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      Giving the ultimate gift

      There are over 118,000 people in the United States on the waiting list for an organ donation, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. Unfortunately, 18 of them die each day because an appropriate match wasn't found in time.

      Amy Harju received the ultimate gift from her lifelong friend eight years ago, when she needed it most.

      "My kidneys were failing from a reflux, meaning that since I was a child, my ureters were straight instead of slanted. That's my definition, not the medical terms. But, just over time they began to fail," said Amy Harju, a donor recipient and organizer for Run For Life.

      She said she has never felt better since her transplant and has her friend to thank everyday.

      Everyone's organs deteriorate over their lifetime, but for some, diseases or genetics can speed up the deterioration, causing serious, life-threatening problems in an otherwise healthy person. In order to keep that person healthy, replacing an unhealthy organ may be the best option.

      "One donor can potentially save the lives of eight people. And not only does it save the lives of those eight people, but it also helps the family. So one act of kindness can actually touch thousands of people," said Gail Brandly, a Certified Registered Nurse at Marquette General Hospital.

      But healthy organs are not always readily available, and that's when organ donation becomes important.

      Almost anyone can become an organ donor.

      Decisions regarding the organ's usability are made at the time of the donor's death, or in the case of a living donor, during the process leading up to donation.

      Since her transplant, Amy has become involved in Marquette's Run for Life, a run dedicated to raising awareness and stressing the importance of organ donation.

      "It gives you your health back, it gives you your energy back. So it's just been tremendous being able to just be energetic. It has given me time with my husband, my family, my friends. It's a second chance," Harju said.

      For more information about organ donation, click here.