Monday, November 30, 2009


media center

Tissue recipient
Age 25 ~ Pataskala, OH
Teacher and coach

Sponsored by
American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB)
in partnership with Lifeline of Ohio

While playing tight end on the College of Wooster football team, Mike Vyrostek tore his left anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) his sophomore year. In order to return to the game he loved, he would need donated tissue to rebuild his knee. Chris Craig, Mike’s friend and teammate, had lost his father just before the start of their freshman year. Mike Craig had been a high school teacher and football coach, and was killed in an accident at their home. When Chris’ mom, Gail, heard about Mike Vyrostek’s injury, she asked Lifeline of Ohio if her husband’s donated tissue could repair the injury. The result was the first directed tissue donation facilitated by Lifeline of Ohio. Vyrostek continues Mike Craig’s legacy by coaching varsity football and teaching American History at Licking Heights High School.

Mike's Story

“Even though many of the individuals who benefitted from my donor’s tissue will never know the origin of their healing gift, a rare twist of fate has given me the comfort and knowledge of knowing first-hand that my donor was a true hero. I know that because my donor was my best friend’s father, Mike Craig,” said Mike Vyrostek.

Mike Vyrostek was playing tight end on his high school’s football team during his junior year when he tore his right anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) that joins the upper and lower leg bones. Doctors were able to repair the injury using his own tissue. Mike’s tissue was used again when he re-injured the same ACL during his freshman year in college. But when he hurt his left knee the following year, using his own tissue was not an option. In order to return to the game he loved, he would need donated tissue for this surgical repair.

Chris Craig, Mike’s friend and teammate at the College of Wooster, had lost his father just before the start of their freshman year. Mike Craig had been a high school teacher and football coach, and was killed in an accident at their home. He had given the gift of tissue as a donor and touched many lives. When Chris’ mom, Gail, heard about Mike Vyrostek’s injury, she immediately contacted Lifeline of Ohio to ask if her husband’s tissue could be used to repair the injury. The result was the first directed tissue donation facilitated by Lifeline of Ohio.

“My surgery and recovery went well, and Mike’s gift allowed me to return to the playing field the following season,” said Mike, now 25. “My teammates joked that Mike was controlling my left knee, and that was the only reason I played well that season. Every time I stepped on the football field following my knee surgery, I whispered ‘thank you.’ I am so grateful for the gift, and appreciate the Craigs’ kindness through our experience. It has brought Chris and me closer together.

“Although my playing days are now done, I continue Mike’s legacy by coaching varsity football at Licking Heights High School, where I also teach American History. And I proudly share our story at any opportunity I have.”


media center

Donor mother
Age 54 ~ Wellsville, NY
Legal secretary

Sponsored by
Upstate New York Transplant Services, Inc.

In January 2005, Debra Thompson’s 24-year-old daughter Laurie Ann Giddings saved five lives as an organ donor. When Laurie, who had been born with Down Syndrome, was seven, Debra’s eldest child, 14-year-old Jennifer, was killed in a car accident. Meeting Laurie’s needs helped Debra survive that tragedy. Working with UNYTS to promote organ donation “allows me to honor her memory and keep her alive in my heart.”

Debra's Story

On January 12, 2005, 24-year-old Laurie Ann Giddings sat down to her favorite meal of meatball subs for dinner. While enjoying her sub, she began choking on a meatball that had become lodged in her throat. Her mother’s attempts at the Heimlich maneuver were unsuccessful, as were the attempts by the paramedics. By the time she arrived at the hospital emergency room, where the meatball was removed with forceps, Laurie had been without oxygen for approximately 20 minutes, with only minimal brain stem activity remaining. During the next six days, her family was presented with many difficult decisions. “But the final decision to donate her organs was the easiest one I had to make,” said her mother Debra Thompson, a 54-year old legal secretary.

When Laurie, who had been born with Down Syndrome, was seven, Debra’s eldest child, 14-year-old Jennifer, was killed in a car accident. “It was then that I realized why Laurie had been sent to me. Her needs still had to be met. If I had not had her to occupy my days, I never would have survived the loss of my Jennifer,” said Debra, who had become a single mother at that point.

“Laurie filled my life with joy as the years passed. For 24 years, my world revolved around her and her needs. Although she was very independent, she required extra care and supervision in many areas. Losing her has left an enormous void in my life, but I am able to get through each day knowing that she saved the lives of five people with the donation of her heart, kidneys, liver and pancreas.”

Debra admits that “I still miss her terribly every day,” but she copes by attending donor remembrance ceremonies, the U.S Transplant Games, and working with her local transplant organization, UNYTS (Upstate New York Transplant Services) to promote organ donation. “That allows me to honor her memory and keep her alive in my heart,” she noted.

“After our tragedy, many of our friends and others in our town of Wellsville have made the decision to become organ and tissue donors, so the loss of my special girl was not in vain,” affirmed Debra. “She will continue to bring joy into the lives of others, in the domino effect that has been created by donating her organs.”

Do you want to honor a transplant recipient whom you know: a transplant recipient, a heroic donor family, transplant team? You can have a rose dedicated to be placed on the 2010 Rose Parade Float Family Circle Garden. To learn more and how to honor that special hero by visiting the Donate Life Family Circle.


Source: The Grand Rapids Press, November 26, 2009

BENEDICT.jpgRay Benedict, his wife, Ronda, and their daughter, Jacquelyn, stand in the garden they built outside their Lowell Township home in memory of Andrew Benedict, who died from injuries he suffered in a 2008 snowmobile accident.LOWELL TOWNSHIP — Ray and Ronda Benedict had the Tournament of Roses Parade on television last year, mostly for background before the football game, until Ronda Benedict saw one float move across the screen.

It was the Donate Life rose float, honoring those who have donated and received organs.

As commentators shared stories of those featured on the float, “I stood in front of the TV and cried,” Ronda Benedict recalled.

This New Year’s Day, when the Donate Life float makes its way through the streets of Pasadena, Calif., the Benedicts and their daughter, Jacquelyn, want to be one of the hundreds of thousands gathered to see it.

A “floragraph” — a 1- to 2-foot portrait made of flowers —will feature their son and brother, Andrew Benedict.

The 21-year-old died Feb. 16, 2008, from injuries in a snowmobile accident. After his death, his family donated his heart, liver, pancreas, kidneys, intestine, bone and tissue.

His floragraph will be among 75 others honoring organ donors.

Ray Benedict’s sister, Mary Benedict, is hosting a fundraiser to send the threesome to California to attach the floragraph to the float, watch it pass and spend a few days with other organ donors and recipients.

“It’s one more connection with Andrew that they need to be a part of,” Mary Benedict said.

The Benedicts already have connected by mail with two of those who received organs from their only son, a Central Michigan University student and 2004 graduate of Lowell High School. The man who received Andrew’s heart wants to meet them someday, and Glen, a married father of two toddlers who got Andrew’s liver, wrote: “I owe you my life.”


Benedict family benefit

Organizers hope to raise $3,500 to send Ray and Ronda Benedict and daughter Jacquelyn to the Tournament of Roses parade to see the Donate Life float. Funds over that amount will go to Lowell High School’s Andrew Benedict Memorial Scholarship.

When: 7 p.m. Dec. 12

Where: Victory Club, 396 Pettis Ave. SE in Ada

Details: The event includes live music by Thom Ellis and Dennie Middleton, a silent auction and a raffle

Cost: $10 donation

According to Gift of Life Michigan, an intermediary between donors, doctors and hospitals, the state has almost 1.7 million registered organ donors.

Heightened awareness campaigns by Gift of Life this year have helped almost 214,000 people signed up through October — 48 percent ahead of the same period last year.

Many in the Benedict family, as well as their friends, now carry driver’s licenses with a small red heart affixed above the photo.

“We’d never given a thought to ‘Why wouldn’t we?’” Ray Benedict said.

“My gosh, if you can make a difference — to me, they’re wasted otherwise.”

To learn how to get a heart sticker on your driver’s license and get your name on the Michigan organ donor registry, go online to or call 800-482-4881, or visit any Secretary of State branch office.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Source: CBS2 New, OneLegacy

Donate Life Rose Parade Float honoree Perlita Celis's family and the liver recipient of her liver meet for the first time on Saturday. CBS2 News covers the emotional meeting. Read Perlita's story below:

media center

Organ Donor
Age 2 ~ Fontana, CA
Date of Donation: 4/15/02

Honored by UCLA Health System

Perlita Carrillo Celis was a happy, beautiful two-year-old girl. She was a wonderful big sister and always had a contagious smile. On April 15, 2002, Perlita suffered a brain hemorrhage that left her unconscious.

“The doctors explained to us what happened, but the pain and sadness made it difficult to understand at the time,” said Perlita’s mother, Perla. “Then, a representative from OneLegacy came to us and helped us understand the loss of my child. She made our decision a little easier at a very difficult time of our lives.”

Perlita donated organs to two adults and one child. “I haven’t had the chance to meet them, but I do hope that one day I will,” said Perla. “Since then, I have become an ambassador with OneLegacy. Volunteering at OneLegacy has helped me to cope with my grief and to become a stronger person.”

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Americans know the importance of giving thanks at Thanksgiving. The ThanksGivingDay "Give Thanks. Give Life." program encourages everyone to spend a few minutes talking to family this November about the importance of giving Life. To find out how, go today to

This Thanksgiving Day, 17 families in America will lose a loved one due to the lack of available organs for transplant. The waiting list for organs – now close to 95,000 – is getting longer by the day.

Life-saving transplant surgery is becoming more and more successful and thus in greater demand. But, the number of donors is not increasing at a rate to meet the need. Part of the problem is that those who want to Donate Life are not aware of the necessary steps to ensure that their wishes to be donors are carried out.

Blind for 31 years, a cornea transplant allowed John Malkow to see his children for the very first time. "When my blindness ended, a whole new life opened up for me, and it was all made possible by a donated cornea," said Malkow, 55, of Murphy, Oregon. "There are not words in any language to thank my donor for this act of love and kindness and for this priceless gift."

Robbie Casten, a wife, mother and patient currently awaiting a double-lung transplant, echoed that sentiment. It's hard to imagine a greater gift than the gift of life from an organ donor," Casten said. "It I get to keep living."

Don't wait. For more information on how to commit to donation in your state and to learn more about the ThanksGivingDay Program, go You will find facts about donation, tips on talking to your family and a downloadable Donate Life Guide.

Amid your many family discussions this Thanksgiving, have the conversation about donation. Your commitment to Donate Life could save or enhance the lives of up to 100 people, just as someone else's decision could someday save the life of someone around your table.

Tips for Making a Life-Saving Decision this Thanksgiving

  • Ask family members if they have heard about the ThanksGivingDay program. Find out their feelings about organ and tissue donation.

  • Mention some statistics about donation. You might note that close to 95,000 people are currently on the national waiting list to receive a life-saving organ; 17 people die each day waiting for an organ that does not become available; and one donor can save or enhance the lives of up to 100 people.

  • Dispel myths. Some people have mistaken impressions about organ and tissue donation. They may believe that doctors will not do all they can to save potential donors, that their religion objects to donation, that there are costs to the family, that rich or famous people get priority for available organs or that they may be too old to be a donor. All of the above statements are false.

  • Discuss the requirements in your state. Visit to find out what you need to do in your state to commit to donation. In many states, designating "organ donor" on your driver's license is not enough. Your family may have to agree to donate your organs, so it is important to have this conversation so that they are aware of your intentions.


We express our sincere thanks to those whose support* and friendship we cherish.
May you and yours have a bountiful Thanksgiving

*Today the Donate Life Organ & Tissue Donation blog is 7 months 2 days old. Our supporters have visited more than 10,900 times since we started the blog


Source: State Gazette, Dyersburg, TN

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Kip Alexander of the Mid-South Transplant Foundation discusses the new organ-donor registry with Dyer County Clerk Diane Moore. Alexander recently set up a display in the clerk's office and gave visitors flyers about organ donations.

Organ donors have heart - literally - on their driver's licenses.

Small red hearts are now being printed on the driver's licenses of persons who indicate their willingness to become organ donors. They may sign up on the Tennessee Donor Registry ( or simply check the organ donor box when renewing their driver's licenses.

The organ donor registry was established in April 2008 and is coordinated by Donate Life Tennessee, a nonprofit organization established by Tennessee's two organ and tissue-recovery agencies.

Persons may revise personal information and limit or withdraw their consent at any time. The registry serves as a legal binding contract that acknowledges the donor's consent; doctors do not have to seek permission from the next of kin to harvest the organs.

Kip Alexander, volunteer and special-events coordinator for the Mid-South Transplant Foundation in Memphis, visited Dyersburg recently to tell people about the registry. He set up a display for a couple of hours in the office of Dyer County Clerk Diane Moore.

Alexander said he tries to visit each of the counties in his service area every year. He hopes to increase the visitations in the future to boost awareness of the new registry.

Alexander said an estimated 102,010 persons die in the United States each year waiting for an organ transplant. In Tennessee, 2,210 persons are on organ waiting lists. Most of those (1,799) need a kidney. The others need: a liver (236), heart (108), lungs (32), kidney and pancreas (23), pancreas (11) and a combination of a heart and lung (one).

In addition to those organs, the list of transplantable organs and tissues includes the small intestines, skin, bone, ligaments, veins and corneas. Organ donations have the potential to save the lives of eight persons while tissue donations may enhance the lives of 50 persons, Alexander noted.

Almost 27 percent of the state's 4.39 million licensed drivers are registered as organ and tissue donors.

But, that's not enough. Alexander said 39 percent of the Tennesseans on the waiting list for organs and tissues have been waiting more than two years. Alexander said 638 Tennesseans died between Jan. 1, 2004, and May 1, 2009, while waiting for an organ transplant. Twenty-nine percent of them were African-Americans.

African-Americans are at a greater risk for diseases causing kidney failure, Alexander said. Locally, 80 percent of the patients in need of a kidney transplant are African-American, which is more than double the national average of 34.5 percent.

For more information about organ donations, call the Mid-South Transplant Foundation at (877) 228-LIFE, or Tennessee Donor Services at (888) 234-4440.


Source:, The Filipino Global Community, November 23, 2009

IPOD (Integrated Program on Organ Donation) is an organization that advocates deceased organ donation for transplantation. In photo are Dr. Ronald Perez, secretary; Dr. Jose Tablante, administrator; Dr Angel Joaquin Amante, president; Dr Dulce La’O, treasurer; Dr. Vicente Tanseco, chairman; and Luis Antonio Clemente, Information Technology head.

MANILA, Philippines - It might seem to border on the macabre — this subject of harvesting the organs of the dead so that these may be transplanted and prolong the lives of needy patients. But with a growing population requiring transplants, deceased organ donation is the most feasible alternative to address the problem of lack of organs for transplantation.

Consider these figures: The Philippine Renal Disease Registry said that in 2007, 10,000 to 12,000 individuals developed end-stage renal disease. Of these, half or 5,000 required kidney transplants. However, less than 10 percent (or less than 500) were able to undergo transplant surgery because of insufficient organ supply. With 95.5 percent of the kidneys transplanted coming from living donors in the Philippines, only 15 deceased donor organs are transplanted each year. This means that otherwise usable kidneys are buried and in effect, wasted.

“It is always easier to convince a living donor than the bereaved of the deceased to donate a kidney,” says Dr. Vicente Tanseco, Chairman of the Integrated Program on Organ Donation (IPOD).

In Filipino culture, the removal of body parts is perceived to be tantamount to the desecration of the body and shows disrespect for the deceased. And because living donors are generally perceived as more acceptable, we witnessed the thriving phenomenon of kidneys as commerce — where individuals from certain communities were recruited and convinced to part with their kidneys for a price.

To prevent exploitation of would-be donors, the National Policy on Kidney Transplantation from Living Non-Related Donors was passed. This sets guidelines and ethical principles whereby acts of donation and conduct of transplantation from living non-related donors are managed. It appears that the policy has been effective in curtailing the sale of kidneys, thus far. At a recent forum, Dr Ernie Vera of the National Center for Disease Prevention and Control said that from 312 Filipino and 531 foreign kidney transplant recipients in 2007, the figures were 274 Filipino versus 167 foreign kidney transplant recipients in 2008. The clause ruling that foreigners are not eligible to receive organs from non-related Filipino donors seems to have been effective in curbing the objectionable kidney-for-sale-to-foreigners trade. Still, the problem of lack of kidneys for transplantation is not addressed.

The situation is different in the United States where 58 organ procurement associations are designated by the federal government. These effectively operate in geographically distinct areas, so that between 15,000 and 16,000 individuals receive kidney transplants from deceased donors per year. Harvesting usable organs from the deceased has become the norm.

“Don’t take your kidneys to heaven; we need them here,” was the appeal of Howard Nathan who spoke at the recently held First Organ Donation and Transplantation Summit. “This is an opportunity to make good out of the death of a family member. Because of the organs they receive, many people’s lives are changed.”

As president and CEO of Gift of Life Program , one of the largest and oldest organ procurement organizations in the US, Howard Nathan visited the Philippines recently to help build awareness for the importance of deceased organ donation.

“The most important thing is for families to be assured that everything was done for the patient,” says Nathan. He relates that 44 percent of drivers in the United States have consented to donate their organs should the worst happen to them. The procurement organizations are able to keep track of donors because organ-donation consent is stored in computers with data from driver’s licenses. But while kidney transplantation has been funded in the United States by the federal government since 1973, transplant costs average from P250,000 to P300,000 in the Philippines. That spells a big difference.

The Integrated Program on Organ Donation (IPOD) does not have the resources available to organ procurement organizations in the United States, but the organization seeks to advocate the continuous supply of organs from deceased donors by increasing awareness. IPOD president Dr. Angel Luis Amante says, “Our group was formed to address the problem regarding organ — particularly kidney — transplant. We communicated with 10 private and five government hospitals in the National Capital Region, and the responses appear to be favorable.” Dr. Tanseco adds, “This task cannot be done by only one organ procurement organization. We are hoping that all stakeholders will be with us in deceased organ donation program. We are banking for legislative support.”

But inevitably, the success of the program starts with the family of the bereaved. Deceased organ donation means giving part of a loved one so someone else may live. It is the ultimate in generosity because the act entails giving even if it hurts.


Source: CBS3, Philadelphia, November 25, 2009

Boxers sudden death gives life to five awaiting organ transplants

The family of a Chicago boxer who died during a fight in Philadelphia has made the courageous decision to give others a fighting chance by donating his organs.

Former national Golden Gloves boxing champ Francisco Rodriguez died after a bout in Philadelphia. Rodriguez died Sunday night after losing a USBA super bantamweight bout Friday night. Rodriquez was 25-years-old and was married with an infant daughter.

Rodriquez's trainer George Hernandez was with him in his final moments of his life, after he took too many blows to the head. "And I could tell something was wrong, so I asked him, 'how do you feel?' and he said he felt sleepy," Hernandez said.

Following unsuccessful emergency surgery, Rodriguez was pronounced dead at Hahnemann University Hospital. His family made the difficult and brave decision to donate his organs.

"I believe this is what he would have wanted at the end," his brother Alex said.

Seven of his organs have been transplanted to five people, mostly in the Philadelphia. One of his kidneys went to his own uncle in Chicago.

"The other organs were sent to other centers, both in the region and outside the region, for the best matched patients," Gift of Life program President and CEO Howard M. Nathan explained.

"Unfortunately I lost my brother, but he's helping and I hope everybody realizes that and does the same thing," Alex said.

The Gift of Life Program in Philadelphia has a list of 6,000 people locally that are in need of an organ transplant. The decision by the Rodriguez family to donate means giving someone else a second chance at life.

"Thanksgiving week when we all sit around the table and say what we're grateful for, I think it's an amazing gift to these families who have been waiting so long for that call," Nathan said.

The Gift of Life Program told Eyewitness News that two out of three families say yes when asked to donate their loved ones organs. To date, Gift of Life has helped coordinate 28,000 life-saving transplants along with hundreds of thousands of tissue transplants.

Rodriguez was 14-2 going into the bout against Kennedy for the vacant USBA super bantamweight title. Rodriguez was a national Golden Gloves champion in 2001.


Source: CBS
EPISODE: The Kindness of Strangers

By: Steve Farber, Kidney recipient
Founder of American Transplant Foundation
In the Three Rivers episode John discovers that his wealth can not buy a liver in the United States and makes the decision to take his wife Tracy abroad to purchase a liver for her transplant. Can people needing an organ buy one here? Can they go to other countries to purchase an organ?

My own personal transplant journey has very much mirrored John and Tracy’s situation. I too found that my financial status could have no impact my transplant status and I too considered going to another country to purchase an organ.

My story began when I was a toddler and suffered kidney problems. Miraculously, my failing kidneys began functioning again, and I recovered.

I grew up in a lower middle-class neighborhood in Denver, Colorado. After law school, I co-founded Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, a highly successful law firm with offices throughout the United States. Yet my success did not help me when, at age sixty, my kidneys began to fail for the second time.

I soon discovered that my choices were to find a kidney, go on dialysis or die.

I learned that there was more than a three and a half year wait for a kidney in Colorado. I learned that my community stature could not be leveraged to move me up on the organ waiting list. I learned that, while it’s illegal to buy organs in the United States, people can pay for transplant organs on the black market in other countries; and I nearly went to Turkey to buy a kidney, but ethical and safety concerns held me back.

I had the ability to fly to a foreign country and the financial means purchase a black market organ. So many others don’t. I spoke to a lawyer who had traveled to Turkey for a kidney, and I even spoke to the doctor who would perform my transplant there. But the more I looked into it, the more uneasy I felt. The moral issues—paying somebody money for their kidney so that they could put food on the table—just didn’t sit well with me. I worried that if something went wrong or if I became sick, I might not survive the transplant. And I also worried about being caught and thrown in jail.

In the end, I finally accepted the gift of life from my eldest son Gregg, who gave me his kidney in 2004. The journey changed me for good.

I co-authored On the List with Harlan Abrahams, a book examining the ethical, legal, political and economic debates over organ transplant policies. I also founded the American Transplant Foundation, whose mission is to eliminate our nation’s tragic shortage of transplant organs. The American Transplant Foundation goes beyond donor awareness to tackle the tough policy issues that must be solved to eliminate the gap between the need for organs and their supply. You can learn more about the book and the foundation at

Because of my son’s gift, I realize the great importance of living donation, both kidney and liver, to help eliminate the shortage of organs. That’s why the American Transplant Foundation aims to educate the public about living donation. You can find more about living donation and about how to become a living donor at:

Photo credit: Greg Griffin/Denver Post


Source: Donate Life Rose Parade
media center

Tissue recipient
Age 30 ~ McGuire AFB, NJ
Active Duty Air Force (Air Transportation)

Sponsored by Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation

In 1999, Air Force Technical Sergeant Jeremy Starr was on active duty in Aviano, Italy when he snapped his knee, with two menisci tears and a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Four years later, he re-injured his ACL and was told that his military life could be over. Surgery using a donated tendon and meniscus allografts allowed him to continue his military career and enjoy cross-country running. Jeremy not only does his part to support his country, but he also serves as an inspiring example of how tissue donation improves lives and saves careers.

Jeremy's Story

Air Force Technical Sergeant Jeremy Starr*, currently assigned to the 305th Aerial Port Squadron at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey, was on active duty in Aviano, Italy, in 1999, when a casual game resulted in a snapped knee, with two menisci tears and a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) that joins the upper and lower leg bones.

Jeremy’s knee was repaired in 2001. But while stationed in Korea four years later, he re-injured his ACL and was told that his military life could be over. In the spring of 2006, while stationed at Hickman Air Force Base in Hawaii, he met the surgeon who would save his military career.

Lt. Col. Daniel White, MD of Honolulu’s Tripler Medical Center told Jeremy that the injury had caused his left leg to bow, a condition that would prevent him from remaining in the Air Force, where he enjoyed a career leading more than 60 military personnel.

Dr. White performed a two-phase surgery to correct the bowing and, using a donated tendon and meniscus allografts, repaired Jeremy’s ACL and replaced both menisci. An exceptional athlete in track and field since high school, Jeremy was delighted when he ran his first mile recently in just 10 minutes.

“Lt. Col. White has allowed me to continue my career in the military and my love for cross-country running,” said Jeremy. “Even at 30, I can outrun most of the younger personnel in my unit. It is a great feeling and I owe most of it to Dr. White, my tissue donor and the Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation.”

Jeremy is the recipient of three Air Force Commendation Medals, five Air Force Achievement Medals, Combat Readiness Medal, three Good Conduct Medals, National Defense Medal, Kosovo Campaign Medal, Afghanistan Medal, War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, War on Terrorism Service Medal, Korea Defense Service Medal, NATO Medal, and numerous letters of appreciation.

Not only does he do his part to support his country, but he also serves as an inspiring example of how tissue donation improves lives and saves careers.

* Jeremy Starr is participating in the Donate Life Rose Parade on an individual and voluntary basis. His voluntary participation does not constitute US Air Force or Department of Defense endorsement for, sponsorship of, or preferential treatment toward MTF or its affiliates.

Do you want to honor a transplant recipient whom you know: a transplant recipient, a heroic donor family, transplant team? You can have a rose dedicated to be placed on the 2010 Rose Parade Float Family Circle Garden. To learn more and how to honor that special hero by visiting the Donate Life Family Circle.


Source: Donate Life Rose Parade
media center

Tissue recipient
Age 29 ~ Aurora, CO
Owner, Progressive Autoworks

Sponsored by AlloSource

Six years ago, 23-year-old Manuel Salazar’s life was changed in an instant when a crane on a construction job site hit a power line, sending two 115,000-volt jolts of electricity through his body. Miraculously Manuel survived, but his burns were life-threatening and required that his arms and legs be amputated. But thanks to Manuel’s indomitable spirit and donated allograft tissue, he not only survived but thrives. Now 29, Manuel skis, swims, drives and owns an auto body shop that employs a team of people.

Manuel's Story

Six years ago, 23-year-old Manuel Salazar began work on a construction site in Georgia when his life was changed in an instant. A crane on the job site hit a power line, sending it to the ground where he was standing, and hitting him twice with 115,000 volts of electricity. While exposure to this dose of electricity is enough to kill anyone, miraculously Manuel survived to tell the tale.

However, Manuel’s injuries were grave. His burns were life-threatening and required that his arms and legs be amputated. The emotional struggle ahead of him as a quadruple amputee was overwhelming.

“I didn’t understand why they had saved my life,” said Manuel. “I didn’t think life could go on.”

But press on he did, and he was given new hope numerous times with the help of donated allograft tissue – a gift from deceased donors – to cover his burns and promote healing. AlloSource, one of the nation’s largest non-profit providers of skin, bone and soft tissue allografts, provided the life-saving skin grafts.

After his stay in the burn unit, Manuel was fit for prosthetics. But because of the extent of his amputations, it was unusually difficult. Once again, donated human tissue was used to help Manuel’s mobility. Donor bone was used to help build him a shoulder. Along with muscle from his back, the new shoulder can sustain a lightweight, highly functional prosthetic. With the new shoulder and prosthetic, Manuel can now feed himself, brush his teeth, and even scratch his head – many acts of daily living that would have been impossible before.

Despite his ongoing physical setbacks, Manuel insists that he is the same man he was before the accident. In fact, his stubbies (short prosthetic legs that allow him to walk in a shuffling motion) and wheelchair have hardly held him back; Manuel skis, water-skis, swims, drives and wants to go skydiving. He also opened an auto body shop in Aurora and employs a team of people.

Manuel, now 29, speaks often to groups and inspires others with his incredible spirit. “I’m thankful to be alive,” said Manuel. “I want to try new things. I see life in a whole new way.”


Source: Donate Life Rose Parade
media center

Kidney recipient
Age 33 ~ Jenks, OK
Parole officer

Sponsored by Astellas Pharma US, Inc.

After three years of waiting for a transplant and receiving dialysis treatments, Juan received a kidney transplant from his girlfriend Lacie in February 2009. The two were engaged just two days before his surgery. Now, both Juan and Lacie volunteer by offering support to patients on the transplant waiting list and participating in local transplant fundraisers. In May 2010, Juan and Lacie will wed in St. Lucia, the first time they will take a trip together, having been denied previously due to the scheduling of dialysis.

Juan's Story

In January 2006, at age 29, Juan Perez was placed on dialysis after suffering kidney reflux and seizures. That September, he was placed on the kidney transplant list. For the next three years, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 4:30 to 9:00 p.m., Juan would be dedicated to the first chair in pod 2A in the dialysis unit at Saint Francis Hospital.

“I tried to keep as normal a life as possible,” he recalled. “I kept my full-time job as a parole officer. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I would work late to make up the hours that I took off early to get to dialysis. There was never a night of the week that I would get home before 8:30. In fact, getting home that early was a treat.

“My girlfriend, Lacie, and I had been living together for three years. We weren’t in a rush about things. She wanted to finish her schooling and I wanted to have a transplant before we committed ourselves and took our relationship to that next level. We couldn’t possibly have fathomed what that next level would be.”

Their lives continued this way for the next three years. In October 2008, at the annual meeting with the transplant committee, Lacie asked if she could be considered to donate one of her kidneys to Juan. According to Juan, there was some hesitation from the staff, due in large part to Lacie‘s age (24) and having no children. They told her if she wanted to donate, she would have to get the ball rolling and then call them. The very next day, that’s exactly what she did.

Lacie underwent a battery of tests and passed all of them. By Thanksgiving, it was confirmed that she was a match, but the couple waited until Christmas to tell their families. “We couldn’t think of a better Christmas miracle to share,” said Juan. “Two days before our surgery, February 3, 2009, I proposed to Lacie. For us, it was much more than a proposal. It was a vision of a life that we had for so long only been able to imagine.

“On February 5, 2009, Lacie and I had our transplant. Within hours, the life that we had imagined was suddenly a reality. We no longer have to worry about phosphorous, potassium, fluid intake, cramps, headaches or nausea. We are able to live a normal life free of all the restraints that dialysis places on you and your loved ones.”

Since the transplant, Juan and Lacie have participated in the annual Kidney Klassic Run and volunteered as speakers at the orientation class for patients on the transplant list. Juan shared that “We have decided on a destination wedding. We’ve never taken a trip together, due to the scheduling of dialysis, so come May 21, 2010, we will be saying ‘I do’ in St. Lucia.”

Do you want to honor a transplant recipient whom you know: a transplant recipient, a heroic donor family, transplant team? You can have a rose dedicated to be placed on the 2010 Rose Parade Float Family Circle Garden. To learn more and how to honor that special hero by visiting the Donate Life Family Circle.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


The Program

The lights on the tree are a symbolic celebration of the love in our hearts. We celebrate the lives of those who have given and received the gift of life through organ and tissue donation and transplantation.

With your purchase of a light or string of lights, you can help share this celebration with your community and honor a loved one. The lights will be placed on a tree to be illuminated with all of the others to create a wonderful display of love. The proceeds from Love Lights A Tree help support Donate Life Georgia's mission to save lives through Organ & Tissue Donation.

The Event

Join us on Thursday, December 3rd, 2009 @ 6:30pm, at the One Buckhead Plaza

Santa and Mrs. Clause along with their Elves will be in attendance. Music and refreshments will be provided as we Celebrate Life!

The Event will be held at the following address:

One Buckhead Plaza.
3060 Peachtree Road NW,
Atlanta, GA 30305

ATLANTA – (Nov. 13, 2009) –Donate Life Georgia , the non-profit organization which educates Georgians about the importance of organ, tissue, and eye donation will celebrate the Gift of Life this holiday season with its Love Lights a Tree event; a celebration that illuminates these Gifts through organ and tissue donation and the hope of life through transplantation. A tree lighting ceremony will take place on Thursday, December 3rd at 6:30 p.m. at the One Buckhead Plaza in Atlanta, Georgia. Bring the family and friends to celebrate the Gift of Life with transplant recipients, organ and tissue donor family members, and living organ donors. Music and refreshments will be provided and Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the Elves will also attend.

“The lights on the tree are a symbolic celebration of the love in our hearts. We celebrate the lives of those who have given and received the Gift of Life through organ, tissue, and eye donation and transplantation in Georgia,” said Dia Johnson, Chair, Love Lights a Tree. Through the purchase of a light or a string of lights, Georgians can honor a loved one, transplant recipient, or organ and tissue donor. Proceeds for the Love Lights a Tree will support Donate Life Georgia’s mission.

In 2003, Mike Rampey suffered from end-stage heart failure and needed a life-saving transplant; meanwhile Cynthia Edwards faced a life-altering tragedy, the death of her eldest son Melvin. Melvin’s injuries were too severe for survival; his family followed his wishes to become an organ donor and Melvin’s Gifts saved the lives of Rampey and six others. After the donation Cynthia and Mike began to communicate through letters and eventually met one another during a Donate Life Georgia event at the Georgia State Capitol. They each keep Melvin’s memory alive and their families spend time together during holidays and other special events.

Donate Life Georgia seeks individual, business and community sponsors for the Love Lights a Tree campaign. Individual support of Love Lights a Tree can be done by hosting a Love Lights a Tree celebration, volunteering time, and take action by joining the state’s organ donor registry. Businesses can host a company Love Lights a Tree campaign or sponsor a community Love Lights a Tree celebration.

For more information regarding organ and tissue donation, to purchase a light or string of lights from $5 and above, or to become a sponsor of the event contact Donate Life Georgia at 866-57-4273 (866-57-SHARE) or visit