March 22, 2004

Web Documentary Records Life and Death Drama of Organ Transplantation

A unique online web documentary about organ and tissue donation and transplantation in America launches today, covering dramatic stories of patients who wait for and receive life-saving organ transplants. This 12-day internet-based documentary will give site visitors a rare and emotional look inside the human drama surrounding organ and tissue transplantation.

Called The Gift of a Lifetime and located on the web at, the first-of-its-kind web documentary will post a new segment each day featuring the on-going stories of transplant patients and their families at the UCLA Medical Center and organ donor families in the Philadelphia area.

Told in serial style, the documentary includes photographs, audio interviews and 1, 000-word stories, gleaned from in-person interviews with each featured patient. Because the program is unfolding over a 12-day timeframe, its ending -- including whether or not the featured patients receive the organs they desperately need -- is yet to be written.

"The Gift of a Lifetime is an extraordinary achievement in storytelling, not only from a technical standpoint, not only from an educational perspective, but in the way it honestly and dramatically captures the human elements of this real-life drama, " said G. David Fleming, executive director of the Coalition on Donation, a national non-profit organization dedicated to educating Americans about organ and tissue donation, which co-sponsored the program. "Through it all emerges a critical message that organ and tissue transplantation can give people just like us their lives back."

Produced by Fusionspark Media, an award-winning producer of web documentaries based in Clinton, Wa., and largely written by Joel L. Swerdlow, Ph.D., a former senior writer for National Geographic, the documentary is largely educational in nature. Along with the personal stories of transplant recipients, donor families and health care professionals, the site includes interactive features about the organ and tissues that can be transplanted, information about the national organ donation system, myths about transplantation, an overview of religious views and downloadable donor cards. It also includes educational resources for teachers. In addition, the site directs visitors to where they can find more information on committing to organ and tissue donation in their home state.

In addition to the Coalition on Donation, The Gift of a Lifetime is co-sponsored by the Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation, a non-profit bone and tissue bank. Additional support has been provided by Barr Laboratories, Statline and Gift of Life Donor Program.