This summer my family will come together to celebrate two milestones: my 19th birthday and the fourth anniversary of my little brother’s liver transplant.
We always have two cakes every July 9th to honor the two special occasions. My brother and I sit side by side, smiling while our family sings, “Happy birthday to Jayna and Tommy’s liver.”
I am thrilled to be able to share my birthday with such a meaningful event for my brother.
Tommy suffered from severe liver damage as a result of his cystic fibrosis. When we received the call that he was able to get a liver transplant, he had been on the waiting list for about a year.
Right now, there are more than 120,000 people in the United States who are waiting on that call, according to LiveOnNY, the second largest federal organ procurement organization in the country. And about 18 people die every day waiting for a transplant.
But one organ donor can save up to eight of these lives. That is why it’s essential we all become organ donors. There’s no excuse to reject this simple responsibility — it requires very little effort and can create such a large impact on the lives of others.
Michael Ruggieri, an anatomy and cell biology professor, said he can’t think of one reason someone wouldn’t become an organ donor.
People can become organ donors by simply signing a form when they get their driver’s licenses renewed.
“We make a lot of use out of organ transplant donors,” Ruggieri said. “And my driver’s license says ‘organ donor’ underneath the picture on it.”
Taydra Fahie, a junior engineering major, is not an organ donor because she shares a common misconception. Some people think they will not receive urgent medical treatment if they have “organ donor” marked on their licenses.
“I feel like if I get into an accident, I feel that if something happens to me, [first responders] would not try as much as they would, just because I am an organ donor,” Fahie said.
“They’re not going to take your organs until you’re finished with them,” Ruggieri said. “It’s not like they’re going to come knock on your door and say, ‘We came here to take your liver from you.’”
Before Aikia Powell started working as a transplant representative at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine, even she shared this common misconception. This is actually the exact opposite of what would happen during a medical emergency, Powell said.
“If you get in an accident and you die on the scene, you don’t meet the requirement now to be an organ donor,” Powell said. “You physically have to be in a hospital, and you have to get to intensive care to be an organ donor.”
Of course, it’s hard for students to consider planning for our deaths during college. But if the unexpected happens, organ donation is a way to bring some good out of the bad.
It is hard for me to find a valid reason not to be an organ donor, considering the impact I could possibly make on someone’s life, like another organ donor did for my brother.
“There are a lot of people who are alive today just because of people who have donated organs,” Ruggieri said. “And it’s a way for you to continue to contribute to humankind even after you have passed on.”
Chaviva Galapo, a freshman business administration and legal studies major, said she is proud to be an organ donor and thinks it is an important humanitarian act.
“I know people who have needed organ donations, and if I can help out somebody else, that’s the most important thing,” Galapo said. “I’m Jewish and I’m not allowed to donate my organs, but to me that’s more important than the religious aspect.”
The reality is that our healthy organs are not going to do any good if we aren’t around to use them.
If the unthinkable happens, you should not take the chance of having your organs go to waste. Perhaps the only bright side to a medical tragedy is that your life could save up to eight more lives after you’ve passed.
I am so thankful for the person whose organs saved Tommy’s life. He wouldn’t be alive today without his new liver.
While he still suffers from cystic fibrosis, he does not get sick as often as he used to, he no longer has jaundiced skin and eyes and he is able to play sports without getting so tired.
I hope many more children like him get a second chance at life due to the kindness of one stranger.
Jayna Schaffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.