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Generous donation paves lifetime path


Organ recipient joins fellow Lions in effort to educate public about need



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Imlay City Lions member Terry Gebhardt with form that explains how easy it is to donate organs through the Gift of Life program. Gebhardt is the recipient of a kidney and pancreas. photo by Tom Wearing.
April 02, 2008
IMLAY CITY — Terry Gebhardt intimately knows how a single donor can impact the life of someone who desperately needs an organ to survive.

It was in May of 1996, that Gebhardt was the recipient of a new kidney and pancreas from a generous donor, thus saving his life and leading him on a continuing path of community service and helping others.

A longtime member of the Imlay City Lions Club, Gebhardt is Eye Bank chairman for Lions District 11D2, which encompasses St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron and Lapeer counties. He's also on the Lions' Michigan Eye Bank Committee.

In those roles, Gebhardt is a strong proponent for educating the public about the everpresent need for organ donors.

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He points out the relative ease at which the general public can now sign up to be organ donors and become purveyors of the Gift of Life. Just go online, he says, at: www.Michigan.gov/sos to register.

"It takes all of about two minutes to sign up to be a donor," says Gebhardt. "All that is necessary is to go to the Web site at giftoflifemichigan.org, click on organ donation and give them your name, address and date of birth. That's all that's required to be a donor."

On Wednesday, Gebhardt was joined by fellow Imlay City Lions members Tom Lupo and Pat and Terry Bowerman, as they solicited for new organ donors at the Secretary of State office in Lapeer.

The effort takes place in conjunction with Michigan's "Show Us Your Heart" campaign, a collaboration between the Michigan Secretary of State's office and Gift Of Life.

Once registered as an organ donor, your next Michigan driver's license will feature a "red heart" sticker and the word "Donor" listed on the front, just above the driver's photo.

Those who sign up at a Secretary of State branch office will be presented with a heart sticker at the counter.

Gebhardt notes that while 25 percent of residents nationwide have signed on to be organ donors, only 10 percent of Michigan residents are registered donors.

"That's kind of sad to me," says Gebhardt. "I think a lot of the problem is there is still a lack of awareness. A lot of people don't want to think about the inevitable. But they need to be reminded that there are still so many on (organ donor) waiting lists. There are people dying.

"This is personally very important to me," he says. "Had someone not made the decision to be a donor 12 years ago, I wouldn't be here. But here I am still kickin'.

"I think a lot of us feel that we can't really do much to help," says Gebhardt. "But by signing up to be an organ donor, you could be giving the ultimate gift to another human being."

Organ Donation Facts

•In 2006, nearly 600 Michigan residents received lifesaving organ transplants.

•Unfortunately, more than 3,000 Michigan residents are still on lists waiting for the Gift of Life. Nationally, the number is nearly 100,000.

•Age is not a barrier to be an organ donor. Anyone can be considered a potential donor.

•There is no cost to the donor or the donor's family.

Voluntary contributions of $1 or more will be used to support programs that encourage residents to sign up on the Michigan Organ Donor Registry.

Checks should be made out to: Michigan Organ & Tissue Donation Education Fund, P.O. Box 30437, Lansing, MI 48909.

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