Your final gift

Published 9:41 pm Tuesday, July 1, 2014

There are few experiences in life more painful than watching a loved one’s health decline.

The Willis family has been living that nightmare for 15 years now, ever since Tony Willis had his first heart attack in his mid-30s. Now 48, he has congestive heart failure — a surprise to everyone in his family, since there was formerly no heart disease among his relatives — and he is near the top of the list to receive a donor heart when one becomes available.

His family isn’t just waiting it out, though. They’re putting their time to work, using Tony’s story to raise awareness about organ donation.

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His wife recently shared some statistics she had learned when researching organ donation. Each person willing to be a donor could help more than 50 people through the donation of seven to nine life-saving organs as well as skin, bones, heart valves, tendons, veins and corneas.

In the United States, an average of 18 people per day die while waiting for an organ that never comes. In Virginia alone, the average is three a week. More than 113,000 people are currently on the transplant list.

If more people are registered as organ donors, those numbers could decrease substantially. Consider it your final gift to a fellow human as you leave this earth.

You don’t have to wait for the next time you renew your driver’s license to become an organ donor. Just visit There, you’ll also find information about how the donation process works and debunked myths that sometimes keep people from donating.