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Health Team

Organ transplant recipients press need for more donors

Posted April 12
Updated April 14

— There are no age limits for receiving a heart transplant, as 1-year-old Naomi Reeves and 66-year-old Jack Cozort can attest.

"We owe Naomi's life to an organ donor," said her mother, Bethany Reeves.

Naomi was born with an under-developed heart and had to wait 145 days before a donor's heart was available for transplant. She is now doing well at home, and the family now feels the responsibility to raise awareness for organ donation.

"Ninety-five percent of Americans support organ donation, but only 54 percent of Americans are registered donors," Reeves said.

There were more than 33,000 organ transplant surgeries in the U.S. in 2016, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, marking a 20 percent increase in just five years.

"From every potential donor, there could be many lives saved," said Dr. Chet Patel, Cozort's transplant surgeon at Duke University Hospital.

Asking for an organ donor symbol on your driver's license is only the first step, Patel said, noting that people also need to discuss organ donation with their family and friends "to make them aware of their wishes."

Cozort said he is also dedicated to raising organ donor awareness, especially during Donate Life Month in April.

"I've been an organ donor all my life, designated on my driver's license. I never dreamed that I would be the person on the other end," he said.

A longtime lobbyist at the General Assembly, he suffered from congestive heart failure and wore a heart pump until last July, when a matching donor heart became available.

"It made me healthy enough that recovering from the transplant was not a difficult process for me," he said. "I feel great. I really do feel 20 years younger than I did."

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