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KD Sunday Spotlight: 21-Year-Old Organ Donor One Of Many Who Has Saved Lives

"He had a need for speed, loved adrenaline. Dirt bikes, mountain bikes, quads, jet skis," said Laurie Grady, Jacob Grady's mother.

When he wasn't living in the fast lane, Jacob Grady of Renfrew loved to spend time with family and friends, and help others.

"He was bigger than life," said Laurie. "Extremely good with children, small children."

But on December 31, 2020, Jacob sadly passed away at 21-years-old.

He got into a sledding accident days earlier and died from his injuries.

But his desire to give back carried on.

"He chose to be an organ donor when he got his driver's license," said Laurie. "His answer was, 'I don't need them when I'm gone.'"

Laurie says Jacob donated his heart, liver, kidneys, tissue, veins and more through the center for organ recovery and education (core).

"There's no greater gift you can give at the end of your life, than the gift of life to someone in need, and save them the pain and to help a family," said Susan Stuart, the CORE President and CEO.

Stuart says they work with donor families, healthcare workers and recipients to coordinate the recovery and transplant surgeries.

"We have a 3rd year, record year for the number of organ donors," said Stuart. "We saved over 700 lives. We had a record year with tissue donation with over 1,000 tissue donors."

However, Stuart says they always need more donors.

Nationally, more than 100,000 people are waiting for a transplant and about 7,000 in Pennsylvania.

"Unfortunately, 19 people die every day because an organ was not made available," said Stuart. "One organ donor can provide the gift of life to eight individuals. One tissue donor can enhance the lives of 75 people, and one cornea donor can give the gift of sight to two people."

That was Jacob's gift to 7-year-old James McGowan, who recently received his fourth corneal transplant at UPMC Children's Hospital.

"James was born without the ability to see light," said Sara McGowan, James's mother. "So, he was profoundly blind at birth. But each transplant has been unique and this has been the most unique. So, he's been able to say things like, 'I can see better,' or 'What color is that?' or 'What shape is that?'"

The Gradys even had the chance to witness James' progress.

"I don't have the picture of the future anymore with him, but in a way I do because he still has a future through his recipients," said Laurie. "Maybe not the way we wanted it, but he's still living on, and he's still helping."

"When we met the family, that grieving turned into a sense of joy," said James McGowan, James's father. "They felt like their son made such a great impact, and they were able to see that. We know for a fact that there's nothing, but good that comes out of it."

They're encouraging others to make the pledge.

"The decision you make today can impact somebody 10-15 years down the road or even as early as a week, and it's really transformative in so many ways," said Sara.

"There's so much negative in the world," said Laurie. "Why wouldn't you want to do something positive and make a positive impact and help someone become a better person and have a better chance at life?"

For more on organ donation and how to become a donor, visit CORE's website.

Stuart says you can still be an organ donor if you had COVID-19.

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