On April 1, 2016, the Gift of Life Donor Program and Donors are Heroes are holding a fundraising gala to raise funds for public education programs that emphasize the benefits and dispel many of the myths surrounding organ donations. John Green, the director of community relations at The Gift of Life Program, said, "There are currently 5,759 people waiting for a life-saving organ transplant in our region (Eastern half of PA, S. NJ and DE) and over 121,000 nationwide. The vast majority of the people on the transplant lists in our region are waiting for a kidney. 21 people die in the U.S. each day due to the lack of available organs."
Donors are Heroes was started by Don and Renee Freeman after Don received a heart transplant. It raises funds to support public education and awareness programming to encourage people to get the facts regarding organ and tissue donation and to register as donors. Some of their innovative programs include the It's About Life grants to houses of worship, the Spirit for Life school outreach program targeting Philadelphia public and charter high schools and a partnership with Power 99 radio station to educate African Americans.
During our phone conversation, Renee dispelled some of the myths that prevent people from donating their organs. "The most important thing is to get the word out that organ donors will be saved in the event of an accident," explained Freeman. "Many people are very fearful to have it on their license that they are an organ donor. I always say do you really believe that a paramedic is going to say shall I give them mouth to mouth resuscitation or shall I look in their wallet first to see if they are an organ donor? Of course, that's silly and that's not true. Every medical professional has taken an oath to save a life; do no harm. Everyone will be taken care of whether or not you are an organ donor and have designated that on your license."
She continued, "If you are fearful of putting it on your license, which you shouldn't be, the most important thing you can do is to tell your next of kin, the person that will be responsible for you after you have passed. They are the ones that have to know your feelings about it."
Freeman allayed concerns that an organ donor's body will not be treated respectfully. She said, "Well, that's not true either. It's the same as if you had an operation. The surgeons that take out organs have to be meticulous, respect the body, and put the body back intact."