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Students promote organ and tissue donations

It’s been nearly two years since USF student Stephanie Dye’s life was saved.

Dye received an organ donation for a heart transplant that helped her return to a normal life, and ever since, she’s been trying to give back.

Dye is now an active member of USF’s Get Carded organization, which is taking part in Florida’s first online organ and tissue donor registry.

The Get Carded organization will have a table in the Marshall Student Center today and Friday where people can register and learn about organ and tissue donations.

‘’My life is completely changed. I couldn’t walk 10 feet without getting winded, and now I am active, I go to the gym two times a week,” Dye said. “I go out with my friends. I am incredibly grateful for the chance I was given.”

When she was a sophomore in high school, Dye’s father underwent heart transplant surgery. He needed the heart after being diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition where the heart becomes enlarged and can’t pump blood.

When Dye, a junior majoring in communication sciences and disorders, got sick at age 16 shortly after her father’s transplant, her father had her tested to see if her condition was related to his.

It was.

Dye was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a similar condition thought to be genetic. She received a heart transplant at age 18 – just a week after she was added to the transpant list.

At Wendesday press time, there were 3,846 people on the wait list for an organ transplant in Florida and 103,980 across the United States, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). An average of 18 people die each day from the lack of available organs for transplant, according to UNOS.

Tami Mendelson, co-director of USF Get Carded said the new online registry for donors will make it easier for people to become an organ donor, and she hopes that more people will join as a result.

One organ donor can save up to eight lives and enhance up to 50, Mendelson said.

Mendelson said there are a lot of misconceptions about organ donations, and Get Carded aims to clear those up and answer any questions students may have.

“We don’t try to pressure anyone to become an organ donor,” she said. “We just give them the correct information to make an informed decision.”

One of the biggest misconceptions, she said, is if a driver’s license identifies someone as an organ donor, emergency personnel won’t try to revive the person if he or she is in an accident.

“That is completely false,” Mendelson said. “They don’t even consider organ donation until death has been declared.”

During the week, Get Carded held various events to make students aware of organ donation and the new online registry.

On Monday, the organization drew chalk ads and handed out flyers on campus. It held a viewing of two videos about organ donation on Tuesday and set up a booth at Wednesday’s Bull Market.

“All the events were to get students hyped about (today), it’s the big day,” Mendelson said.

The organization is competing against Get Carded chapters at the University of Central Florida and University of Florida to sign up the most new donors, Mendelson said. The organization hopes to register 500 new donors this year.

Get Carded member Karen Huneke, a senior majoring in marketing, said college students seem to be the crowd that are most likely to become donors.

“We’re the ones trying to save the earth, recycle, give to other countries,” Huneke said. “Students are really involved and really aware. This is a great way to help someone out, to save a life.”

As a heart transplant recipient, Dye said she uses her experience to educate others and promote organ donation.

“I always tell people, ‘look at me, I am alive because of an organ,'” she said. “It’s amazing. Recipients don’t go a day without thinking about it and without being grateful for everything they’ve been given.”