April is not only Earth Month, but also Organ Donor Awareness Month. 118 Stony Brook University students celebrated by becoming organ donors during this year’s Earthstock festival on April 19, according to Stony Brook University.
One of the volunteers that helped was, Tabitha Yim, a 21-year-old senior Nursing major. She said the New York Organ Donor Network (NYODN) did not have high expectations for the sign up day. “[They] expected like 20, because from previous registries they only were able to get about 20, but I guess they were surprised at how many students were willing to register.”
Volunteer member Peter Sheh, a senior information systems major, attributed the success to the “high attendance of Earthstock and the amount of good traffic going through the academic mall.”
However, the process of convincing and recruiting was not all so easy.
Volunteer Maggie Knight, a senior nursing student, said, although they were able to get 118 new donors, she was surprised because she “didn’t think it was going to be as hard as it was, to get organ donors.”
The group of students who volunteered had previously been involved with the Stony Brook Bone Marrow Registry. This is how they were contacted by the Stony Brook Hospital to help out with the first but not last Organ Donor Registration Drive at Stony Brook University.
The Organ Donation Registration Drive was supported by the NYODN, also called Donate Life, and two New York State Senators, Kenneth P. LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and John J. Flanagan (R-East Northport).
The drive was initiated in memory of the late New York State Assemblyman James D. Conte, who was a two-time kidney transplant recipient, and an advocate of organ donation himself.
Sen. Flanagan said, “I am proud to join with my Senate colleague Kenneth LaValle, NYODN and the students of Stony Brook University to promote this important.”
Both Senators urged people to sign up and become part of this cause to save thousands of lives.
“An organ donation is an invaluable gift that any one of us can give to a loved one or a stranger,” Sen. LaValle said. “Organ donation can save a life and change a life. There’s no greater legacy.”
Student volunteer members credited the Bone Marrow Registry as one of the reasons why Stony Brook students were so open to organ donation.
“When I did the Bone Marrow Registry last semester, a lot of people had misconceptions about bone marrow donation and joining registry,” Knight said. “And being able to educate people about the different ways to donate, what you’re doing for someone, it kind of changes the outlook, and I definitely think it made the campus more open to different ideas like organ donation.”
Yim credited the open-mindedness of Stony Brook students. “Students were pretty receptive to what we had to say about it. Even if they said ‘no,’ they still asked questions about what this was all about, and most of them, after they found out, they were willing to sign up to be a donor.”
Many students who signed up to become an organ donor said they thought there were many aspects of organ donation that the general people didn’t know about.
“People generally associate organ donation with many negative connotations, we live in a hyper sensitive culture and it is very easy to misinterpret certain ideas,” said Kenneth Yee, a senior health science major and one of the 118 students who signed up.
Another student who signed up, Derek Cope, 22, a senior Health Science and Sociology major, also said he thought there were many people with the wrong idea about organ donation and said “those who know the truth should take the time to dispel this.”
The possibility of being able to save a life, or several, was an easy in-the-moment decision for most students, and Cope was one of them.
“I signed up because I believe it is important to help others that are in need,” he said. “When I die, I will no longer have a need for my organs and they might as well go to someone in dire need of a transplant.”
However, for some it was more than an instant decision. For some, it’s been a long time coming.
“Before registering I thought a lot about what it meant to offer my organs and tissues by joining the registry,” Jamie Leonard, a biology major, said. “I was inspired by a friend, Susie Facini, a Seawolf herself who passed away in November of 2011. Susie was an organ and tissue donor, and I believe her organs and tissues specifically went to injured firefighters.”
According to Stony Brook University, organ donors can save as many as eight lives with their hearts, lungs, kidneys, liver, pancreas and intestine, and tissue donors can improve 12 or more lives with their coneas, bone, skin, heart valves, tendons, veins and more.
Every 15 hours a New Yorker dies waiting for an organ donation, according to NYODN. Helen Irving, President and CEO of  NYODN, thanked the Senators and the students for getting involved with their cause.
“On behalf of the 10,000 New Yorkers waiting for a life-saving transplant, we say thank you,” she said.

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