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New Public Service Announcements Push Organ Donations

July 13, 1994

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Michelle Polaski’s teen-age brothers teased her the day she brought home organ donor cards and distributed them at the dinner table.

It was early April 1987, and the 18-year-old high school senior had been moved by the plight of a friend who needed an organ transplant.

Within three months, Michelle was dead, the victim of a car crash. Five people received her corneas, heart valves and kidneys.

″I miss my child every day, but my beautiful Michelle lives on through these people,″ her mother, Rosalie Conaty of Pennsauken, N.J., said Tuesday.

She spoke as the Coalition on Donation unveiled a national ad campaign. The public service announcements sponsored by the Ad Council seek to drive home the message that potential donors must not only sign organ donor cards but also make their wishes known to family members.

″They are the ones who will implement the decision,″ said Howard Nathan, head of the Delaware Valley Transplant Program, which helped launch the campaign.

National polls show more than 85 percent of the public support organ donations, but more than half of them haven’t made decisions about donating their own organs or those of family members, the Virginia-based coalition said.

The Ad Council expects media outlets to donate $25 million a year in air time and print space to the five-year campaign, which aims to increase organ donations by as much as 20 percent.

Nationally, 35,000 people are waiting for organ transplants, nearly three times the number who receive organs each year, the coalition says. It is estimated that eight to 10 people die each day while waiting for new organs.

Lee Downing is among the lucky: He got a new liver six years ago.

″Today I am healthy and happy and as a matter of fact I’ve never felt better in all my life,″ said Downing, 44, of North Wales.

″I will never forget the love and compassion of a stranger, my donor and his family, for they are the reason I am here today.″

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