Learn How to Save 8 Lives

Couple learning they've been matched with a donor
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Although most surveys show as many as 90 percent of people support the idea of organ donation, as little as 30 percent of people know how to make their wishes known. It's far simpler than you may think, and even more importantly, it could be the most life-saving decision you ever make.

Did you know each organ donor has the potential to save up to 8 lives? Plus, a tissue donor can improve the lives of dozens of others. Separating fact from myth and highlighting the impact of organ donation is one of the motivating forces behind the annual GR8toDON8 8k Run for Organ Donation. Presented by the AdventHealth Transplant Institute, this event benefits TransLife, an organization dedicated to building awareness on the importance of organ donation.

The 8K race, named for the ability of each donor to save eight lives, raises funds crucial to creating TransLife's organ donation awareness educational programs. In recent years, the event raised money to create two campaigns aimed at young people: Save 8: Educate! that encourages high schoolers to talk about donations with their peers and Save 8: Designate!, a college student campaign aimed at helping students increase donor designation within their campuses.

The need for organ donation is greater than ever. Nationally, more than 125,000 adults and children are desperately waiting for life-saving transplants, including more than 5,000 people right here in Florida. Every 10 minutes, another name is added to the national transplant waiting list, and an average of 21 lives are lost each day due to the lack of organs available for transplant.

There is hope, though. Thanks to the generosity of donors and their families, each year, nearly 29,000 lives are saved through transplants. One of those lives was that of Cari Mutnic's father. After his kidney cancer diagnosis several years ago, Cari, a speech-language pathologist at AdventHealth for Children, worked with doctors at the AdventHealth Transplant Institute to give her father the ultimate gift: one of her kidneys. She says she couldn't believe how smoothly the process went. I went into the hospital on a Friday and I was able to go home on Monday. I was back to myself and back to work within a month, she recalls. I only had a small little incision through my belly button. I didn't even have to worry about stitches or coming back for the doctors to remove things. Cari says after her surgery, she decided to live her life to the fullest and in the process, she's dispelling myths of what being a living kidney donor does to your long-term health. I'm in the best shape of my life and I actually feel better than I did before the surgery. Six months after I gave my kidney to my dad, I ran my first half-marathon. Since then, I've also completed a triathlon, she says. Her dad is healthier than ever, too. He swims every morning and bikes every night. We're in competition now to see who's in the best shape, she laughs.

Through its many programs, TransLife continues to educate people about organ donation fact and fiction. Some things you may need to know include: Your life is always the first priority. If you are sick or injured and admitted to the hospital, you will receive the same level of care regardless of donor designation. The doctors treating you are not involved with transplant programs or possible recipients. This fact is both law and ethical medical practice. Donation of organs and tissues takes place only after all lifesaving efforts have been exhausted, death has been legally declared, and donor designation has been confirmed. Faith communities support donation. All major religions support organ and tissue donation as an unselfish act of charity. Donation does not change physical appearance. Surgical procedures are utilized to recover lifesaving organ and tissue donations. The body is always treated with great care and respect. Donation should not delay or change funeral arrangements, and an open casket service is possible.

So, how can you help? For starters, you can save the date April 9 to lace up your shoes for the annual Gr8 to Don8 8K race/5K run/walk in 2016. This year's event was held on Saturday, March 28, at Lyman High School in Longwood, kicking off National Donate Life Month and raising over $55,000 to educate the community on the importance of becoming an organ donor.

We're continuing to campaign for choosing to don8 life. Celebrate our gr8 runners and support a gr8 cause by giving here www.kintera.org. And for much more information on organ donation and transplant, visit https://www.adventhealthtransplantinstitute.com/ or http://www.translife.org

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