Donate Life Month: Honoring Donors, Recipients and Donor Families

By: Jennifer C. Yates

James McQuiston had dreamed of traveling the world, but a complicated medical condition made that impossible. That is, until he got the call that changed his life: An organ donor match had been found for him.
On Aug. 8, 2004, McQuiston received a liver transplantat UPMC, and in the years that have followed has traveled to Ireland, Hawaii and even Australia. On Tuesday, he returned to the hospital to help kick off Donate Life Month by sharing his story at the annual flag-raising at UPMC Montefiore.
Every year, transplant centers across the country, transplant advocacy groups and others help to celebrate organ donors, their recipients and organ donor families. The hope is to raise awareness of organ transplant and encourage more people to sign up to become donors.
“Transplant is something that we all believe in,” John Innocenti, president of UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside, told the crowd gathered at UPMC Montefiore’s LHAS Auditorium. “We live and breathe transplant here.”
He and Christian Bermudez, M.D., UPMC’s chief of cardiothoracic transplantation, noted that this life-saving effort transcends UPMC and includes the Center for Organ Recovery and Education (CORE)and the Transplant Recipients International Organization Pittsburgh Chapter, among others.
More than 117,000 people in the U.S. are currently waiting for organ transplants, and 18 people a day will die before a matching donor organ becomes available, said Kurt Shutterly, CORE’s chief operating officer. He encouraged everyone to register to be an organ donor.

For Bob Dickson,  the reality of transplant has hit home more than once. Years ago, he donated a kidney to his brother. Then in 2010, his son, Scott Lang, the men’s basketball coach at LaRoche College, suddenly passed away. His tissue and corneas were donated to many, including a librarian who lost her eyesight and can now see to read to her grandchildren, thanks to Lang.

“He was a giving man,” a teary Dickson told the audience. “He continually gave of himself and it was just another manifestation of the man he was.”

Has transplant touched your life? If so, tell us about it in the comments below. Also, click herefor more information about other Donate Life Month events planned at UPMC or information on how to become an organ donor.