Melissa Ramey has the best reason in the world for advocating organ donations: A transplant saved her life.

Melissa Ramey has the best reason in the world for advocating organ donations: A transplant saved her life.

Ramey, a Canal Winchester resident, received her life-saving liver transplant in 2012, after a sudden flare up of a liver disease took her from living a mostly normal, healthy life, to near death.

She's been celebrating ever since by traveling all over central and southeast Ohio advocating for organ donation -- an activity that won her the 2013 Rookie of the Year Award from Lifeline of Ohio for extraordinary volunteer efforts.

Lifeline of Ohio representative Kaitlyn Thompson said the award honors a new volunteer who completes at least 40 hours of service with the organization over the previous year.

"She has a can-do attitude and is motivated to get to anywhere and anyone who will listen to her speak," Thompson said. "Our organization advocates for donors as part of our mission in a large part of Ohio and Melissa is pretty much always willing to go anywhere. She's not only celebrating her own life and her donor's gift, but she's teaching and fighting for others."

Ramey said her donor was a young female, and she hopes to have a chance to meet the donor's family someday to thank them in person. For now, she said, this work is a good way to thank them through action.

Ramey has been a registered donor since she was 16 years old, but she said if she hadn't gone to donate blood at the American Red Cross, she might never have known she was sick.

"I was donating blood back in 1984, which I'd done before, but this time my blood was rejected and they found I had this liver disease," Ramey said. "I've always been a registered organ donor, but even after finding this out, I never thought I'd need a transplant myself."

In 2011, she said, her bile ducts begin shrinking, which caused her liver to shut down.

"It wasn't until 2011 that I really got any symptoms of the disease; there just weren't any until it all happened at once," Ramey said. "My doctors were always surprised by how normal I'd been able to live my life all those years. That doesn't usually happen with this type of disease, but then, I think I just had several stressful things hit at once and it activated."

Today, Ramey starts and ends her days with a large course of medications to make sure her body doesn't reject the transplanted organ -- but she's very thankful for being able to begin and end those days at all, and for the renewed energy she has.

"My donor must have been a talker," Ramey said. "I used to be a quiet person that kept to myself; now I just can't stop myself from talking to people, and especially to talk to them about organ donation. I like to think maybe I got that along with the liver transplant. I wouldn't be here today if I didn't have a donor."

Ramey said her husband, Jeff Fout, has been a great source of support to her as well.

According to Thompson, once every 48 hours an Ohioan dies waiting for a transplant, with the national waiting list for organ transplants continuing to rise. The current list includes more than 120,000 people.

Lifeline of Ohio not only advocates for organ donation, Thompson said, but plays a key role in the management and coordination of donations between donors and recipients in its coverage region.

For more information about the organization, volunteer opportunities and how to become an organ donor, visit lifelineofohio.org.