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Athlete Raising Awareness About Importance Of Organ And Tissue Donations

Leigh Libero can round the bases with the best of ’em after putting the ball into play in Newtown Women’s Softball League action, but she certainly doesn’t take for granted being able to run well.

Libero, a former soccer player at Boston University, tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) during a game more than a decade ago, and a graft made from her body’s tissue was used to get her back onto the playing field. The repair didn’t last. Libero tore her ACL again just one year later. Her surgeon suggested using donated tissue from a deceased donor.

“When I discovered that this was a possibility — that a piece of tissue from someone else could really help me, I felt tremendously grateful to this person,” said Libero in a statement from Donate Life Connecticut, which sponsors her softball team. Libero adds that she’s hopeful that “somehow they and their family know how much their gift matters to me.”

Libero now takes the field, along with her recreational softball teammates, to do more than just compete. Their team’s sponsor is dedicated to the purpose of public education and awareness for all Connecticut residents concerning the lifesaving benefits of organ and tissue donation and increasing the number of registered donors.

“Everybody seems to have some kind of story,” said Libero, who serves on Donate Life’s board of directors. “I feel like it was a great opportunity to create awareness within the Newtown community and, hopefully, it will expand from there.”

More than 123,000 people are currently waiting for a life-saving organ transplant and 18 people die each day because there is a shortage of organs available for transplant, according to statistics provided by Donate Life Connecticut, a nonprofit organization which is the local affiliate of Donate Life America. Only 43 percent of state residents over the age of 18 are included in the Donor Registry — below the national average of 48 percent.

Individuals may register as an organ/tissue donor online at DonateLifeNewEngland.org.

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