Give the gift of life

Many area residents are waiting or know someone who is waiting for the call that a donor has been found for a life-saving transplant. Karen George, owner of Karen’s Hairem, knows the situation all too well as her husband has been through two kidney transplants.

Throughout April, Karen’s Hairem will hold a raffle for all those who sign up to be an organ donor on the Donate Life Registry, donate to Upstate New York Transplant Services or are already an organ donor. Local businesses have donated prizes and names will be drawn at the end of April. There will also be giveaways for those who sign up to be a donor.

George said she wanted to do her part for the cause because it is very close to her heart.

“I was trying to think of something to help out and then I saw on the internet that April is organ donor awareness month. I started thinking about how I could promote it. I’ve gotten a lot of donations from area businesses,” she said.

George’s husband, Jeff, has had two kidney transplants.

“My husband Jeff has always had problems with his kidneys since he was 12. When he was 20 his dad (Fred George from Silver Creek) donated a kidney to him. That lasted him 20 years and then he did peritoneal dialysis for about eight months. Then we got a call on Christmas Eve in 1998 and he got a kidney from a donor on Christmas Day,” she said.

She said although the transplant meant someone else lost someone, the donation was able to save Jeff’s life.

“That was quite a surprise; it was the best Christmas gift. It makes you sad to think some family lost someone on Christmas, but for them to take that time to donate, it was the ultimate gift. Since then he has done well, he got to walk my daughter down the aisle this year, and without that transplant he probably wouldn’t have been here to do that. It has always been a special cause to me and my family,” she added.

George said she also knows many other people in the community who have received a transplant or are waiting for one.

“It affects a lot of people in the area too. My husband had his and my neighbor’s daughter got a liver and I know a customer’s son’s girlfriend is waiting for a double lung transplant. It’s sort of a broad spectrum where everybody can be helped by it,” she said.

According to the UNYTS website, nationwide there are approximately 117,000 people waiting for a transplant, locally that number is between 300 and 500 people waiting for the gift of life. One donor can save up to 50 people in need of a transplant.

According the website, anyone over 18 can donate organs where age and health conditions do not automatically disqualify a person from being a donor. There is a nation-wide shortage of organs for donation; however the process for signing up is easy and confidential.

“You don’t know whose life you are going to save or even improve someone’s life like through cornea donation for someone who cannot see. You never know it could be one of your family members one day who needs a transplant. To have someone there to save your child or your mother or somebody important to you is comforting,” George added.

She thanked all the businesses who donated including A & A Beauty Supplies, Fresh and Fancy Flowers and Gifts, Inner Balance Day Spa, the White Inn, Thrive Nutrition, Evans & Evans LLP, M & R Greenhouse, Herbs for Life, DeJohn’s Spaghetti House, Liberty Vineyards, Upper Crust Bakery and P’Dubs.

UNYTS is located in downtown Buffalo and was established in 1981. UNYTS is among the leading procurement organizations in the United States, and is one of the only eight centers nationwide to house organ, tissue and eye procurement in one location. With the addition of Community Blood Services, UNYTS has become the first organization of its kind nationwide. UNYTS operates as a non-profit serving the eight counties of Western New York and works to assist donor families, coordinate the donation process and increase knowledge and awareness within the community regarding transplantation.