I was invited by Lifeline of Ohio to learn more about becoming an organ donor and why it is so utterly important. Prior to my visit, I took time to learn about Lifeline of Ohio and its values. Those values include compassion, advocacy, integrity, excellence and collaboration. All things I support and stand behind so I am dedicated to helping Lifeline of Ohio increase community awareness for the drastic need of organ, eye and tissue donation.
Lifeline of Ohio was established in 1985 as a independent, non-profit organ procurement organization. They are dedicated to providing quality service and have won numerous awards and accreditations for not only their outstanding staff but their values and practices. Working to educate the community about the gift of life, sight and healing. Lifeline of Ohio promotes and coordinates the donation of organs and tissues in 37 Ohio counties along with Wood and Hancock counties in West Virginia.
Located just outside the main entrance is the Central Fountain. A ripple of water emanates from the geyser in the central fountain, and extends across the plaza in the form of granite paver “ripple rings.” As the ripple rings meet the building, they influence the shape of the curved glass walls leading to the Conference Center and the main entrance. Once inside, you’ll see the ripple in the pattern of the carpet and in the custom lighting fixtures in the ceiling. Even when the water is turned off for the winter, the ripples will still be present in the form of concentric rings of polished, thermal finish granite on the top of the fountain.
Transplantation was once considered experimental but with all the advances in medical science, transplant surgery has become extremely successful and is now a desirable treatment option. Sadly, there are not enough organ donors for the growing number of people who desperately need them. There are hundreds of thousands of Americans waiting for a life-saving organ transplant and more than 20 people die each waiting. Once every 48 hours, an Ohioan dies waiting for a life-saving organ transplant and in the last ten years, more than 2,000 Ohioans have died waiting. The wait for a transplant is unique to every individual. Some wait years. Some wait months. In all cases having your name on the transplant waiting list puts your future in the hands of a stranger. As you are learning, the need for donated organs, corneas and tissues is growing at a much greater rate than their availability so something I want you to remember is that without you saying, yes to donation, transplants are not possible.
During my visit, I had the pleasure of meeting Mari, a cornea donor recipient. Her story is one that could literally happen to anyone and it was life changing for her. She was sitting on the floor playing with her dog and she got scratched in the eye. At the time, she didn’t even realized her eye had been scratched. And from that scratch she got an infection. One that took nearly 9 months to diagnose. She suffered in pain in complete darkness for a very long 9 months. The light was painful, she couldn’t watch TV and had to cover all the windows and sit in darkness. The pain was excruciating. The only time she would be able to leave the house was to go for walks in the evening with her husband. And he stood by her even at her lowest points. The doctors tried everything until they realized that it was due to an infection in her eye that she would require a cornea transplant. Although small on the scale compared to her pain, I explained how I could somewhat relate to what she must have went through. My husband Kevin experienced cornea pain after shoulder surgery. I’ve never seen him in so much pain. Apparently, when they taped his eyes closed for surgery they actually taped his eye so when they ripped the tape off, the ripped his eye. The pain he was in was unlike anything I’ve ever seen so I can only image the long term pain Mari went through. Her gratitude for a organ donor just truly shines through.
Mari’s experience has really changed her. She talked about what a different person she was prior to her transplant. She told me very relatable stories of how she was as a person, how she treated her husband, how she acted at work and to friends. Things we all do and say and talk for granted the life we’ve been given. So Mari didn’t just get a new cornea, she got a new incredible lease on life. She started running marathons and has completed triathlons. She exudes happiness. Just being with her put me in a better mood. Her attitude is one I can only strive to have daily. To follow her journey and feed off her love for life, follow her at @trimarifri.
By being a registered donor, you have the potential to save 8 lives and heal more than 50; you know, like all those athletes that need ACL repairs; those come from organ donors. Let’s talk about one of the biggest misconceptions; that if you are an organ donor doctors won’t save you. But what you need to know without question, is that your life is always first. If you are taken to the hospital after an accident/injury, it is the hospital’s number one priority to save YOUR life. Your status as a donor is not even considered until every effort has been made to try to save your life and death has been declared.
As visitors continue to the conference center atrium, they are greeted by an ever-changing memorial installation on the long wall. Rows of 48 shadow boxes flow out of a large ripple on the wall, highlighting individual stories of donation. Each inset box memorializes a donor with a letter, photo, and/or memento selected by his or her family. Outset boxes feature photos of transplant recipients. The boxes serve as both a memorial and a celebration to the ripple started by each gift of life.
This gallery continually changes as new stories are shared.
Currently there are more than 117,000 Americans on the transplant waiting list, with more than 2,900 waiting in Ohio alone. But there is a cure. And that cure exists. That cure is dependent upon the generous decision of one person to share life at the end of life. The cure is simply people helping people. The importance of registering your decision to donate is critical because the opportunity to donate is so rare. Organ donation only occurs in after 1 percent of all deaths. We need all Ohioans registered to give hope to those who are waiting.
Lifeline of Ohio’s mission is to empower our community to save and heal lives through organ, eye and tissue donation. Lifeline of Ohio provides services to 72 hospitals and the communities they serve through its procurement and tissue coordinators, and other professional staff. It takes less than two minutes to register to save and heal lives! Register today with the Ohio Donor Registry so that upon your death, you agree to become and organ, eye and tissue donor.
Our vision is a community where every individual embraces organ, eye and tissue donation.
Three Easy Ways to Register
- Register online (you will need a valid Ohio driver license of state identification card).
- Fill out and mail in an Ohio Donor Registry Enrollment Form
- Say “yes” to organ donation when you visit the Ohio BMV to receive or renew your driver license or state identification card.
Lifeline of Ohio strived to create a special place to honor the gifts shared and lives touched by the heroes of organ, eye and tissue donation. Curious how it works:
The process of organ, eye and tissue donation begins with an individual’s commitment to share the Gift of Life. This single decision helps to bring something positive to a tragic situation.
When it has been determined a person is in end-stage organ failure and the only hope is an organ transplant, the patient will go through a series of medical and psychological tests before they are listed for a transplant at a transplant center. Once all of the pre-transplant requirements are met, he or she is placed on the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) National Transplant Waiting List.
Individuals waiting for an organ transplant are listed in the UNOS computer based upon their personal medical characteristics (severity of illness, blood type, tissue type, body size, geographic location, etc.). These characteristics are utilized to determine a match when there is an organ donor. The amount of time an individual will have to wait for a transplant can vary from a few hours to many years.
When a death occurs or a brain death declaration is imminent, several physicians confirm the brain death declaration in the hospital. Once confirmed, all hospitals are required by Medicare to contact an independent organ procurement organization (OPO), like Lifeline of Ohio. The OPO evaluates the individual for the potential to donate and facilitates the placement of the organs with waiting recipients, and the recovery process which includes delivery to the transplanting centers. This process ensures neither the hospital nor the transplant center is involved in the donation process.
Once an organ has been donated, the best transplant candidate match is identified and contacted by the transplant center. The prospective recipient then goes directly to the hospital to receive their transplant. Following a transplant, recovery times can vary from a few days to several months. To ensure the body accepts the new organ, recipients need to take immunosuppressive drugs daily.
The design of the Lifeline of Ohio memorial was strongly influenced by a committee that included donor parents, donor sister, bereavement staff, father of a liver recipient and Lifeline of Ohio staff. From all these conversations, the theme of the “Ripple Effect” became clear – how one donor’s gift has an impact on many, many lives. This memorial honors and celebrates the heroes of organ, eye and tissue donation.
The symbolism of the ripple effect of donation was so important that it has been reflected in a number of ways throughout the memorial. It’s a reminder that one selfless donor touches not only the recipient but their family, friends, co-workers and even future generations.
Just outside to the right of the building is the Remembrance Room and at the center of the Remembrance Room is the Remembrance Room Fountain from which ripples emanate. As the water flows from this fountain, and splashes into the rock garden below, the sound of the water provides a soothing, comforting sound signature. But the rocks in the rock garden have another purpose. The previous Donor Memorial included a rock garden (created in memory of Billy Frederick, a hero of donation in 2004). A new version of the rock garden now surrounds the Remembrance Room Fountain where visitors are invited to “Place a Stone in memory of your Hero of Donation.” Following an old world tradition, visitors will be encouraged to place a rock at the fountain as a memory and legacy of their loved one. Just inside the building, you can grab a rock to place in the garden.
Stepping inside the Lifeline of Ohio office, the ripple symbolism continues in the carpet, lighting and sage green signage panels. Signs of life and regrowth can be found in the wallpaper that leads to the wall where the donation process is stripped to its simplest elements: Commit. Connect. Continue.
Who can donate? You. You are never too old to be an organ, eye or tissue donor – in fact, the oldest organ donor was 92 and the oldest tissue and cornea donor was 107! Any individual who is 15 1/2 years old or older and holds a valid Ohio driver license, learner’s permit or state ID card can authorize the donation of their organs, corneas and tissue by joining the Ohio Donor Registry at their local Bureau of Motor Vehicles office, by filling out and mailing in a registration form, or online. Once an individual is in the Ohio Donor Registry, no one else has to provide authorization for the donation. However, for individuals 15 1/2 to 18 years old, their parents or legal guardians can revoke or amend their authorization for donation. Your age or health should not prevent you from registering to be an organ, eye and tissue donor. Organ donation does not discriminate against sexual orientation. Anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, can be an organ donor, both living and deceased. What’s most important after you register, is talking with your family so they too are aware of your wishes.
Mari and I took some time outside in the Remembrance Room. Designed as an “embrace,” the Remembrance Room is an outdoor space for one, or for many, to gather within. Currently, the room features 700 donor names (up to 1,800 names can be placed) cut into stainless steel panels mounted in front of eight refined concrete panels. The eight panels in the Remembrance Room represent the eight lives that can be saved by the gifts of one organ donor.
As you approach these stainless steel panels, you will experience the reflection of your presence as you view the names. As you reach out to touch the names, you will realize that the letters are the holes in the stainless steel panels through which the light passes. The names, made of light, are the brightest elements in the Donor Memorial.
The Remembrance Room is a spiritual place where all are invited to pause and remember those that gave the Gift of Life and Healing. One of the illuminated blue glass panels at the gateway of the Remembrance Room states “The ripple starts with one generous act that changes countless lives and creates endless possibilities.”
As the trees grow, the amount of shade will grow and the canopy of branches overhead will help to create a sense that this is an “outdoor room” in a spiritual garden. In the center of this outdoor room is another fountain, the Remembrance Room Fountain.
Registering to become an organ, eye and tissue donor in the Ohio Donor Registry is simple. You may do so by saying “yes” when receiving your driver license or state ID, online, or by completing and returning an enrollment form. Please also tell your family of your wishes. Talking to your family about your desire to be an organ, eye and tissue donor and educating them about the facts of donation and transplantation are important steps to make your family feel comfortable with your decision. If you decide to be an organ, eye and tissue donor, your family will NOT have to pay for any medical expenses associated with the donation. There is no cost to your family. As a thank you for your consideration in being an organ donor, I’d like to give two Chipotle meals. Head to my Instagram @sweetlycbus to get entered.
Lifeline of Ohio
770 Kinnear Road
Columbus, OH 43212