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Families of Heroin Addicts Are Saving Lives
DAYTON -- Last week 17 people here in the Miami Valley died from a heroin overdose.
But we found out some of those families are turning their tragedy into good by donating their loved one's organs.
You might wonder how an addict's organs can be donated to save someone's life.
We asked Life Connection Ohio. It turns out it happens now more than ever before.
"The only medal he's ever got," said Elizabeth Eckert.
Eckert's son, Jae, died from a heroin overdose in April. He was 31.
"My son was able to save three lives," said Eckert, "they took two kidneys and one liver."
It's a gift she never thought was possible because of his addiction.
We asked Life Connection Ohio how they can use an addict's organs.
It's obviously on a case-by-case basis.
"Heroin can have some effect on the organs in the body, but more often than not, the overdose which causes a cardiac arrest has a larger effect than heroin," said Matthew Bailey, Education and Safety Administrator for Life Connection Ohio.
"You're giving life and his spirit lives on through other people, and that's pretty exciting," said Eckert.
Elizabeth's son was able to save three lives, but every day 30 people die while waiting on a transplant.
Elizabeth isn't the only family of an addict who decided to help others.
Last year only 3% of organ donors were from heroin overdose deaths.
So far this year, the number jumped to 18%.
"This is a huge gift that not many people get to provide," said Bailey.
"I doubted in the beginning that I was going to get a transplant," said Clark Beck, a transplant recipient.
Beck received his new kidney more than 40 years ago from a 21-year-old man who died in a car accident.
"I feel grateful and I felt that I should do the best at what I did to carry on what he could have done if he'd been a live," said Beck.
A life that might not have been possible if it weren't for people like Jae and his family.
"I want people to realize just because you lost someone you can save lives, you can save lives by donating," said Eckert.
If you've ever considered being an organ donor, just to put it into perspective how many people are in need, just in Ohio more than 3,300 people need an organ to save their life.
To find out how to become an organ donor, click here.
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