Monday, April 19, 2010

A living lung donor is running today in the Boston marathon

A stranger, a gift, and a marathon miracle: Ellyn Cohen needed a lung to live, then a woman she’d never met offered hers

"It was an unusual act of kindness. Last year, out of 1,661 lung transplants in the United States, only one came from a living donor. In 2008, the number of living lung donors was zero, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, the government agency that coordinates national waitlists for organ transplants. And in 2004, the year Greene made her donation, she was one of just 28 living lung donors out of 1,172 transplants. That year, 492 people died while waiting for a lung.
As uncommon as living lung donors are, it is even less common for the organ to come from a stranger. And the way Greene found out about Cohen’s plight — from a mass e-mail forwarded by a friend — makes the story all the more incredible, said Sean Fitzpatrick, spokesman for the New England Organ Bank, the federally designated nonprofit organization that identifies deceased donors and recovers organs and tissues for transplants in the region."
"A few weeks after the surgery, Greene was playing tennis. The four lobes that remain in her two lungs are one less than a normal healthy person has. But her doctors have told her that her lungs work better than those of many healthy people. Two years ago, Greene started running. She decided to do the marathon to mark her half-century milestone. She got a charity number from her spouse, Angela Cenzalli, who works for the Special Olympics. But she will wear the shirt of the New England Organ Bank, to draw attention to the plight of the more than 1,800 people in the country awaiting lung transplants.
“If more people registered as donors we wouldn’t have to take parts out of living bodies,’’ Greene said. “I’m not asking people to donate their organs when they are alive.’’
She is not expecting to finish the race in less than five hours.
“I like to think that I’ll be fairly high up among the four-lobe people,’’ she smiled."

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