began, an estimated 60 million people in the country were registered as organ donors. Today, the number is about 115 million, Giery said.

“Year by year, it has continued to grow,” Giery said.


Not long after the transplant, Amanda’s sister, Jessica, reached out to Garrett through his older sister. She wanted to know how he was doing - how her sister’s heart was doing. She knew transplants sometimes didn’t take, that the recipient’s body would reject an organ from someone else.

Garrett wasn’t ready to meet. He was weak physically and, emotionally, he hadn’t processed everything.

“You don’t want to reach out too soon when it’s too early,” said Garrett, who lives in Mulberry with his parents and siblings. “You don’t want to embrace something too soon.”

Weeks passed.

In early July, he sent a text message to Jessica Pierce thanking her and her family for the gift of life. He followed the family on Facebook and began to learn about the young woman whose heart he was carrying.

Months passed.

Story Continues →