AUSTIN (KXAN) — Families of organ donors paid heartfelt tributes to their lost loved ones at an emotional ceremony in Austin on Saturday morning.
Transplant recipients thanked them for the “gift of life” at the memory tree ceremony hosted by the Texas Organ Sharing Alliance.
Michelle Segovia, director of communications at Texas Organ Sharing Alliance, said more than 113,000 people are waiting for a lifesaving transplant. She said 10,000 of those people are in the state of Texas.
“It’s because of individuals like you see here today who have made the decision to be organ donors and the decision for their loved ones to be organ donors, they provide hope for all of those people on the waiting list,” Segovia said.
During the event, families wrote tributes on heart tags and placed them on the tree. They were also able to share a few words about their loved ones who agreed to be organ, eye and tissue donors.
Advocates also shared the importance of organ donations. Pat Buchta, who received a liver, said: “My gift has given me health for the very first time in my life, and the chance to give back to my community in ways most meaningful.”
Last year, 561 patients received vital organs from 175 donors in central and south Texas.
There are 12 million registered donors in Texas, and Segovia said one person can save up to eight lives and enhance over 75 lives.
“For our precious donor families, they tell us that donation is the only positive thing to come of their tragedy,” Segovia said. “So we honor them at events like this so we can continue to thank them for giving the gift of life.”
However, Segovia said there is still a lot of work to do because less than half of Texas’ population are registered organ donors.
To register as an organ donor, click here.