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Flag raised in honor of National Donate Life Month

Lisa Owens talks about how her life was saved through organ donation during a ceremony held Monday at Uniontown Hospital.

By Mark Hoffman


A Fayette County woman who received the first­ever rib transplant and a mother whose son’s organs gave others a renewed chance at life stressed the continued importance of donation through organizations like the Center for Organ Recovery and Education on Monday.

“We’re touched and blessed to know that more than his beautiful memory lives on,” Jan Eddy said of her son, Michael Eddy.

In 1996, the 16­-year-­old was involved in a vehicle accident in North Huntingdon. The teen sustained a serious head injury and was on life support. With no hope of survival, Jan Eddy said she and her husband made the decision to take Michael off life support and to fulfill his wish to have his organs donated.

Eddy said Michael’s pancreas and one of his kidneys went to a recipient in Pittsburgh, and his other kidney went to a recipient in New York. Both recipients have corresponded with the family about how Michael’s gift had helped save them, something Eddy said she and her family have felt blessed to know.

In 2011, Lisa Owens of Uniontown received three donated ribs from two separate donors. Owens was born with a medical condition that caused her rib cage to grow inward and dangerously close to her heart.

Two weeks before she had the transplant surgery at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2011, Owens said she learned she would be the first.

“The doctor said we’re going to the OR to make medical history,” she said of the experimental surgery.

The two spoke at Uniontown Hospital for the annual flag­raising ceremony as the hospital joined the Hospital & Heathsystem Association of Pennsylvania and CORE to mark April as National Donate Life Month.

Angie Hockman, CORE professional services liaison and the sister of Michael Eddy, said not only donors should be recognized, but also those who work in the medical field to assist with the organ­donation process.

“The work you do is nothing but heroic,” Hockman said.

Hockman said in 2016 in Uniontown, 15 tissue donors helped enhance the lives of 1,125 recipients, and 10 cornea donors helped restore sight to 20 recipients.

Hockman added that 2016 was record­breaking year for CORE and the 163 hospitals it covers in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. She said 663 lives were saved through organ transplants; 77,625 lives were enhanced through tissue donation and 1,566 cornea recipients had their sight restored.

Steve Handy, the CEO of Uniontown Hospital, said the stories behind the numbers show just how important it is to consider organ or tissue donation.

“It’s an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives,” Handy said.

After a long two-­year recovery, Owens said she hopes stories like hers and Eddy’s will help make the decision easier for anyone who’s considered, but not committed to, organ donation.

“Organ donation normally enhances lives, but it saved mine,” Owens said, adding that the gift she received helped her see her children grown, and most recently kept her around to hear that she will be a grandmother for the first time.

Monday was her second year speaking on behalf of CORE at the hospital and fourth time speaking on behalf of CORE.

Eddy has been a CORE volunteer for 21 years.

According to CORE, donated organs include the heart, lungs, intestines, kidneys, liver and pancreas with the commonly donated tissues include corneas, bone, skin, heart valves, arteries and veins.

CORE added that donating is free of cost, can still allow for an open­casket funeral arrangements and is supported by all major religions.

Scott Martin, the pastoral care director at Uniontown Hospital, said the self­sacrifice to help others through organ donation is a message within every religion.

For more information on CORE, visit www.core.org