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Health Team

Organ Donors Give Gift of Life

Posted August 9, 2007 1:50 p.m. EDT
Updated August 10, 2007 5:39 p.m. EDT

— More than 96,000 men, women and children are on waiting lists for organ transplants, and physicians say an organ donation is among the greatest gifts anyone could ever give.

Allan Marquis used to have an oxygen tank strapped to his side before he received a donated lung. His problems began about 25 years ago with sarcoidosis – tiny, non-cancerous lumps that developed in his lungs – that evolved into pulmonary fibrosis, which involves scarring that limits the transfer of oxygen to the blood.

"I was on a rapid decline, a rapid scale of decline in my lung capacity," he said. "Without the oxygen, I could not function."

Marquis needed a lung transplant at Duke University Hospital. Last October, he was told he had three months to live unless a matching donor was found.

"On Oct. 14, I was called in, " he said, growing very emotional as he recalled the phone call from the Duke transplant program.

His wife, Barbara Marquis, continued for him, "They said we have a potential donor." It was a match.

Lung transplant patients begin with physical therapy before transplantation.

"(The therapy is) to improve their endurance and their strength to be able to tolerate the transplant," WakeMed physical therapist Beth Crumpler said.

When Marquis woke up from surgery, he noticed his oxygen tubes were gone. He no longer needed them.

"He just looked up above and said, 'It's just a miracle,'" Barbara Marquis said.

After 24 sessions of rehabilitation at Duke, Marquis continued regular sessions at WakeMed. He goes three days a week to maintain his fitness level and to honor someone he may never know – his lung donor.

"It's really something I feel I should be doing after receiving the gift of life," he said.

"Thank goodness for the donor, because now we still have a longer life together," Barbara Marquis said.

Anyone who wants to become an organ donor should make his or her wishes known to family members. Marking it on a driver's license isn't enough, organ donation experts said.