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UPMC Susquehanna Soldiers + Sailors ‘Tree of Life’ Encourages Organ Donation

by UPMC Susquehanna

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Donate Life Month, recognized each April, is an annual commemoration of organ donors and the recipients they have helped. At UPMC Susquehanna Soldiers + Sailors, the month will began with a special Tree of Life Ceremony to raise awareness through the sharing of stories from local donors and recipients.

During the ceremony, special guest and heart transplant recipient Curt Abplanalp shared his organ donation story. Following two heart attacks by age 42, triple by-pass surgery, and heart reconstruction surgery, it became clear to Curt that he had one real option at preserving his quality of life: a heart transplant.

“I had constant chest pain, a right-side catheter, and other procedures had become unfeasible,” said Curt. “When I landed in the hospital yet again, I really thought my time had come, but through medication, I was able to hold on. Transplant became my only long-term solution.”

At age 51, Abplanalp received the ultimate gift of life. He received his new heart from Craig MacLaren, a 30 year old man from Tennessee with a shared love for the outdoors. MacLaren had only been married a year when a tragic accident took his life but his love for his family and community lived on to touch the lives of Abplanalp and four others.

Abplanalp’s experience has inspired him and those around him to sign up and promote organ donation in the community.

“Organ donation can create something bright and beautiful out of tragedy,” said Abplanalp. “I hope that by sharing my story and encouraging living donors, recipients, and the family members of donors who have passed to share their stories, that we will inspire more people to consider being organ donors.”

Henry Brooks, paramedic and Donate Life committee member at UPMC Susquehanna Soldiers + Sailors, hopes the Tree of Life located in the main lobby of the hospital will help encourage and inspire others.

“Each leaf represents someone who either gave or received the gift of life and shares a little piece of their story. Although many donations occur anonymously, it’s still important to recognize such self-less giving,” said Brooks. “We started Donate Life Month last year with five stories and by month’s end we had nearly 20. We’re hoping to add even more this year.”

The Tree of Life will stand in the lobby through the month of April. Community members are encouraged to share their organ donation story on a leaf and add it to the tree.

Becoming an organ donor takes less than a minute, but its impact can last a lifetime. For more information or to register to become a donor, visit donors1.org.

donate life

Curt Abplanalp, heart transplant recipient, and Henry Brooks, UPMC Susquehanna Donate Life committee member, hang leaves sharing the stories of local organ donors and recipients on the hospital’s Tree of Life.