Organ donation on the rise with heroin epidemic

FILE: Suspected heroin confiscated during Mercer County traffic stop. (Photo/Mercer County Sheriff's Office)
Judge Tony Capizzi: We need heroin treatment for our youth (WDTN Photo)

Overdose deaths helping organ donations

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) - This heroin and opioid epidemic is getting so bad it's actually easing the shortage of organ donations needed across the country and here in Ohio.

Already this year, 2 NEWS Investigates has confirmed more than 300 people have died from drug overdoses in the Miami Valley. Among them was Ashley, a 32-year-old mother of three and heroin addict.

"She was a very compassionate and caring person," said her mother, Shelly Morgan.

Ashley left behind a diary of her daily struggle. Her mother Shelly found it after her death in September.

"I know I need help. I'm afraid to get it through," an excerpt reads.

But Ashley also left behind a bigger gift.

"We felt relieved to be honest. It was such a happy surprise," said Morgan.

When her family was at the hospital saying their final goodbyes, they were told Ashley was an organ donor.

"In her current condition how could you ever feel that she was in a position to be of help to someone else but she was," said Morgan.

She was able to give her kidneys and liver. One went to a grandfather who will now be able to get away from dialysis long enough to see his grandchildren.

"When you hear something like that it makes it real. It makes it touchable and tangible and you know the impact she had on someone else's life and the impact it had on that person..it's just amazing," said Morgan.

2 NEWS Investigates found drug overdose deaths account for at least 18 percent of donors in Ohio this year.

"The heroin epidemic definitely is leading to more deaths which means more organs donated and more lives saved," said Kara Steele, Life Connection of Ohio's Director of Community Services.

But we wanted to know how safe those organs are. After all, heroin can be passed from a mother to her unborn child

"The organs are flushed and all of that would be removed from the organ itself so there's nothing like that that is transferable," said Steele.

Those at Life Connection say there are also many tests run on the organs before they can be used.

But ultimately they say there are over 120,000 in the US on the waiting list who could use them now.

"The risk of transmission of any disease is so low..so much lower than the risk of dying on the waiting list because an organ wasn't available," said Steele.

For Shelly, Ashley's gift through her death has given them a bigger purpose to focus on.

"It’s wonderful. It’s a feeling of being a part of something larger than yourself and being able to support her decision of being an organ donor but also to know that through the tragedy and through such an early death that she was able to save other people's lives," said Morgan.

For information on becoming a donor, visit this website: http://lifeconnectionofohio.org/

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