Gift of Life: The stories of Joe Pratt and Markita Lewis

Meet some of the men and women behind the giving and receiving ends of Gift of Life.

Cherri Gregg
June 14, 2018 - 4:48 pm
Gift of Life: Joe Pratt and Markita Lewis

Cherri Gregg / KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Gift of Life Donor Program is the largest organ procurement organization in the U.S., serving 11.2 million people across Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware. 

Since 1974, Gift of Life has coordinated more than 46,000 organs for transplantation and approximately 1 million life-enhancing tissue transplants. 

In 2017, the organization coordinated lifesaving organs from 565 organ donors; the selfless gifts resulted in 1,546 organs transplanted — the most organ donors and transplants of any organ procurement organization in the nation in a single year.

But who are the men and women behind the giving and receiving ends of Gift of Life? This series shares some of their stories.

Joe Pratt — double lung transplant recipient

A retired army major and paratrooper, Joe Pratt risked his life for his country during his two tours in Vietnam. His heroism earned him a U.S. Presidential Bronze Star Medal. 

But Pratt's biggest challenges came after he retired in 1978. Over the next few years, his breathing became progressively more restricted. Pratt pushed on, but eventually he became so out of breath that he knew something was very wrong.  

Doctors diagnosed him with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Unfortunately, Pratt's quality of life worsened an a double lung transplant became the only option for recovery. 

That's when he discovered the Gift of Life Donor Program.

Pratt, now living "a new day" with every breath, educates high school students about becoming a donor as his way of giving back for the gift he will never forget.  

Markita Lewis — Gift of Life donor mom

On the worst day of her life, Markita Lewis decided to give the gift of life.

In 2014, Lewis' 13-year-old son, Marquis, was pronounced brain dead after suffering an asthma attack and going into cardiac arrest. 

Lewis made the decision to donate Marquis's organs, recalling his selfless offer to her when she faced the possible threat of needing a kidney after being diagnosed with lupus. Marquis's organs went to three young men, and Markita now considers herself a "proud donor mom," happy to witness Marquis' donation enrich the lives of each recipient.

Lewis remains committed to educating others about organ donation as the chairperson of the Gift of Life's Hearts of Gold program.

"Organ donation saves lives, but it saved my life too," said the proud mom, who hopes Marquis is also looking down, proud as well.