Charity - pure love - takes many forms. For some, it means donating to service organizations or church causes. For others, it means giving time and talents.
For a few people, the gift they give others is life - extended or improved -through organ donation."We as human beings do things to try to improve or save people's lives," said Jan Pierce, manager of the Intermountain Tissue Center.
"In my mind, there are two main issues: Organ and tissue donations can save and prolong life, or they can enhance life."
Each year in Utah, between 30 and 40 hearts are donated for transplant, said Tracy Schmidt of Intermountain Organ Recovery Systems. Ten or more are rejected for medical reasons. More than 100 are donated for valve replacements.
Once perceived as experimental and dangerous, many organ transplant procedures now have impressive survival rates. Heart transplants, for example, have an 85 percent survival rate for the first year following the procedure nationwide. That figure drops to about 69 percent after five years, said Sandy Schmitz, Clinical Cardiac Transplant Coordinator at LDS Hospital.
In Utah, Schmitz said the numbers are generally higher than that. Over the last few years, the one-year survival rate ranged from 88 to 91 percent, and 71 percent after five years.
Kally Heslop received her new heart almost 10 years ago, when she was 29 years old.
Heslop's heart failed after complications in childbirth. But, besieged by myths about transplants, she initially refused to have the procedure. She had two heart attacks before she consented to a transplant.
"I denied the transplant because I didn't want anyone to die so that I could live," she said. "I'd heard all of these rumors about transplants, which weren't true. But then someone told me somebody would inevitably die, but they didn't die for me. And why not allow my life to continue, to let something positive come out of it?"
Today, Heslop is the mother of four children and chairwoman for Team Utah, a team of 40 athletes - all transplant survivors - who will compete in the National Kidney Foundation-sponsored U.S. Transplant Games Aug. 5-8 in Columbus, Ohio. She will compete in the 50-meter backstroke, freestyle, and the 4 x 50 medley relay.
"If you saw me right now, you'd never know I was sick, not ever," Heslop said proudly. "Not ever."
It wasn't always that way, though. Like all heart transplant patients, Heslop had to endure as her body battled itself, fighting the heart that would give it life.
The body is built to recognize and protect itself against foreign invaders, Pierce said. But it doesn't differentiate between the foreign object - a rusty nail, for example - or a brand new heart. It fights both of them with equal vigor.
So while statistics indicate the heart transplant patient can look forward to prolonged health and life with the new organ, and while Heslop's triumph is the triumph of successful transplantation, recipients have to count on the lifelong battle against their own bodies. There are regular biopsies of heart tissue, and a lifetime of anti-rejection drugs, the side effects of which are often hard to predict from one person to another.
Many doctors and nurses hesitate to talk about organ donations and transplants for a number of reasons, Pierce said. Situations are delicate, and the demands on families and loved ones seem great at the time. Also, it forces the nurses and doctors to confront their own mortality - something they're just as uncomfortable doing as the rest of us, Pierce said.
Pierce admits the prospect of donating our own or our beloved's organs is a daunting one. He believes, though, that it's worth thinking about.
It's worth knowing, at the very least, that donations are accepted at any health-care facility; that there is no cost to the family for donations; that most major religions - including Mormonism - accept the practice of organ donation; that donations do not preclude open-casket funerals; and that they ultimately save lives.
So in the end, Pierce, Schmidt and Heslop say it's worth pushing through the discomfort, to give someone else a chance at life.
"We are either comfortable with the idea of transplants, or we aren't," Pierce said, "which is really what it comes down to. It comes down to the idea of helping out our fellow man, or not."