As we go about our daily lives, more than 3,000 of our fellow Georgians are waiting for life-saving or life-enhancing organ or tissue transplants. More than 2,600 of those individuals need a kidney, while more than 200 are awaiting a new liver. Dozens need a new heart, a new lung or a new pancreas. And there’s one organization that has dedicated itself to finding a match for each and every person on the waiting list—LifeLink of Georgia.
One of six divisions (or organ-procurement organizations) of the Tampa-based LifeLink Foundation, LifeLink of Georgia, based in Norcross, serves patients and their families through the recovery of organs and tissue for transplantation therapy. The independent nonprofit organization is headquartered in Norcross and has satellite offices in Augusta and Savannah. Between these three locations, LifeLink of Georgia serves 159 counties in the state, covering 197 hospitals in Georgia and two hospitals in South Carolina. And its mission is threefold.
“LifeLink offers hope to the patients on the transplant waiting list while offering donor families the option of providing the gift of life to those waiting,” says Tracy G. Ide of LifeLink of Georgia. “Your generosity can save up to eight lives through organ donation and enhance dozens more through tissue and eye donation.”
In terms of its most pressing objective—finding donors for patients in need of a transplant—LifeLink works closely with the United Network of Organ Sharing to tap into the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network, which houses a national computer registry that was designed to match donor organs to waiting recipients. Once LifeLink has been informed of a potential donor and determines that a match has been made, it works with hospital staff to arrange for the donated organ to be surgically removed, preserved and sent to the appropriate transplant center.
Of course, the process of procuring organs or tissues is as delicate as it is complex, and LifeLink staff members understand the emotional nature of the work they’re doing. “The foundation works in a sensitive, diligent and compassionate manner to facilitate the donation of desperately needed organs and tissues for waiting patients,” Ide says. In addition to providing support for transplant recipients and their families, including guidelines for writing letters to a donor family, the organization focuses on the people closest to the heroes who have selflessly gifted their organs for someone else’s benefit. “For our families of donors, we provide emotional support through the donation and in the time to follow,” Ide says. “Our Designated Requestors are available to speak with donor families at any time to answer their questions.” Furthermore, LifeLink of Georgia hosts an annual Donor Family Service of Remembrance, during which donor families are invited to join other families in honoring their loved ones.
While it may seem like a virtually impossible goal to find matches for the thousands of patients on the ever-growing transplant waiting list, LifeLink of Georgia is up to the challenge. It just needs all of us to be up to it, too. As Ide says, “You have the power to donate life!”
For more information, visit www.lifelinkfound.org/georgia.cfm
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Georgia was one of the first states to implement an organ-donor registry linked to a motor-vehicle agency. However, the old technology made it difficult for people to sign up, and after 15 years, the Georgia registry had only 3.8 million registered donors. But that’s all changed with the new Donate Life Georgia Organ, Tissue & Eye Donor Registry, which allows you to designate your wishes to be a donor through multiple portals. Now you can either visit a driver-license office and complete a donor-registry form (which is scanned and uploaded into the system) or visit
www.donatelifegeorgia.org to register as a donor. This new tool not only allows you to donate life, but it also frees family members from the sole responsibility of having to give authorization for donation and eliminates any doubt about your desire to be an organ donor. The Registry is linked with the Department of Driver Services and managed by LifeLink of Georgia. For details, visit www.donatelifegeorgia.org.