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Health, Science & Tech

Allegheny General Hospital Honors Organ Donors With Annual Rose Garden Ceremony

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Liz Reid
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90.5 WESA

Sheila Gold met her best friend Joan Dufore under tragic circumstances: Dufore is the mother of the woman whose liver Gold received after she was diagnosed with liver disease.

Dufore, of Norwalk, Ohio, said her daughter always had an altruistic streak, begging her parents to adopt the orphans she saw on television commercials for the nonprofit Save the Children.

“She always wanted to save people and … I always told her ‘We can’t save the world,’ but she did,” Dufore said. “She saved six people.”

Dufore made comments at the 8th annual Rose Garden Ceremony at Allegheny General Hospital on the North Side Monday afternoon.

Each year, a rose bush is planted somewhere on the hospital’s campus to honor those whose organ donations have saved lives and the medical staff who make such transplants possible.

Gold said the organ transplant process is wrought with irony. She remembered being happy that her disease was worsening, because that meant she was higher up on the list for a new liver.

Another irony, said Gold, is that “somebody dies and you live. That is an incredible responsibility to take on, and it changes you. It certainly did me.”

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, there are more than 123,000 people waiting for organs in the United States, while the number of deceased donors with organs to give has hovered around 14,000 annually for the last 10 years.

Susan Stuart, President and CEO of the Center for Organ Recovery and Education, said a bill currently in the state Senate would help address the organ shortage.

The Donate Life PA Act would allow hospital administrators to approve organ donation if no next-of-kin can be reached. It would also beef up educational efforts in the hopes of convincing more people to volunteer to be organ donors.

“If we could pass the legislation that we’re trying to pass here in legislation that would be a great start,” Stuart said. “We just need to encourage more people to make that pledge to sign up to be registered donor.”

Dr. Ngoc Thai, director of AGH’s Transplant Institute, said he believes younger generations will grow up with knowledge of and interest in organ donation.

“It is flat, but I’m encouraged by young kids now being more actively involved, knowing about transplantation, knowing about donating,” Thai said. “I’m hopeful that in the next few years the trend will tick back up again.”

Another piece of state legislation dealing with organ transplants is house bill 585, known as “Paul’s Law,” which would outlaw discrimination in organ donation based on physical or intellectual disabilities. Sponsor Rep. John Sabatino (D-Philadelphia) said in a memo that the bill was inspired by the story of Paul Corby, who was not recommended to receive a transplant because of “psychiatric issues, autism, and the unknown and unpredictable effect of steroids on behavior.”

Thai said he couldn’t comment on the proposed law, and that every case is unique and is considered on an individual basis.

“I can recall us having two of those cases recently, where we brought it up to our ethics committee, we brought it up to our transplant listing committee, and we deemed those patients to be good candidates for transplant,” Thai said.