Organ donor advocates gather at the Lincoln Memorial

The group of about a hundred organ donor families and transplant recipients pose for a photo with the Lincoln Memorial in the background. (WTOP Photo/Jamie Forzato)

Jamie Forzato,

WASHINGTON – About a hundred organ donor families and transplant recipients gathered at the Lincoln Memorial Saturday to raise awareness of organ donation.

They held hands, posed for pictures and shared bittersweet stories in hopes of encouraging people to give the ultimate gift.

Nancy and Tom Susco’s son, Tim, died from a ruptured brain aneurysm in 2007. He was 25 years old. Nancy says that 10 years earlier, they made a decision as a family to be organ donors.

“I knew things weren’t going to be good. We went on for three days hoping he would recover, realized he wouldn’t recover, and at that point we knew it was time to call the organ donation transplant center in California. On August 15, 2007, he gave the gift of life,” says Nancy.

Their tragic story became life-saving miracles for others.

The Susco’s have met three of Tim’s organ recipients.

“One is a heart and lung recipient that lives in Maui. He has six kids and 26 grandchildren. So that is a huge impact,” says Nancy.

They’ve also met two people who each received parts of Tim’s liver, a 17-year-old girl and a 8-year-old boy.

“His two kidneys went to two women and we hope to meet them in the future,” Susco says.

Nefeterius McPherson was a law school student when she was diagnosed with a rare bowel duct and liver condition.

“That was seven years ago. I was doing really well. And then all of a sudden I got sick again. And the decision was made to put me on a transplant list,” says McPherson.

She was placed on a wait list last May. Five months later, doctors told her they found a donor.

“No one can ever prepare you for the day you get that phone call,” says McPherson.

Her donor was a 12-year-old girl who died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage.

“To find out that your donor is a child, is indescribable. At the age of 11 she told her parents if anything happened to her, she wanted to be an organ donor,” says McPherson. “This was a very special little girl.”

McPherson says she wants to do everything she can to honor her young donor.

“There’s never enough words to truly thank someone for giving you the gift of life,” says McPherson.

John Ogden, a spokesman for the Washington Regional Transplant Community, says 2,000 people in our area are waiting for a transplant.

“Their lives will only be saved by people who make the decision to register as organ donors when we get our driver’s license,” says Ogden, “These organ transplant recipients go back to living vibrant, full lives after the transplant. They’re not sick as they were before.”

The Linking Hands for Life event is sponsored by Donate Life America, which promotes organ, eye, and tissue donation. One of their goals is to increase the number of people registered on state donor registries by 20 million this year.

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