Archive for Education

Community Education: Burton High School

As an Ambassador for the California Transplant Donor Network, today I spoke to a health careers class at Philip & Sala Burton High School in San Francisco.  The group of 28 juniors participated in the discussion and asked some great questions.

My co-presenter Caitlin and I prepared a script, some quick facts, a short video, an exercise, and of course, our own personal stories to share the details about organ donation.  Our goal was to educate the students and make sure they were informed to make the best decision for themselves about whether or not to be an organ donor.

FACT: If you are between 13 and 17 years old, you can join the Donate Life California Registry, but your parents will make the final decision about organ and tissue donation at the appropriate time.

We kicked off the discussion by asking the students if they were planning to get their driver’s licenses soon.  The hands shot up eagerly.  But, did the students know they would be asked if they wanted to be a donor when they got their licenses?  Murmurs of “I didn’t know they would ask that then” echoed through the classroom.  So, what should you know about organ donation and transplantation to make that decision?  We showed a brief video made by teens, for teens to answer that question.

After covering the basic facts about the need for organ donors (there are over 114,000 people in the U.S. waiting for transplants, 21,000 in California, and 18 people die each day waiting for an organ), we moved into our personal stories.

Telling my father’s story is usually as easy as telling about my daily commute. And, it has a great ending – my father received a heart and he is now an active cyclist.  But standing in a high school, in front of a crowd of juniors, changed the ease with which I could talk.  I felt like it was the Fall of 1995 again.  I was no longer the presenter, but the 16 year old student getting pulled out of French class because my father was being transferred from Albany’s hospital to Massachusetts General Hospital that afternoon and I had to go say goodbye.  Nothing was certain except for the fact that my father’s heart condition was deteriorating quickly and only a new heart could save him.

Choking back the tears, I somehow regained consciousness that I was the presenter with a positive story.  I asked the students a quick question, “at what rate do you think my father’s heart was functioning to be near the top of the transplant list?” As they shouted out some numbers, I gathered my composure and finished the tale.  I ended the presentation with photos of me and my father from our recent cycling race and triathlon.  Applause.  Phew!

We’ve been invited back to speak again to the Burton senior class.  If you know of another school that would like to hear about organ donation, please contact us.



Cycle for Life – Centurion NY

On June 23, 2012, we joined the NY Center for Donation and Transplant’s team Cycle for Life to participate in the Centurion New York 25 mile ride.  The race kicked off next to Lake George and the Million Dollar Beach with approximately 200 cyclists.  The Organ Donor for Life participants included myself, Harold Strope and Andrew Dudek.  We were supported with great cheering by Miriam Strope, Mona Dudek, Roya Dudek and Cindy and Bridget from CDTNY.

The 25 mile loop took us out of Lake George towards Lake Luzerne.  There were some long gradual climbs to start.  It was smooth sailing until about mile 13.  For what was billed as a race for beginners, the 10% grade on one hill was definitely a challenge.  This short and steep climb was followed on by at least two more climbs that surprised many of the cyclists.  Team Cycle for Life was not the only charity team participating.  There was a large group with Team Challenge for Crohn’s and Colitis disease.  Given people are overcoming serious illnesses and surgeries to participate, the course could have been a little more beginner Harold and Sara Strope finish the Centurion NY 25 mile racefriendly.

That said, we made it through.  As Harold and I cruised back to the Lake Front, we chatted quickly about how to cross the finish line: “high five? hold hands? race?”  Hold hands down the finisher chute!  We crossed the finish line together as the race announcer shared our family’s store and my father’s accomplishment.

And to top everything off, after we crossed the finish line, a number of other racers and supporters stopped by the Cycle for Life tent to inquire about organ donation!

For a new race outside our hometown, this was a good start.  We look forward to growing our presence next year.  And, we look forward to more activities with our new partner – the Center for Donation and Transplant!

View more photos from the race weekend!

Looking Ahead – 2012 Organ Donor Calendar

Organ Donor for Life is gearing up for a busy 2012!  Below is a quick snapshot of some key dates and activities.  We’ll be making some exciting announcements soon about our key races for the 2012 campaign – and how you can be a part of the Lifesaver Team!

January: National Volunteer Blood Donor Month

February 14: National Donor Day

April: National Donate Life Month

November: National Marrow Awareness Month