(NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ) - NJ Sharing Network, the federally designated nonprofit organization responsible for the recovery of donated organs and tissue in the Garden State, joins in the local celebration of Black History Month by sharing the inspirational story of Christopher Bryant of Woodbridge, whose life was saved thanks to the miracle of organ and tissue donation and transplantation.
According to United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), nearly 4,000 New Jersey residents are waiting for a life-saving transplant, and 68% are people of color. One organ and tissue donor can save eight lives and enhance the lives of over 75 people. Although organs are not matched according to race and ethnicity, and people of different races frequently match one another, all individuals waiting for an organ transplant will have a better chance of receiving one if there are large numbers of donors from multicultural communities.
“Our caring and compassionate team of dedicated staff, volunteers and community partners are unstoppable in their efforts help educate others and dispel any myths and misinformation about organ and tissue donation in our diverse communities throughout New Jersey,” said Carolyn M. Welsh, President and CEO of NJ Sharing Network.
NJ Sharing Network earned the prestigious NJBIZ Healthcare Heroes Award in recognition of its #DonationNeedsDiversity awareness initiative, which is credited with helping to build community trust and dispelling misinformation about donation and transplantation in urban, multicultural communities with the most residents waiting for a transplant. The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey also honored NJ Sharing Network as a “Champion of Diversity” for its #DonationNeedsDiversity program.
To learn more, get involved and register as an organ and tissue donor, visit www.NJSharingNetwork.org. this should move towards the end just before the Gift of Life!
The Gift of Life
Christopher Bryant of Woodbridge, NJ, enjoys living each day to its fullest along with his wife of 24 years, Georgette, and their 10-year-old daughter, Gabrielle. His active lifestyle includes daily exercise, feverishly cheering on his favorite sports teams, and tinkering on projects as a self-described “tech geek.”
But many people who know Christopher find it hard to believe that he has struggled with critical health issues for most of his life.
“I was 16 years old when I was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes,” said Christopher. “Taking injections daily and trying to avoid complications became a challenge that I figured that I would have to deal with for the remainder of my life.”
According to Christopher, his life was an emotional roller coaster as his health grew progressively worse, ultimately leading to retinopathy and kidney failure.
“It happened at a time when my professional career was just starting to take off,” said Christopher, who is now a successful Advocate and Care Guide for The Diabetes Foundation. “All I can remember is being numb and weak on the first day I started dialysis. But I kept a positive outlook on life with a lot of prayers.”
The next day, Georgette arrived home from work with some incredible news that gave Christopher hope. One of her co-workers offered to donate her kidney to save Christopher’s life.
“At the time, I did not know this amazing and generous woman, but she ended up being a perfect match for a successful transplant,” said Christopher. “She is my hero and words cannot describe my gratitude. I was off dialysis, had my strength back, and I returned to work with a second chance at life.”
One year later, Christopher underwent a successful pancreas transplant. This put his diabetes in remission for three years until his pancreas failed again. Several years later, his transplanted kidney failed after functioning well for 12 years post-transplant.
“The miracle of transplantation kept me alive for many years, but I found myself back to square one – having diabetes and being back on dialysis,” said Christopher.
Christopher’s wait for a transplant lasted three years until he finally received ‘the call.’ His kidney and pancreas double transplant was a success and he was, once again, on the fast track to having his health fully restored.
“My donor hero this time was from Texas who had checked the box on his driver’s license to be an organ donor,” said Christopher. “His selfless decision not only saved my life, but also six others. I am forever thankful.”
Today, Christopher is passionate about supporting NJ Sharing Network and its life-saving mission to help educate others about the power of organ and tissue donation and transplantation.
“All of my experiences have taught me the value of life and have helped me understand just how rich and beautiful life is,” said Christopher. “It is important to educate people that organ and tissue donation is the greatest gift that you can give. It is the ultimate selfless act. I now visit folks that are on dialysis to give them hope. I talk to patient’s families to consider being a donor, and I advocate to everyone about the importance of registering as an organ and tissue donor.”
About NJ Sharing Network
NJ Sharing Network is the federally designated nonprofit organization responsible for the recovery and placement of donated organs and tissue in the Garden State. NJ Sharing Network provides hope for nearly 4,000 New Jersey residents currently waiting for a life-saving transplant, and it is part of the national recovery system for the over 100,000 people on the national waiting list. Last year, 283 organ donor heroes in New Jersey gave the gift of life resulting in 670 life-saving organs transplanted, an all-time high for a single year. In addition, 40,000 eye and tissue donations enhanced the quality of life for those in need. With headquarters in New Providence, NJ, the organization has been recognized by NJBIZ as one of the state’s “Best Places to Work” for five consecutive years.
Photo Caption - (left-to-right) Georgette Bryant, Gabrielle Bryant, and Christopher Bryant of Woodbridge, NJ (Photo Credit: Courtesy of NJ Sharing Network)