Paying it Forward, One Organ at a Time

Scandals in sports.  Lindsay Lohan's drunk driving escapades.  Stock market losses.  Home foreclosures on the increase.  Political posturing.  War.

It's been a grim week on the network newscasts.

Which is why a feature on organ donation, which ABC ran on the July 26 World News broadcast, seemed to jump through the screen and grab the viewer by the heartstrings. 

The piece affirms that there are, in fact, simple acts of generosity, compassion and humanity that speak to the core of who we can be.  It was a story that proves once again that one person can start something that, like a pebble thrown into a lake, will ripple out and benefit lives for generations to come.

The ABC story featured the simple yet heroic act of Matt Jones, a 28-year old father of four who decided he would donate one of his kidneys to a stranger.  Matt's only caveat was that someone in the family of the organ recipient would also donate an organ to any individual who needed it.

Matt's original donation has already resulted in life-saving transplants for two people.  The chain is expected to continue thanks to the concept of “paired donation,” which ABC reporter Barbara Pinto described as a nationwide list of donors who are matched by computer to those in need of organs around the country. That's how Matt Jones's kidney ended up in the body of a Phoenix grandmother.  That woman's husband donated a kidney to a woman in Toledo, Ohio.  Her mother will donate a kidney.

Organ donation continues to be a dilemma for the medical field.  According to information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the number of people requiring life-saving transplants continues to rise faster than the number of donors available.  The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) reports that 300 new transplant candidates are added to the nationwide list every month.

ABC News is getting behind the efforts of Matt Jones to keep this organ donation chain going and growing.   Anchor Charles Gibson alerted viewers of the broadcast that information on how to get in touch with the network of donors was available on the network's website,

For more information on organ donation, click here for an HRSA FAQ sheet.

Kristen Fyfe is senior writer at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the MediaResearchCenter.