On Oct. 29, 2004, my mother woke me up a little earlier for school to let me know my 3-year-old cousin Emily received the phone call that would save her life.

Waiting for her at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, were four new organs.

Prior to her transplant, Emily spent the first year of her life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville, Tennessee, and the next two years in and out of children’s hospitals in Tennessee and Ohio. She had a feeding tube, ostomy bag and Broviac catheter.

Today, Emily is feeding tube, ostomy bag and Broviac catheter free. She’s a 15-year-old, high school freshman, and aside from her medications and doctor’s visits, she lives a normal life.

Over 119,000 people are currently waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant, according to Donate Life America.

While they wait, 22 of them will die each day.

Twelve years ago, a grieving family made the selfless decision to donate their child’s organs.

Without them, Emily would have been one of the 8,000 people to die waiting for an organ each year.

To be eligible to donate your organs, a person must die from brain death. Brain death means that upon many neurological tests, a doctor can conclude a person’s brain can no longer function and has zero chance of recovery.

Once brain death occurs, the hospital keeps the patient on life-support until next-of-kin decides to terminate the life sustaining care.

Donate Life America says one of the common misconceptions about organ donation is a doctor won’t try to save a registered organ donor’s life. Hospitals only check a person’s donor status once brain death has occurred.

Donate Life America also states that donating your organs will not cost your family extra money and an open casket funeral is still an option.

Those who choose to donate their heart, liver, pancreas, lungs, intestines, kidneys, corneas or other tissues have the ability to save up to eight lives.

Each year, my family celebrates Emily’s life and mourns the life of the person who saved hers.

While the thought that we greatly benefit from someone else’s death is difficult, we’re eternally grateful for the selfless decision the donor family made.

To register as an organ donor, visit registerme.org, and to learn more about organ donation, visit donatelife.net.