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ST. MARYS — Lynn Shaffer considers himself a lucky man and said he owes his life to a generous organ donor from whom he received a liver.
Shaffer spoke to a crowd of Grand Lake Health System employees Wednesday afternoon about organ and tissue donation for the organization’s yearlong Hospital Champions Campaign Kickoff, a venture between hospitals in the Ohio Hospital Association and Donate Life Ohio. Shaffer was diagnosed with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a nonalcoholic liver disease. After his condition rapidly deteriorated in 2010, Shaffer was placed on top of the liver transplant list in Cincinnati. He was able to receive a liver from Columbus and has recovered from his disease. Now Shaffer has turned his efforts to encouraging others to become donors.
“So many people are going to need livers and they’re just not there,” Shaffer said, noting some people are unable to find a match. “The technology and science is available, we just need donors.”
Chris Shaffer, Lynn’s wife, said Lynn’s organ donor gave her grandchildren the opportunity to get to know their grandfather.
“Lynn’s transplant saved his life, and I’m grateful for that, but what is wonderful for me is what it did for our family,” Chris Shaffer said. “Our kids have their grandpa back.”
She noted that because Shaffer was able to receive a transplant, he can tell his grandchildren stories instead of her telling them about him while looking through a photo album.
“He can make memories with them because someone was generous enough to register as a donor,” Chris Shaffer said.
Shaffer noted that he was the luckiest man in the room and is also grateful for the donation that saved his life.
“I have so much to be grateful for,” he said. “We need to get the word out about organ and tissue donation.”
Donate Life Ohio Community Relations Director Cathi Arends said the goal of the Donate Life Ohio campaign is to help save more lives like Shaffer.
“About 3,500 people right now in Ohio (are in need of a transplant),” she said. “That could be someone you sit next to at church, someone you work with, it could be a loved one or it could be you someday, and wouldn’t you hope that someone would be out there to help you.”
Anyone can register as a donor, regardless of age, Arends said, and all major religions support organ donation.
Donation does not change funeral arrangements and there is no cost to be a donor, she said.
She noted that Grand Lake Health System is the first organization of 52 in the service area to commit to the initiative, mirroring the support the area also has for organ donation.
“We know that Auglaize County is a supportive community,” Arends said.
“The state average for organ donation registration is 54 percent. Your county’s registration is 58 percent. That tells me that you already have a community that’s supportive of donation, so let’s leverage that support. Let’s get the folks in the community that are supportive of donation to work with us and talk to their neighbors, their family members, their business associates and their schools so we can all work together and increase donor registration.”
She noted the many possibilities to increase donor registration through Grand Lake Health System.
“This hospital and the health system are the top employers in the community,” Arends said. “Just think if you talk to all your staff members and educate them and you talk you all your volunteers and educate and inspire them, and then you talk to your vendors who supply the hospital. Just think of how many people could possibly register, and if each of them could save eight lives, the possibilities are endless.”
Sonnie Bernardi, of Grand Lake Health System, encouraged attendees to become heroes for others, like the Shaffer family.
“You can all become heroes, and you can become heroes by becoming an organ donor,” she said.
For more information about Grand Lake Health System’s campaign, call Bernardi at 419-394-3335 ext. 4037. For more information or to register as an organ or tissue donor, call Life Connection Ohio at 800-535-9206 or visit DonateLifeOhio.org.