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Organ Donors And Recipients Gather To Celebrate Gift of Life

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Right now, more than 120,000 people in the United States are waiting for a life-saving gift: an organ transplant. Organ and tissue donors and recipients in Utah gathered today at Intermountain Donor Services to celebrate the gift of life in the season of giving. The transplants do much more than give a person a second chance at life.

Deedra Hansen Lambert is known as a Good Samaritan Living Kidney Donor.  Five years ago, she stepped up to donate a kidney to a stranger, whoever was next on the list. Lambert doesn’t even know who got it.

She didn’t make the decision overnight. She thought about it for a handful of years.

“I was born healthy,” said Lambert. “I didn’t have any chronic problems, and I felt like I had an obligation to help people, to help somebody less fortunate than myself who wasn’t as healthy as I was.”

She donated a kidney to a stranger because she knew it was desperately needed. But, helping that one person, she says, has a ripple effect. Helping one person get off dialysis helps that person go to work, so they can take care of their family, and a number of lives start to improve.

Brennan Christensen is an amateur calf roper in rodeos at the age of 29. When he was 11 years old, he nearly died in a bad fire.

“We were burning our garbage,” said Christensen, who grew up in Lehi. “It was kind of a regular chore that we did.”

He poured gasoline on the fire, and it flared up, burning.

“My hair was all singed,” he said. “My eyebrows were gone. My shirt was just barely hanging.”

More than half of the flesh on his body was severely burned. Doctors gave him a 5% chance of survival. Skin transplants saved his life. Time at camp with other burn survivors gave him a positive approach.

“What we say at the burn camp program is ‘survive and thrive.’ This is kind of my way of thriving,” said Christensen.

That transplant 18 years ago enabled him to become a husband and father, and excel in life.

“Without that, I wouldn’t be here today.”

In this season of holiday gift giving, few gifts rise to the level of saving a life. But, when you agree to organ donation, you’re essentially volunteering to share your organs, tissues or eyes with somebody else when you’re done with them. That could be the greatest life-saving gift that a person ever receives.

There were dozens of life-saving stories in the room at Intermountain Donor Services as recipients of organs, and tissue shared their thanks and thoughts on survival on ornaments placed on this Christmas tree. Honors from donors are stitched into this quilt that spans many years of successful organ transplants here in Utah.

A dozen years ago, Gerri Osman’s 16-year-old son, Sebastian, was hit by car not far from East High School.

“With it being my only child, it was my whole world,” she said.

He lay severely injured, unconscious in the hospital for days. One glimmer of brightness was the fact that Sebastian had told his mother only two weeks prior that he wanted to be an organ donor.

He had learned about the registry in drivers education.

“It’s not just giving somebody a second chance,” said Osman. “You are actually providing somebody the ability to have a future.”

She didn’t see that bigger picture until months after her son had donated a liver and two kidneys to help save three lives.

“It’s not just the recipient. There’s many individuals that are greatly impacted in a positive way through somebody being able to donate,” she said.

You can register online at YesUtah.org. Beliefs vary on organ donation. If you haven’t talked with your family about organ donation, why not do it now while you’re considering other gifts in this season of giving.

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