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Campaign donors are silent heroes Special To The Star-news | Sun, May 16 2010 03:11 PM

Currently, there are nearly 1,500 people in San Diego County waiting for organ and tissue transplants.

Donate Life San Diego is hitting the streets in the months to come to raise awareness and to increase the number of organ and tissue donor registrants, specifically in San Diego's South County region.

"Five years ago we launched a new registry and I'm delighted to say that six million Californians have signed up through the registry to become organ and tissue donors. Unfortunately, San Diego County numbers are lower than expected, particularly in South County," said Sharon Ross, Donate Life San Diego executive director.

"The good news is almost 300 lives were saved locally through organ donation last year."

A local San Diego family living in South County has experienced the power of saving lives through organ donation.

Letty Silva and her family lost their brother, Mario Pineda, in 2006 to a brain aneurism. Maria was only 39 years old when he died.

Approximately one year prior to his death, Mario made the deliberate decision to become a registered organ donor when he was renewing his driver's license at the DMV.

"I can't express how much Donate Life has changed our lives because of what Mario was able to do through them. Although we lost our brother, it really is a gift that keeps on giving and it brings us peace to know there's still a part of him that's alive and helping others. We have developed friendships with the recipient families and have seen how it has impacted their lives," says Silva.

Michael McCreary, Mario's liver recipient, was in hospice and days away from dying, when he received the gift of Mario's liver that he so desperately needed.

Michael and his wife, Rita now enjoy their second chance of a life together.

"David, a lung recipient of Mario's gift, currently enjoys a quality of life that he wasn't able to for so many years due to lung disease. My brother is truly a hero," Silva proudly admits.

Becoming a donor ahead of time allows one's wishes to be carried out after death; it's also easier for the family when donor wishes are known ahead of time. There are two ways to register: at your local DMV or online through the Donate Life Registry at www.donateLIFEcalifornia.org.

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