By AMY ANDERSON
Organ donation is one of the few gifts that can literally change the life of the recipient.
Jason Ivers is one such recipient, whose life would have ended prematurely if it weren’t for a donated heart.
His second chance was given to him by someone who not only decided to be an organ donor, but shared that decision with family members who then gave consent for the transplantation procedure.
“Since I grew up with a bad heart, I lived day to day and didn’t think about the future. After my transplant though, I could look towards a future,” Ivers said.
Though a teen when he received his new heart, Ivers is now in his early 20s and has gained several new insights on his extended life.
“Life means more after you’ve come so close to death. You realize the importance of helping people out through service,” Ivers said.
To help repay those who aided him in receiving his heart transplant, Ivers began lecturing to students in health classes about his experience. He eventually began to work on Intermountain Organ Recovery System’s volunteer speaker bureau when they launched a new education campaign.
Ivers is now a public education coordinator for IORS and visits youth groups at junior high schools and high schools as well as other organizations like the Boy Scouts to share his experience and the organ donor campaign theme “Share you life. Share your decision.”
Many other groups and individuals whose lives have been touched by an organ transplant are actively involved in promoting the donor program.
“National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week, which was first declared by Congress in 1986, is an annual commemoration of the generosity of donors whose gifts enable others to have their second chance at healthy and productive living,” according to a press release from the Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation, a non-profit service organization.
The awareness week, April 20-27, is a way for recipients and their families to thank those people who made the decision to donate organs and tissue as well as the families that honored their choice.
On a local level, Utahns are planning activities to celebrate the gift of life.
Beginning on April 22 in Salt Lake, a tree of life ceremony will give recipients a chance to personally pay tribute to the memory of various donors on behalf of their families. A similar tree planting ceremony will take place in Provo.
A commemorative donor walk is scheduled to take place at Red Butte Gardens and Lagoon is offering special discount coupons in honor of Donor Awareness Week. An event known as Cardiac Dinner will celebrate 12 years of success with transplantation in Utah. Education booths will also be set up at various Salt Lake area hospitals.
“For donation organizations and transplant programs nationwide, Donor Awareness Week also focuses public attention on the urgent need for increased donation to meet critical needs,” according to the foundation.
The main focus is to resolve the concerns of those people who have reservations about organ donation and to get those people that are signed up to be organ donors to notify their families of the decision.
When asked what he would say to anyone having second thoughts on becoming an organ donor, Ivers said “It works.”