Support group reaches out for organ donors

April 10, 2001

Support group reaches out for organ donors

By STACEY DANZUSO / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Sixteen people in Pennsylvania will die today waiting for an organ or tissue transplant.

That's despite a 26 percent increase in donations in 1999 in western Pennsylvania, an area served by the Center for Organ Recovery and Education (CORE), a nonprofit group that promotes organ, tissue and corneal donation.

As part of the ongoing effort to educate Pennsylvanians on organ and tissue donation, CORE and a Franklin County organ donation support group will observe Organ Donation Awareness Week, which begins Sunday.

CORE plans to pass out organ donor cards and green ribbon pins that symbolize organ donation awareness.

Between 15 and 20 people attend the monthly support group meetings at Chambersburg Hospital, which began in 1991.

Ron and Donna Ocker helped establish the group following Ron Ocker's successful liver transplant.

"When Ron had his transplant, there was no support group in the area," Donna Ocker said. "There was no one to turn to."


The group started with only a handful of people and has steadily grown over the last decade to include people who have received transplants, people waiting for transplants and a donor family.

A few years after it started, the group got involved with CORE and began to focus on educating the public, while providing the crucial support network for its members.

Despite the need for more donors, Patricia Kail Kornick, a vice president of CORE, had positive news for the local support group at its meeting Tuesday.

The number of people in Pennsylvania checking the donor designation box on their driver's license was up to 38.3 percent, a slight increase that represents more than 3 million people, Kornick said.

In Franklin County, the number was only slightly lower, with 37.3 percent of drivers choosing the donor designation.

Kornick said CORE is working hardest to educate men and senior citizens about organ donation.

She said 50 percent more women check the donor designation, and figures for people over age 61 plummet.

"There is a serious misconception out there. It's not chronological age but physiological age" that determines if you can be a donor, Kornick said.

She said the oldest donor through CORE was an 85-year-old woman.

She also assured some group members that the driver's license designation is legally binding and cannot be overridden by family, at least in the area CORE serves.

"It's federal and state law that if you are 18 years or older, the donor designation on a license or a donor card is legally binding," she said.

Kornick said it will be a long time before the United States changes its donor policy to match Europe's "implied consent" laws.

In Europe, people who do not fill out any kind of designation are automatically presumed to be donors.

The organ donor support group meets the second Monday of each month at Chambersburg Hospital. For more information on the group, contact Don Ocker at 717-352-3737.

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