BRIDGEPORT — Nationally last year, nearly 35,000 lives were saved through organ donation.

This statistic, provided by the Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE), was shared at United Hospital Center (UHC) Thursday in Bridgeport as UHC joined with Donate Life West Virginia to celebrate National Donate Life Month.

With speakers and a flag-raising to celebrate and honor donors and families, people were encouraged to register to become organ, tissue and cornea donors and learn about donation.

According to CORE’s information, a single organ donor can save eight lives, and more than 75

lives can be either saved or healed by a single organ, tissue and cornea donor.

But there are also some sobering figures.

Across the nation, nearly 115,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant, and at least 20 people will die each day without receiving one, according to CORE. The organization notes that every 10 minutes, someone is added to the national transplant waiting list.

Sue Landacre, clinical coordinator at UHC, shared the story of how her son, Jake, became an eye and tissue donor when he passed away at 13 years old in a car crash in Feb. 8, 2006 on the way to school.

“He was pretty special from the beginning,” she said, recalling how her son loved to tell jokes and even had an entrepreneurial side. She said he was full of life and made people laugh.

She said it was helpful to know her son gave someone their sight for a little longer in life, adding it’s just as important to think of eye and tissue donation as it is organ donation. Organ donation hadn’t been an option for her son because he had already passed away in the crash, she said.

“I’m proud to be Jake’s mom for 13 years and thankful he gave me 13 years with him.”

Julius Lockett, who works in housekeeping at UHC, told the story of how he donated his kidney to his son, Ty, when his son was 13 years old.

His son had suffered renal failure, and Julius was a perfect match.

Though doctors said his son might not grow beyond four feet, the 18-year-old is now six feet four inches tall and played on his high school’s state championship basketball team.

Kristy Zink, director of critical care and dialysis at UHC, noted that UHC won the West Virginia Governor’s Award for Life in September for outstanding support of organ donation. It was a platinum award.

CORE had a remembrance quilt on display at the event. According to the CORE website, the quilt squares are “provided by the loved ones of those who have passed and gave the gift of life.”

Two options are available in West Virginia for those who decide to become organ donors. They can register at the driver’s license center when receiving or renewing a state-issued license or ID or they can visit and enter necessary registration information online.

Eric Hrin can be reached at (304) 367-2549.

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