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Gerald (Jerry) Blankenship suffered a devastating reemergence of illness dating back to a needle stick more than 20 years ago. (Courtesy of IASIS Healthcare)

In 2012, Gerald (Jerry) Blankenship suffered a devastating reemergence of illness dating back to a needle stick more than 20 years ago. His health declined so rapidly that he wasn’t sure he would survive long enough to be placed on the liver transplant list.

Blankenship flew back to Alabama to be with his family. Despite his deteriorating health, he remained positive and hopeful. At one point, his family took him to the hospital for what they thought would be the last time, as he was no longer responsive and barely breathing.

Miraculously, the hospital that Blankenship’s family took him to in Birmingham procured an organ match for him just hours after he was readmitted. The liver transplant was a success, and Blankenship recovered rather quickly. In just a few months, he returned to Arizona and to his job at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Phoenix.

Since his complete recovery, Blankenship’s passion for nursing, taking care of patients, and mentoring a new generation of health care leaders has only grown. When any type of challenge crosses his path, he rises to the occasion with enthusiasm and perseverance. There’s no doubt that Blankenship believes that he’s been given a second chance at life, and he wants to make the most out of it.

Blankenship is now a volunteer for the Donor Network of Arizona, where he educates people about the importance of organ and tissue donation and helps to enroll new organ donors.

Since April is National Donate Life Month, and IASIS Healthcare’s three Valley hospitals – Mountain Vista Medical Center in Mesa, St. Luke’s Medical Center in Phoenix and Tempe St. Luke’s Hospital – are reminding people of all ages about their potential to give life, comfort and hope to others by registering as an organ, tissue or blood donor.

The three hospitals will collaborate with the Donor Network of Arizona to host free, open-to-the-public events to educate people about the importance of organ donation, and help to enroll new organ donors in Arizona.

Ninety-five percent of Americans are in favor of being an organ donor, but only 54 percent are registered.

More than 118,000 people in the U.S. are waiting for an organ donation, and more than 2,300 live in Arizona. Another person is added to the waiting list every 10 minutes. Sadly, 22 people die each day waiting for an organ.

One person can save and heal more than 75 lives by donating their organs, eyes and tissue.

In 2016, more than 33,600 organ transplants were performed in the U.S. This number sets a new record for the fourth year in a row, representing an almost 20 percent increase in number of transplants since 2012.

The first events are today, April 10, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at both St. Luke’s Medical Center, 1800 E. Van Buren St. in Phoenix and Tempe St. Luke’s Hospital, 1500 S. Mill Ave.

At 10 a.m., St. Luke’s Medical Center will hold a flag-raising ceremony at the flagpole in front of the hospital with comments from Blankenship. In addition, a memorial quilt that is a tribute to organ and tissue donors will be on display at the hospital.

From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., a blood drive will take place through a mobile United Blood Services van stationed in the parking lot of Tempe St. Luke’s Hospital.

Then on Thursday, April 20, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Mountain Vista Medical Center, 1301 S. Crismon Road in Mesa, the public is invited to register as an organ and tissue donor through the Donor Network of Arizona. All activities will be at the Outpatient Entrance of the hospital, which is located on the east side of the campus.

A blood drive will also take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. through a mobile United Blood Services van stationed in the Outpatient parking lot of the hospital.

From 10 to 11 a.m., Dr. Andrew Fraser will share information to help the public better understand organ donation, and from 11 a.m. to noon, two volunteers from Donor Network of Arizona will share their personal stories about how organ donation has affected their lives.

A memorial quilt that is a tribute to organ and tissue donors will also be on display at the hospital.

For more information on the Donor Network of Arizona, visit dnaz.org.

For more information about Mountain Vista Medical Center, visit www.mvmedicalcenter.com or call 1-877-924-WELL (9355).

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Tempe, AZ 85281

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