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A Happy Heart

Hearts are commonly associated with the month of February. In addition to hosting Valentine’s Day, February is American Heart Month and provides an opportunity to raise awareness about the threat of heart disease.

One family in Portsmouth, Ohio knows too well how scary heart complications can be.

Bridget on Valentine's Day 2012

Bridget Johnson was born Nov. 28, 2007 with several heart defects. Her family realized from the moment she entered this world that her chance at survival was slim.

“I remember hearing a faint whimper just before the nurses hooked her up to a ventilator,” said Bridget’s grandmother, Pati Dyer. “I wouldn’t hear her sweet voice again for several weeks. Her heart was broken and so were ours.”

One month later, Bridget was placed on the national transplant waiting list. Her family watched as her condition worsened and Pati says they mentally prepared for Bridget’s funeral.

On Jan. 18, 2008 the family received news that would change Bridget’s future – a heart was available for her.

“We are deeply touched by the decision her donor family made,” said Pati. “Because of their generous choice to donate life, Bridget got a second chance.”

Now, four years post-transplant, Bridget is full of life! She started pre-school this year, a milestone her family was not sure she would ever reach.

“She’s fun, she giggles a lot,” said Pati. “She’s stubborn and independent. Bridget is really quite smart and is definitely a leader. She has made this ride well worth it.”

Bridget’s childhood was made possible by an organ donor and a family who made the decision to save lives after losing their own child.

Bridget on the playground

Unfortunately, there aren’t enough people who make the choice to donate life. Only about 54 percent of Ohioans have registered as donors, though, when polled, 94 percent have a positive sentiment about organ and tissue donation.

The gap between sentiment and action can be attributed to myths and misconceptions.

A common fear about organ donation is that a registered donor’s care will be compromised in the emergency room. This is untrue. A doctor’s priority is the life in front of them and only after every effort to save a patient’s life has failed is donation considered.

Many people think they’re too old or unhealthy to donate. Neither age nor health status should prevent someone from registering as an organ, eye and tissue donor. The oldest donor to-date was 92 years old and saved a life by donating a liver! Even people who have lived with serious illnesses, like cancer, have been donors after death. We encourage everyone – regardless of age or health – to join the Ohio Donor Registry and let doctors determine what can be donated at the time of death.

Sadly, because of misconceptions like these, thousands of lives are lost each year. In Ohio alone, a person dies every other day because a transplant didn’t come in time.

Bridget Johnson of Portsmouth is living proof that organ donation works and her life would not be possible without it.

Please, register as an organ and tissue donor today!

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