By Lauren Lamas, The Daily Item, Sunbury, Pa.
Jun. 21--ELYSBURG -- Alex Ashcroft was ill.
Two years ago, the Long Pond resident was diagnosed as having a rare disease that left him in need of a kidney transplant.
Had it not been for his uncle, Ashcroft would have been one of the nearly 100,000 people in the United States on an organ transplant waiting list.
"I was there when he was diagnosed," uncle Mark Ashcroft, of East Stroudsburg, said Friday, "and I decided I should donate one of mine" to Alex.
The Ashcrofts were among about 600 organ donors, recipients and others who celebrated their health during Geisinger Medical Center's fifth annual transplant program picnic at Knoebels Groves Amusement Resort.
"They're like one big happy family" Trish Quinter, a Geisinger spokeswoman, said of the donors and recipients.
While many of the transplant clinic's doctors and nurses were at the park, "We don't talk business here," said Dr. Chintalapati Varma, director of transplant surgery at Geisinger. Everyone is dressed down and the atmosphere is relaxed, Varma said, adding "People want to come out and have a good time."
It's wonderful to see patients, who were half-dead when they came to the hospital, able to come to the picnic and enjoy themselves and possibly even ride a ride, which they never would have been able to do before, Varma said.
Despite his illness and transplant surgery, Ashcroft, 20, fell only a semester behind at Penn State University, where he is a student.
He also didn't have to endure dialysis.
Two years after Alex's transplant, his relatives remain supportive of one another. For the picnic they wore matching bright green shirts, a color symbolic of organ donor awareness, Alex's uncle said.
Friday was the second Geisinger picnic attended by Ashcroft and his family.
"It's important to get to meet other people who are going through the same thing," Ashcroft said, "so you know you're not alone."
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