Fallen officer draws attention to organ donors

April 1, 2009 6:48:53 PM PDT
April is National Donate Life Month, an opportunity to draw attention to the need for organ and blood donors. One of the four Oakland police officers killed last month was a registered donor and he has inspired others to do the same.

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Oakland police Officer John Hege's organs saved the lives of four Bay Area men, his tissue helped 50 others. He was able to help those people even after he was killed because he had made the decision to be a donor.

"His donation has influenced the donor registry and I can report to you that the donor registry has doubled from one week to the next because of the awareness of his generous donation," Cynthia Siljestrom of the California Transplant Donor Network said.

Hege's friend and colleague, Officer Jeff Thomason was among those influenced to register.

"You never want to think about the "if," that it could happen to you; a lot of people in our department are realizing it could happen and you need to think about the future and today before the press conference I did sign up to be a donor," Thomoson said.

The California Transplant Donor Network says more donors are desperately needed for the 100,000 patients on the national waiting list, 20,000 of which are in California.

Milpitas resident Paul Yang had a liver transplant 21 years ago. He had a 2-year-old son at the time and has gotten to watch him become an adult, a gift from the donor.

"Organ donation is a symbolic act of love, to save people's life," Yang said.

Jose Zaragoza's teenage son died of a head-injury when playing football in Manteca. His organs saved a number of lives, although it was a tough decision for Zaragoza at the time.

"My kids told me, 'Dad, if you donate my brother's organs one day he will be a hero,' and I tell everyone my son is a hero right now because his organs saved four lives," Zaragoza said.

Blood donations are equally important. Transplant surgeries require a lot of blood, without enough on-hand at that unexpected moment an organ becomes available, the opportunity might be lost.

Related Links:
Donate Life California
California Transplant Donor Network

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