Valley of the Sun, AZ

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The Ultimate Gift: The Gift of Life

  April 01, 2019

Imagine a loved one, for the most part active and healthy, suddenly falls ill. Hearty and hale one day, scary sick the next. Kidney disease, which rarely shows early symptoms, can seemingly siphon away health overnight. Tragically, by the time kidney disease is detected or diagnosed, the time for interventional medicine has passed, leaving little recourse other than to find a donor kidney.

Waiting for a donor match is harrowing. Of the approximately 114,000 people in the US who are waiting for a lifesaving transplant, 22 pass each day waiting for a transplant organ. The surgeries for transplantation are now routine and carry a high success rate, but, for many, the opportunity for a lifesaving surgery never arrives.

In Arizona alone, 2,167 people await organ transplants, with 86 percent of those being in need of a kidney. Of patients on the list, 31 percent are from Hispanic origins.

Thankfully, one life can make a difference to many. A single donor’s gift of tissues, organs, and corneas can live on and save up to eight lives and improve the quality for as many as 75 other people. In 2018 alone, 283 organ donors in Arizona saved the lives of 779 transplantation hopefuls. 1,417 tissue donors passed on the gift of life, 667 cornea donors restored sight to 913 people, and 14 birth tissue donors joined the Arizona program to offer relief and healing to those with grievous injury.

It doesn’t always take a life to save one, but when it does, what greater gift is there give to give mercy to another?

How organ donation works — Donor Network of Arizona
By registering as an organ, cornea, and tissue donor, you decide to share life. Donor Network of Arizona (DNA) works closely with Arizona’s hospitals to make the most of the gifts of organ, cornea, and tissue donation, saving and healing lives throughout Arizona and across the United States.

When an individual passes away in an Arizona hospital, as required by federal law, the hospital contacts Donor Network of Arizona (DNA) to check whether the patient was a registered organ, cornea, and tissue donor through the DonateLifeAZ Registry.

If the patient is registered as an organ, cornea, and tissue donor, the DNA team counsels and supports the donor’s family as they honor the donor’s decision to share life. If the patient has not made a decision, the patient’s family is invited to make the choice about donation on their loved one’s behalf.

Once the decision is made to donate the gift of life, the DNA clinical staff consults with the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) and transplant hospitals to find matches on the national waiting list. When matches are found, organs are allocated based on the recipients with the most need and within required proximity to the generous donor.

Blood Donations — Vitalant
Another equally important part of the transplant process is blood. Each time someone receives the gift of an organ, blood is typically needed as well. The two organizations work closely together as an extension of their missions. In fact, Vitalant recently honored the Donor Network of Arizona with their coveted Hero Award as one of the top three percent of blood drive sponsors in the state.

Many people believe that most blood is needed after major disasters. However, daily personal emergencies, scheduled surgeries, and ongoing medical needs of thousands of patients require a constant and ready blood supply. It’s the blood already on hospital shelves that saves lives. According to the Vitalant (formerly known as United Blood Services), every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood.
Blood has a limited shelf life, that’s why it’s so important the supply be continuously replenished. Red blood cells can be used up to 42 days and platelets need to be used in five. All blood types are needed, but type O-negative is always in greatest demand because it’s the universal blood type. Meaning, it can be substituted for all other types in an emergency.

Vitalant is the only blood supplier in Maricopa County, and it requires about 500 units of blood daily to meet demands.

Donating blood is a very easy process that takes about one hour, but the actual donation is about 10 minutes. If you are thinking of donating blood, contact the institution or clinic sponsoring the collection and ask them if you are a good candidate.

Two Tales of Life

Below are two individuals that have been graced by the kindness of donors.

Because of generous efforts of blood, organ, and tissue donors, these two youths will live on as a reminder of the good that can be done when we give the gift of life.

186 transfusions and 260 units of blood and counting
My name is Mia, I’m 16 years old and I live in Chandler, Arizona. I’m only alive because people donate their blood to me. I was born with a rare bone marrow failure syndrome called Diamond Blackfan Anemia (DBA); it’s where my body doesn’t make any red blood cells at all. I go to the hospital every three weeks to receive a blood transfusion, which lets me spend more time doing fun stuff with my friends and family.

Currently, there is no cure for DBA. My greatest chance to one day be cured is if I found a perfect match through Be The Match, the world’s largest bone marrow registry. As of yet, no one’s tissue type completely matches me. I feel it’s important to try and thank as many blood and bone marrow donors as possible because they are taking the time to save lives. They might not even realize how important they are to someone like me. I truly would not be here without such generous people in this world.

You can find me advocating for the bone marrow registry and blood donations at Vitalant blood drives around the greater Phoenix area. I share my story at local high school assemblies and give speeches at different companies around the Phoenix area, as well as lots of TV interviews.

I know firsthand how important it is to get the message out that you don’t have to be a doctor to save lives!  
— Mia McPoland

Wonderful Wally
We welcomed Wally into the world on December 11th, 2017 — a normal healthy baby boy, at least that’s what we all thought. As the first few weeks passed, Wally was fussier than most babies and didn’t eat or sleep very well. He always seemed to be uncomfortable, but it just seemed to be the normal for Wally. Being a new mom, I worried something was wrong with Wally and took him to the doctor frequently those first six weeks.

At seven weeks old, Wally appeared to be catching a cold, coughing, and not his usual self. Of course, he didn’t cough for the doctors and did not have a temperature, so they’d send us back home again. Then, the next day it progressed, I noticed he was lethargic and his color wasn’t right. This time, I took Wally to the emergency room, where we learned he had RSV. After a week of treatment, Wally wasn’t recovering “normally” like he should, which lead doctors to dig deeper to find out why. Little did we know RSV would be a blessing in disguise and save Wally’s life.

They started running test after test, lots of blood work, and discovered Wally had moderately depressed heart function. Our beautiful, spunky, stubborn, strong-willed baby boy had heart failure. With more tests, including DNA comparison testing for Wally, Alex, and myself, we learned Wally has a rare genetic disease called Barth Syndrome and that I was a carrier for the gene mutation. This not only gave us answers to Wally, but it also explained why our first son, Henry, who died of heart failure, lived only a few minutes after birth.

In January, at 13 months old, Wally was hospitalized due to a virus he caught that attacked his not-so-perfect heart. He was taken by life flight to Lurie’s Children’s Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. He’s had two open-heart surgeries and now has a Berlin heart (artificial heart) to assist his blood flow and was listed on the top of the donor transplant list.

Wally is a beautiful little boy who loves books, music, and his doggie Zeus. He knows how to light up a room with his infectious smile. All we want for Wally is for him to be happy, healthy, and to experience everything life has to offer.

“What gives me the most hope every day is God’s grace; knowing that his grace is going to give me the strength for whatever I face, knowing that nothing is a surprise to God”

After nearly two months in the hospital, Wally received his new donor heart on February 28th. As Wally’s mom, the first thing I thought of when we got the call was of the donor’s family and their loss. We have prayed and prayed for them since we found out Wally has a heart. We don’t control who lives and who dies, and we are forever grateful for them because of their selfless decision in organ donation, allowing Wally to live. What better way to honor their child than to give another child life? They will never truly know what they have given us. I hope one day we can meet them and we can show them the amazing gift their child gave to our sweet Wally. Their child mattered. Their child’s legacy will live on through Wally. If not for their child, we may have been burying another child of ours. It’s hard to comprehend how much we love people we have never met. We are forever thankful, grateful, and blessed. We will pray for them always!

UNOS – Visit United Network  for Organ Sharing (UNOS) at to learn more about matching potential recipients to donor organs.

Vitalant (formerly known as United Blood Services) – Arizona’s sole provider of blood components for patients in 11 of 15 Arizona counties,
including Maricopa. For more information and to schedule a donation, visit or call 877-258-4825 (877-25-VITAL).

Join the conversation about impacting the lives of others on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Donate Life Arizona – Register to be a lifesaving organ, tissue, and cornea donor at and give hope to more than 2,100 Arizonans on the transplant waiting list. is the national branch and has further resources.

Join us at Donate Life Day at the D-Backs, Sunday, April 14th, 2019

Purchase tickets at

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April 01, 2019
Categories:  Feature
Keywords:  Feature Story


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