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The Gift of Life This Holiday Season-A Hero's Story

Jason David Verfaillie was the kind of friend everyone wanted: fun-loving, family-oriented, just a really good guy who would do anything for you. And like every ambitious 18-year-old kid, he had big dreams.

Early on, Jason discovered a passion for fixing things. And he was good — so good in fact, that while most kids his age were engrossed in video games, he was working in a lawn mower and tractor repair shop, just tinkering around, being a 12-year-old kid who was determined to learn why things worked and how to fix them when they didn't. It led to an apprenticeship in electrical work, and classes at Harford Community College on the Western Shore. Jason was on his way to becoming an electrician and achieving a dream of owning his own business.

So it didn't surprise his parents or grandparents that when Jason got his license at age 16, he, like everyone else in his family, signed up to become an organ donor. "It was classic Jason, he had no reservations," said Jason's grandmother, Barbara Corbett of Fenwick, Island, Delaware. "He said, 'If anything happens to me, I won't need them anymore, so let someone who may need them use them.' "

Tragically, something did happen on July 29, 2007. Jason suffered fatal injuries in an automobile accident. Just three months shy of his 19th birthday, he was gone. And as difficult a decision as it was at the time, Jason's parents granted his wish. In death, as in life, it was an unselfish gesture that defined an exceptional young man. Jason's organs were donated for transplant. 

Peninsula Regional Medical Center and the Living Legacy Foundation of Maryland encourage you to consider giving the "gift of life."

"During this holiday season we want to sincerely thank and honor each of our organ and tissue donors and their families, like Jason Verfaillie and his family, for making the incredible and selfless decision to give the gift of life," said Jennifer Gelman, Director of Professional Education for The Living Legacy Foundation. "And we're also grateful to work with such dedicated and hard-working hospital partners, such as Peninsula Regional Medical Center. The hospital staff's efforts and cooperation have directly resulted in helping 16 patients receive life-saving transplants so far in 2011."

The need is real. Every day, 78 Americans receive life-saving organ transplants and thousands more benefit from tissue transplants. These extraordinary gifts have been generously donated by ordinary people of all ages and backgrounds who took just a few minutes in a busy day to indicate their decisions to become organ and tissue donors. But broader awareness of the need for organ and tissue donation is crucial. There are more than 112,000 people awaiting an organ transplant in the United States and every week, more than 100 people on the national transplant waiting list die because no organ is available. In Maryland there are nearly 2,200 people waiting for an organ transplant today.

"If more people make their wishes known by signing up and informing family members, if and when that time does come it's much easier on the family left behind knowing this is what their loved one wanted," added Barbara, who described donors, like her grandson, as a life star. "Although your heart is breaking because that someone special is no longer here and gone way too soon, knowing all the good Jason has done by donating his organs does bring a sense of comfort. The love in your heart and the memories are what keep you going."

Give the gift of life this holiday season. Consider signing up today to become an organ and tissue donor. Visit www.donatelifemaryland.org.



To Learn More About Organ and Tissue Donation-

Maryland- Living Legacy Foundation at http://www.thellf.org/ or 800-641-HERO.

Delaware-Gift of Life Donor Program at www.donors1.org or 800-DONORS-1

Virginia's Eastern Shore-LifeNet Health at www.lifenet.org or 800-TISSUE-1