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Over 120,000 people need organ transplants and there are many more who could benefit from tissue transplants. Thousands of people die each year before an organ for transplantation becomes available and many more face long waiting times or less than ideal alternatives for lack of a tissue transplant. Increasing the number of donors will help end needless suffering and will save lives. You can help. MTF Biologics encourages you to learn the facts about donation, register to be a donor, and discuss it with your family. Visit DonateLife.net to register and learn how your gift of organs or tissues can bring new life to patients and their families.
Organ and tissue transplants save and heal the lives of millions of individuals, providing life-saving gifts and improved health.
Birth tissue includes placenta, umbilical cord and amniotic fluid which can be used for wound care, surgical and ophthalmic procedures.
Visit DonateLife.net and learn how your gift of tissue can give bring new life to patients and their families. Although there have been advances in medical technology, the demand for tissue donation still vastly exceeds the number of donors. Your tissue donation can help heal up to 75 people.
At MTF Biologics, we never forget the magnitude of the gift our donors and their families make. We’ve set this site up just for you—a place you can come to learn about tissue donation, find helpful resources and more. So please, visit us here often, and keep in touch.
These services are designed to help you cope with your
MTF Biologics has several volunteer groups comprised of donor family members and tissue recipients who share their stories and encourage others to consider donation. Many families have found that being involved with other donor families has a profound effect on their lives, and appreciate the opportunity to share the story of their loved ones. Tissue recipients have inspirational stories of how a transplant transformed their lives. Our volunteer groups are located in NY, NJ, and PA. We can provide you with information on how you can get involved and volunteer by contacting Volunteers@mtf.org.
The Linking Lives Program is a voluntary program that gives tissue recipients the opportunity to write a letter of thanks to their donor family. Recipients are encouraged to write a letter which MTF Biologics will forward to the agency that coordinated the tissue recovery. We provide tissue recipients with guidelines for writing to their donor family. The recovery agency sends the letter to the donor family. Donor families may not hear from their tissue recipients as many patients are unaware that they can write to their donor families. However, those who do receive a letter from a grateful tissue recipient have shared how important those letters can be.
A tissue graft is a bone, ligament, cartilage, tendon or section of skin (also called “tissue”) that is transplanted from one person to another. Tissue grafts come from people like you who chose to donate their tissue after they die. Every year in the United States, surgeons use more than one million tissue grafts to help…
The miracle of transplantation begins with a gift - the gift of organ, tissue, and eye donation. Our Tribute Wall honors the donor heroes who make transplantation possible. Donor families and supporters can honor a donor by sharing an online tribute of their loved one.
His last good thing
A risk-taker and thrill-seeker, Kevin Morsching wasn’t happy unless he was giving one hundred percent. “He hit the ground running and never stopped,” explains Kim Morsching, Kevin’s mother. “It’s almost as if he knew his life was going to be short and he wanted to make the very most of his time here.”
His drive and athleticism was showcased on the baseball field as a relief pitcher for the Post 22 American Legion team in Rapid City, South Dakota and the South Dakota State University team in Brookings, South Dakota.
Kevin was fatally injured in a skateboarding accident shortly before the beginning of his junior year. Although Kevin’s accident was tragic, he answered the prayers of many people who were, at the same time, waiting for a second chance at life.
Kevin had made the decision to be an organ and tissue donor when he applied for his driver’s license and his generous decision was supported by his family. Kevin’s heart, lungs, kidneys, liver and pancreas saved the lives of six people. Kevin’s gift of tissue will be used in dozens of life-changing surgeries for years to come.
"Donation was our bright spot," said Kim. "You know all of the good things about your child, and this is their last good thing.”
Pennsylvania's First Tissue Donor!
In the early 1980’s, a pre-med major at University of Scranton, Dave D’Agostino attended some lectures about tissue donation, the donation of bone, skin, tendons and ligaments after death. The idea hit the core of who he was, someone who was always looking to make life better for another. An intelligent, curious young man with a passion for science as well as music, Dave was on the path to become a physician. He had married his high school sweetheart, had a beloved baby daughter and was working as a hospital orderly while applying for medical school.
The dream of becoming a physician was cut short when Dave was killed in an accident, driving home from a local football game.
Because of some of the relationships he had made in school, his family was approached with the idea of Dave becoming a tissue donor – the first tissue donor in the State of Pennsylvania. The tissue bank was so new, the tissue itself was prepared at the lab of the Navy Tissue Bank. Knowing how much Dave believed in donation, his family unanimously agreed. Dave was the first donor at what would become the Pennsylvania Regional Tissue Bank, later acquired by MTF.
Decades later Dave’s brother Ed talks about the impact this decision had on his family. “As difficult as it was to lose my brother, watching my parents grieve was almost worst”, he said “however, I also saw the pride they took in knowing that the donation of his tissues was going to help others”. That knowledge was something his family takes pride in to this day. They stayed in touch with those who made his donation possible, and years later, his brother Ed went to work for MTF Biologics, a tissue donation organization. Ed not only takes pride in his brother’s donation, but appreciates that it gives him a chance to talk about his brother, and keep his memory alive.
In honor of Dave’s life, his commitment to science and the improved lives of others, when the University of Scranton built a new Histology lab, it was dedicated to Dave D’Agostino.
“Tissue donation not only heals recipients”, said Ed, “it helps heal the donor family in more ways that I can begin to describe”.
Leaving a Heroic Legacy of Life
Sally is the proud mother of four amazing children. She and her first-born son, Jonathan, were inseparable. One day, Jonathan’s friend knocked frantically on their door to get her contact information for the hospital. Jonathan and his friends went swimming at a quarry, and he was trapped underwater for over forty-five minutes. Tragically, Jonathan died before Sally made it to the hospital. She and her family were devastated.
It was then that Sally remembered that both she and her Jonathan signed up as organ donors when he first got his license. “He was just that kind of kid. So cool, and so generous. I remember how he said to me, ‘Mom, I’m an organ donor just like you”. She told the coroner that Jonathan was on the donor registry. Sally spoke with a compassionate staff member at the Gift of Life Donor Program, which facilitated Jonathan’s donation. As part of their bereavement care program, the Gift of Life Donor Program sent Sally a package filled with items to help cope with their loss - resources on grief, Donate Life pins, a certificate, and bracelets. Her family especially loved the bracelets because green was Jonathan’s favorite color.
Sally was so proud of Jonathan’s heroic decision that she began using her place of business, a coffee shop, to spread awareness about organ and tissue donation. Ironically, the coffee shop was around the corner from MTF Biologics, a place where staff employees would stop by for coffee on their way to work. When MTF Biologics staff learned about Sally’s connection to donation, they invited her to visit the facility. It was then that Sally learned Jonathan’s gifts were sent to MTF Biologics to prepare his tissue for transplant. She was delighted that his bone and skin grafts helped 25 people across the country. Additionally, his corneas gave sight to two individuals, and his heart valves helped eased someone’s cardiac condition.“Imagine that. Two people can now see because of Jon. Someone can walk again; do things they couldn’t do before. It gave us life to know that he helped so many people. While Jon is no longer physically with us, his legacy and spirit live on in those individuals he has helped. That was John—my brave hero.”
Kathleen Bridgett Coolican, the youngest of six children, was a freckle-faced, curly haired tomboy. Katie dreamt of being a mud wrestler. She was a happy little girl, smiled often and had a “what’s next life” kind of attitude, according to her mother, Maggie. She loved to fish, and often put her bathing suit on backward.
Six-year-old Katie was a first grade student when she collapsed on the playground from an arteriovenous (AV) malformation and became the family’s first organ and tissue donor. “Katie’s death in a small New England town impacted many,” said Maggie. “We quickly understood that her death was not something we would ever get over, but would learn to live with. Friends, neighbors and strangers provided daily support and dedicated a playground in her memory in 1984.” Her graduating classmates remembered Katie and dedicated a page in their senior yearbook. Katie’s donation educated many children and adults and continues to help her family. She is featured in a children’s coloring book about donation, Precious Gifts.
“Much has changed since Katie became a donor. At that time we received one letter about her gifts and then were left to grieve alone. There were no books or pamphlets about donation or grief. There were no support groups or cards remembering her birthday. There were no quilts or special memorial services or floats to remember Katie and other donors and their families,” observed Maggie.
In 1985, Maggie began to speak out about this lack of care and support that she felt as a nurse and a mother. She wrote an article that appeared in the American Journal of Nursing that became “Katie’s Legacy” and led to many speaking engagements throughout the country as she advocated for improved care and follow-up for donor families.
By 1989, Maggie had written a family donor booklet, For Those Who Give and Grieve, as her graduate thesis, and the booklet was published and distributed to more than 125,000 people. The response to the booklet led to the publication of the For Those Who Give and Grieve quarterly newsletter with Maggie as the founding editor. In 1992, the National Donor Family Council housed at the National Kidney Foundation was formed. The Council, with Maggie as the founding chair, published the Donor Family Bill of Rights, National Communication Guidelines and several other resources for donor families. Maggie also created the National Donor Family Quilt and sewed the first 25 panels with a total of 1,750 “Patches of Love.” Katie’s patch went on the final panel.
During this time, Maggie also worked with Hartford Hospital to create a two-year follow-up bereavement program for families that has been replicated around the country. She has participated on several national boards and committees, including UNOS, AMA Organ Task Force, Advisory Board on Organ Transplantation, AOPO Donor Family Council and was a founding member of Donate Life Connecticut.
In 1991, she began working at the organ recovery organization in her home state, now LifeChoice Donor Services, and later at the Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation (now MTF Biologics), until her retirement.
A Mother's Journey with Loss and Hope
Heather Prutzman lost her 25-year-old son Joseph Savage from a motor vehicle accident in October 2017. “He was my only child and It’s always tough to lose a child in general,” Heather says. “But not to have any other children has been incredibly hard for me.”
Joey was always an incredibly outgoing individual from the moment he was born. “He was always the type where he would either go big or go home,” Heather says. And it’s apparent Joey possessed that mindset at a young age. Joey spoke with his mother about being an organ donor when he registered for a driver's license at 17 years old. During that discussion, Joey turned to her with a smirk and said, “After all I’m JSAV. Why wouldn’t I want that on my driver’s license?”. JSAV has been Joey's nickname since he was in elementary school. He has been so popular since he was little and he still continues to be and referred to as JSAV. In fact, our team name for the NJSN 5k is Team JSAV33. The number 33 represents his football jersey number which he had since he started playing when he was 8 years old.
That selflessness perfectly describes Joey’s colorful personality. Since his death, Joey’s donations have made its way to a number of recipients. His heart, two kidneys and liver have all breathed new life into multiple people, and his corneas even brought the gift of sight back to two men. Heather wrote to Joey’s recipients, but prayed to hear back from one more than any other — the man who received his heart.
Joey’s heart recipient was the first to write back, and Heather says it “was just like we always knew each other.” However, Joey’s gift of life impacted more than just those individuals. Over 120 additional recipients of bone, skin, and corneas received Joey’s gifts with Heather herself becoming one of his recipients in 2019. Heather was diagnosed with multiple myeloma — an illness where cancer cells accumulate in bone marrow — in June 2018, and the days since her diagnosis have been challenging. She explained how she has a history of back complications and how her cancer diagnosis worsened those symptoms.
“I have been in excruciating pain the whole year,” Heather says. I was in so much pain I was crawling on the floor.” Heather had six cervical fusions, and decided to call the NJ Sharing Network to reach out about Joey’s remaining tissue grafts prior to her lumbar fusion. The NJ Sharing Network reached out to MTF Biologics and there were only three left at the time. And her surgeon Dr. George Naseef understood the importance of Joey’s donation to his mother. “I just can’t say enough about Dr. Naseef... he’s just amazing,” Heather says. “He’s just another angel here on earth, because I’m walking because of him. He was a piece of the puzzle that helped me get better.”
Heather believes Joey gifted her the mobility in her back, knowing her love for riding and horses. She can now work toward returning to her love for equestrianism and her western pleasure horse, Gambler, who Heather’s “Florida family” gifted her a year before her diagnosis.
“Joey saved so many lives and he did that on his own,” Heather says. “I think about all these people waiting, hoping, praying and fighting to stay alive. He’s given me my quality of life back and I need to enjoy that as long as I possibly can.” Heather hopes to be back on the saddle after completing physical therapy, and looks forward to returning to the water to fish with her husband John.
“I would tell Joey he’s my hero,” Heather says. “I had his back for 25 years and now he’s got his mama’s back. He will always be my greatest accomplishment and there are not enough words to describe how proud I am of him. I am so beyond honored to be his mother, and I believe this was Joey’s gift to me to help me. To say, ‘keep going mom. You got this.’”
Birth Tissue Donor Mother, Donated Placental Grafts
Although scheduled for a C-Section, Samantha was excited about the upcoming birth of her daughter Sephora. When the hospital told her she had the opportunity to donate her placenta after delivery, she jumped on the opportunity. Before becoming a stay-at-home mom, Samantha worked as a nurse for 10 years in the ICU and saw firsthand the benefit of organ and tissue donation.
“I always loved hearing the amazing stories of how donation had changed the life of someone” said Samantha, “And I honestly never knew I could donate my placenta and help someone who was really suffering from wounds that wouldn’t heal or burns.”
“The opportunity to donate made this already special day more meaningful”, she shared, “The placenta donation team explained everything, and it was so easy, I knew I wanted to make this a part of my birth experience. I love knowing that I have helped others and that’s what made me want to donate again, when my son was born.”
Samantha hopes others will want to participate in placenta donation and take part in contributing in such a beautiful way.
Twin sisters share special bond — Irene Atencio and Mia Adriano
Irene Atencio and her twin sister Mia immigrated to Los Angeles from the Philippines in 1985. The sisters signed up to be organ and tissue donors at their local Department of Motor Vehicles when they got their driver’s licenses, and never thought about donation again.
In 2009, Mia developed headaches which were traced to a blood clot in her brain, possibly caused by an aneurism. During this time, Irene injured her right knee and was told she needed donated tissue to reconstruct her ACL. Then, after several unsuccessful surgeries, Mia died at age 42 and became a tissue donor.
Mia’s gift to her sister was a “directed donation,” where a deceased donor’s tissue is directed to another family member or close friend.
“I am thankful for my sister’s gift,” said Irene. “I encourage all people, and especially members of the Filipino community, to consider donation. My sister generously gave to others in life and in death.”
Nineteen-year-old college student Kevin DeShawn Blanchard was shot in the head as he drove to pick up his girlfriend. This senseless murder put an end to Kevin's plans to seek a career in psychology or law enforcement.
Faced with this horrific event, Kevin's mother, Patricia, could have easily chosen anger and retaliation. Instead, she chose forgiveness and hope. She chose to donate Kevin’s tissues, knowing that this last gift could bring the promise of hope and healing to others in need of life-saving tissue transplantation.
"I want others to know that through tissue donation, Kevin is still making us proud," said his mother, Patricia. "I am so glad I chose donation. I have never regretted this choice for one minute, "said his mother, Patricia. Patricia Blanchard is an orthopedic nurse and knows first-hand how tissue donation can help others. She continues to treat young victims of gunshot wounds, and is saddened by this senseless violence.
I have my life back
Tissue recipient Kenneth Williams (far left) suffered for nearly 20 years with debilitating back pain from an old weightlifting injury. The retired aircraft engineer battled degenerative disk disease in his back. “It was like someone had a chisel in my back and was constantly hitting it with a hammer,” said Kenneth, who lives in Southern California.
While Kenneth struggled with his disease, a family in North Carolina also struggled with the tragic loss of their beloved son. Jason Ray (above right) was the team mascot for the University of North Carolina’s basketball program who was struck and killed by a car while attending a New Jersey basketball tournament in March 2007. However, hope would come for both Kenneth and Jason’s family in the form of organ, eye and tissue donation.
Kenneth could only find relief through a surgical procedure on his back that required donated tissue—tissue that he received through Jason’s gift. "Jason's spirit lives on through people like me," stated the father of five and grandfather of six.
Now, simple tasks like driving, sitting or standing for more than 15 minutes at a time, traveling on an airplane, and taking walks on the beach with his wife are possible without pain for Kenneth. "I have my life back," said Kenneth. "My wife can tell you I became withdrawn due to my pain. Now she says I’m back to the way I used to be.”