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Wear The Gown: How COVID-19 exacerbated the need for organ donors

Jose Sosa's life was saved by a donor when the coronavirus ravaged his lungs.

SAN ANTONIO — Donating an organ is one of the most generous gifts someone can give. And being an organ donor has never been more important than during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to organdonor.gov, 17 people die every day just waiting for an organ transplant. But it only takes one organ donor to save as many as eight lives.  

"Overall, I feel great," said 40-year-old Jose Sosa, who nearly lost his own life to the coronavirus when it severely damaged his lungs. 

But because someone decided to be an organ donor, Sosa received a double transplant at the University Health Transplant Center last November. 

"I feel blessed that on April 9 I was able to wake up on my birthday," he said. "Without (my new organ) I wouldn't be standing here."

"The number of lung transplants that we do is not determined by the number of people who need them, but rather limited by the number of donors," said Dr. Edward Sako, a thoracic surgeon and surgical doctor of the Lung Transplant Program with University Health and UT Health San Antonio. 

As of February, over 107,000 men, women and children were on the national transplant waiting list. Every nine minutes, another name is added. 

Even though 90% of U.S. adults support organ donation, only 60% are actually signed up as donors.

Patients who need a kidney or liver can get one from a living donor and that donor recovers fully. But patients like Sosa who need a new lung must rely on people donating upon death. 

"It is a way to take what is certainly a tragic event and and have something really good and wonderful come of it," Sako said. 

"I appreciate what was given to me and I know it cost somebody's life to get mine," Sosa said about his own donor. "I'm forever and a day grateful for it."

To sign up to become and organ donor, go to DonateLife.org. For more information about becoming a living donor, click here. 

And for more information about family health, call (210)358-3045. You can also find the rest of our Wear the Gown stories here