Students give ‘hearts,’ register as organ donors
Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 7, 2013 01:03
Five years ago, Denna LaMons-Pace received four organs in an operation that lasted 21 hours. A year later, Dan Palmer was told he needed a new liver after he flat-lined in a hospital room. Today, Jenna Ribble’s older brother is a “happy, healthy college guy,” even though his liver failed when he was 7 years old.
What LaMons-Pace, Palmer and Ribble, who now volunteer for LifeLink, a non-profit organization partnering with USF’s American Marketing Association (AMA) all have in common is that they said their lives where changed forever due to a stranger’s posthumous donation of organs.
In an event fittingly titled “I’ll give you my heart,” AMA held a fundraiser for LifeLink, which is dedicated to the recovery of organ and tissues for transplantation therapy, in the Marshall Student Center Amphitheater on Wednesday evening with more than 100 participants.
One volunteer from LifeLink, Denna LaMons-Pace, said she came to try registering donors because it was her “birthday” — March 6 marked the fifth anniversary of when she said she received a new stomach, pancreas, small bowel and duodenum in a single operation.
“My mission is to register as many donors as I possibly can in honor of my donor,” she said.
The event featured a pair of speakers who presented personal accounts of what organ donation and the education of organ donation means to them.
Jenna Ribble, a high school senior from Countryside high school, said she believed everything that happens in life has a reason. Though she and her family never learned the reason behind it, her brother faced near-death experiences with a failing liver at only 7 years old. She said he received a liver transplant from a boy of the same age who had recently been hit by car.
“The sad thing is, in order to save a life, a life has to be lost,” Ribble said.
Though doctors never found out why Ribble’s brother’s liver failed, Ribble said that after it was replaced, it was like it never happened. Ribble said her brother is now in his senior year at college.
Dan Palmer, a musician from Nevada, shared his story.
On the road to one of his concerts, Palmer said his feet started swelling, and the swelling slowly began moving up his body. Doctors, Palmer said, couldn’t diagnose his problem after months of testing. It wasn’t until Aug. 14, 2009, when Palmer passed out in a hospital room, where his vital signs then flat lined due to massive internal bleeding as a side effect of end-stage liver disease.
Palmer shared this story and his prognosis of having four months to live if he stayed in Nevada. The nearest transplant center was in California, a state with a waiting list of approximately 3,200 liver transplants.
He moved to Tampa, where the waiting list is less than 500.
“I am currently in the Top 10 of the waiting list in the Tampa Bay area,” Palmer said. “In California, I’d be lucky if I was in the top 1,500.”
Palmer said he is still waiting on a liver, and is undergoing regular treatments and therapies for his liver disease.
One out of three people, he said, will die while waiting for the organ they need, and only one out of every 100 registered donors will actually be able to provide organs after they die. He said this is because organs can only be used if the donor suffers sudden brain trauma, or other specific death that doesn’t harm the rest of the body.
Florida, he said, is the state with the second highest organ donor registry.
“The people who donate are heroes,” he said. “One person has the potential to save eight lives with eight different critical organs, plus other vital tissues like cornea transplants, skin grafts and more.”
After the speakers shared stories of giving organs, members of AMA proceeded to “give their hearts” in a dating auction where bids quickly jumped from as low as $8 to as high as $30. If students didn’t find a date at the auction, they were also able to participate in a speed dating activity facilitated by AMA members and icebreaker questions.
Stephany Delgado, a junior majoring in mass communications, said she attended the event after hearing about it on Twitter. Delgado said she registered as an organ donor at the event to help others.
“A lot of people need help, so if you are able to help, why not?” Delgado said. “Once you are dead, you’re not going to be needing your organs anymore.”
Throughout the event, AMA and LifeLink registered 67 new organ donors and collected $118 in total donations.