Donor program helping turn tragedy into 'gift of life'

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A local organization is helping to turn tragedy into life-saving opportunities. (WPVI)

Penn Presbyterian Medical Center is one of several trauma centers in Philadelphia that see a lot of shooting victims. Getting those patients there as quickly as possible is crucial.

But even if a life cannot be saved, others could get a second chance at life, thanks to the most successful donor program in the country.

Just after 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, police rushed to the 5600 block of Ridgewood to find a 25-year-old man shot in the chest. They quickly loaded him into their vehicle and rushed him to the emergency.

Earlier, about a mile away, police found a 37-year-old shot in the face, head and neck. Again, under an effort begun under former Commissioner Charles Ramsey called 'Scoop and Run', officers do not wait for an ambulance and instead take him to Penn Presbyterian themselves.

"Police officers getting to these victims quickly and taking them to a trauma center that has a lot of experience," said Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Scott Small.

Those extra minutes could make all the difference in the world in saving a life. But sometimes, the victim is beyond help and may be seen as a potential organ or tissue donor through the Gift of Life program.

"There are 40 coordinators in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, who then go to the hospitals to talk to families about permission for organ donation," said Howard M. Nathan, president and CEO, Gift of Life.

Cynthia London was one of those families. Her 22-year-old son, Sipho, was the victim of senseless gun violence when he was shot and killed in March 1997. He was declared braindead on a respirator when she made her decision.

"We had an opportunity, a small opportunity, to save someone else, and because I had read the material, educated myself, I knew that was the right thing to do," said Cynthia London, donor family.

Presently, across the tri-state area, there are 5,500 people waiting for an organ transplant.

"Last year, 540 individuals, generous donors gave the gifts of 1,412 organs for transplant," said Nathan.

Cynthia London says six people received Sipho's organs and on Wednesday, almost 20 years later, they are still alive. She points out her son's name is South African and means "Gift of Hope".

"And so I'll tell people that he was my gift and he brought hope to six other people and that was his legacy," said London.

London is now on the board for Gift of Life, which serves as a worldwide model with more than 40,000 transplants since it started in 1974.

For more information call 1-800-DONORS-1 or CLICK HERE.

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newsphiladelphia newsorgan donationsphiladelphia police
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