“There’s a great deal of support for organ donation in the Rochester community,” said Rob Kochik, executive director of Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network (FLDRN), a division of URMC.
“Even so, we often find that some of the same people who are quick to express support at the idea of donation have not actually taken the step to officially register themselves. It’s probably because they haven’t spent much time considering their own potential to leave a legacy of hope.”
We spoke to Kochik to learn more about organ donation – and the incredible power one person can have to change lives. Read on.
Scripts: Not to downplay the very real struggle that grieving families face – we know time is the true healer of deep wounds – but is there any research showing that organ donation can help surviving family members make sense of their loss?
Kochik: There’s definitely evidence behind the idea. At FLDRN, we offer support to organ donors’ family members for a minimum of two years following their loved one’s gift. A number of these donor family members go a step further and serve on our FLDRN’s Donor Family Advisory Committee, giving us insight were incredibly grateful for. Who best to learn from than previous donors’ family members?
In a recent survey, family members told us they were motivated by the prospect that “something positive could come out of [their] loss,” that “someone else would have a better life,” and that, in a way, “[their] family member would live on.” This idea of paying life forward, and having something beautiful come out of their tragedy, is certainly compelling. It can be something encouraging to cling to in those first difficult days, months, even years.
Scripts: That’s a great way to describe it. But why do you think some people “never get around to” thinking about organ donation?
Even so, it’s inevitable that each of us will die at some point – so it’s really important that we make this very personal decision and share our wishes with our family members. When we make the choice ourselves, and document it, we spare our family members from being burdened with one more emotional decision at a time when they’ll likely be overwhelmed. We know this firsthand; family members of loved ones who’ve taken the time to elect to be (or not be) donors repeatedly tell us they are very much relieved that they didn’t t have to make this potentially exhausting decision.
Scripts: I bet many people don’t think of it from that angle, but it’s a fair point. On another note, though – can donor families and transplant recipients ever meet up?
Kochik: Great question. Transplant recipients often send thank you cards and letters to their donor’s family members; it’s one small way to express their appreciation for a very big gift – life. And in the other direction, donor family members often enjoy sharing some more information about their loved one with transplant recipients; it’s a way for them to see that their loved one’s story is being told, and they’re living on. Periodically, when both parties wish to meet in person, FLDRN helps coordinate that.
Scripts: What a special thing. Before we wrap up, tell us: Of all the myths that muddy the issue of organ donation, which one would you most like to see cleared up?
Kochik: Hands down, the most frequent reason people tell us they’ve not signed up to be a donor is because they’ve (wrongly) assumed that their age or medical condition would render them ineligible.
That couldn’t be further from the truth. The fact is, that there are absolutely no age restrictions to become an organ donor – and each donor’s medical condition is carefully evaluated at the time of donation. Everyone is encouraged to enroll in the registry, no matter their age or medical history.
Work at URMC? Join URMC’s Campaign 4 Life
URMC and Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network are teaming up to launch the URMC Campaign 4 Life, a month-long initiative during October to raise awareness about organ donation and transplantation and to ask each URMC employee to take action by declaring their consent to be an organ donor by enrolling in the New York State Donate Life Registry. The goal of the campaign is for 65 percent of URMC employees – there are nearly 15,000 – to either simply confirm they are already registered OR to become a new registered donor by completing an enrollment form. Please click here to participate in the URMC Campaign 4 Life survey. It takes less than 30 seconds.
To learn more about organ donation and transplantation, please visit the Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network website, or the Facebook page for the bLifeNY awareness campaign, developed by the URMC Division of Solid Organ Transplantation and Hepatobiliary Surgery. Or call FLDRN at (585) 272-4930.