At any given time, more than 119,000 people nationwide are waiting for an organ transplant that could save their life, according to LifeCenter Northwest.
200 of those people are Montanans.
They're folks similar to Richard Hanson, who says he will always remember February as a very special month.
He and his wife Doris consider February 7th a birthday of sorts. It’s the date, exactly four years and one week ago, when he received a kidney transplant and a new chance at life.
After heart and kidney problems, he had been on dialysis for six years and had almost received a transplant twice before. But both of those times didn’t work out, leaving him feeling "blue." When he finally received a new kidney, he says his whole outlook changed.
“Somebody was looking after me, because when I did actually get the call, I don’t think I could have made it much longer on dialysis," said Hanson. "The donation definitely did save my life. It’s enabled me to be able to enjoy my life with my family, and be able to visit and go see the grand kids.”
Hanson says he doesn’t know who donated his new kidney, just that they were younger. He has written a letter to that person’s family, but he’s not sure if they’ve received it yet. He says he’d like to meet them one day and tell them thank you, and that he loves his kidney donor like his own family.
As an ER nurse at Benefis in Great Falls, Jessica Bray also knows how important organ donations can be for people. She says she sees the need for organ and tissue donations almost every day.
“As a nurse, of course, working in this field, working in trauma and injury, we recognize the need for donors, and the real need for people to make that contribution and that gift," said Bray.
But Bray has also felt the impact of organ donation in her own life. After her three and a half year old daughter was killed in 2010, Bray made the decision to donate Kaelyn’s organs.
Kaelyn's heart, kidneys, pancreas, liver and intestines ended up saving five lives: four children and one adult man. Bray hasn't met any of the organ recipients yet but she hopes she’ll get the chance to one day.
“Just to know that someday in the future I could be one of those moms that gets to meet that recipient and listen to the heartbeat, that's a lot more special for me as a nurse, too, to hold on to the hope of doing that someday," said Bray.
For more information on how to become an organ donor or to sign up, head here.
Bray also says she wants to eventually work for LifeCenter Northwest, because her experience with organ donation piqued her interest in a possible career.
She says she encourages everyone to have the conversation with your family about organ donation and your wishes if something were to ever happen.