Giving the Gift of Life

Al Pilong gives a message for the Donate Life Float in the Rose Bowl Parade.

Munson Medical Center is being recognized this year for their work with the Gift of Life Organ and Tissue Donation Program. Gift of Life works with hospitals in northern Michigan to help maximize organ donation within the state. Their efforts are helping to encourage more people to become donors and save the lives of people waiting for organs.

One of those people is Barb Richardson. She's waiting for a new kidney after one that was transplanted 10 years ago from her son started to fail. Barb is just one of many people who qualify for a transplant but are still waiting.

Gift of Life Representative Scott Stahl oversees Gift of Life in over 20 northern Michigan hospitals and says Munson had 7 organ donors last year and saved 17 lives because of them. Many people choose to become organ donors toward the end of their life, but people who qualify can give a kidney or part of their liver or lungs while still living.

"When it comes time for anybody to say goodbye, Munson is great at recognizing that there is potential to save lives downstream- from the ED, to the ICU, the cardiac units all recognize that all medical options are exhausted and its time to call gift of life," Stahl said.

Tissue donations are life-saving as well as each tissue donor can help up to 50 people.

"Tissue donation helps in a variety of different areas- orthopedic, reconstruction, cornea transplant things like that, and Munson currently is sitting second in the state of Michigan for tissue donors," Stahl said.

Munson is being recognized by having a message from Munson Medical Center President, Al Pilong, thanking donor families as part of the Donate Life float in the New Year's Rose Bowl Parade in January.

"These are very difficult situations that they're dealing with, very emotional, very heart-wrenching. There are real heroes here and this is translation of a patient's death into life for someone else and so I think its wonderful that our staff are being recognized for the great work that they do," Pilong said.

Munson is also doing their part in recognizing organ donors. Every time there is an organ donation through Gift of Life, a flag will be raised outside the hospital.

There is no age limit for being a donor and it's very easy to register to be one online.

"Families have actually been relieved that their loved one has made that decision so they know what to do," Stahl said.

It's a gift that can't be wrapped or found under the Christmas Tree, but it's the best gift anyone can give.

"Consider it at least because it gives someone the freedom to go out and live their life again," Richardson said.

Register to be an organ donor with Gift of Life on their website,