In many cases, the wait isn't days or months; it's years. And the wait can feel like forever.
Sherry Robbins dreams of the day she can leave her house and live her life. At age 33, she has a rare autoimmune disease.
"My immune system is overactive," Robbins said, "and it's trying to kill my liver."
Robbins is tired all the time, and she can't work or leave the house more than once a week.
"It's just exhausting beyond exhausting," she said.
A liver transplant is her only hope for a cure.
"Best-case scenario," she said, "I'd be able to work and lead a, 'quote,' normal life."
But 17,000 other people are also waiting for livers, and it could be two or three years before Robbins gets one. That's why she hopes more people will become organ donors.
Becky Burrell knows what it's like to make the decision to be a donor. Six years ago, Burrell's husband, Billie, died from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.
Before his death, Billie decided to be an organ donor.
"He was able to donate his eyes and kidneys," Becky said.
Four people received transplants because of him.
"Four people compounded by their families and friends," Becky said. "Daughters and parents, they have benefitted from receiving his organs."
"For your family to know that your loved one has given the gift of life to someone else is a gift and a reward that I hold very dear to my heart."
It's a gift that Sherry Robbins and some 81,000 other people in need of transplants can only hope they'll get.
"There are a lot of us out there just like me," Robbins said. "We're just waiting to start our lives."
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