Special to the Press
BRISTOL - As a poem was recited outside of Bristol Hospital, a flag was raised to honor organ and tissue donors, and raise awareness on the need to increase deceased and living donor registration in the state.
Many held photos of loved ones who were donors, and pinwheels to symbolize the potential everyone has to pass on life.
There is a lack of education and a lot of myths surrounding organ donations, according to Jen Ragaini and her husband Matt, who have lived in Bristol their entire life. One being, donors are less likely to be saved by medical staff in the event of an emergency.
The husband and wife explained how there is little education about living donation and the number of donors registered in the state needs to increase.
About twelve years ago, Matt was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (an inflammatory bowel disease that inflames the digestive tract) and primary sclerosing cholangitis (A disease that damages the bile ducts). This led to scarring of the liver and the bile ducts leading to it, after his gall bladder was removed.
Jen explained to the crowd of about 60 how her husband was on the donation list for five years, while the family used newspapers and social media to search for a living donor.
This was until two years ago, when Jen found out she was a match and donated 65 percent of her liver to her husband. She then became a board member of Donate Life Connecticut and now spreads the word on living donations.
The donation saved not only my husband, but someone else by removing his name from the list, so someone else’s can move up on the list, Jen explained to the crowd.
“I never thought of organ donation before what happened with my husband. We are interested in getting the idea of organ donations out there, whether deceased or living. There are currently 1,381 people waiting for transplants in Connecticut,” said Jen. “This is the second year we have done something here at the hospital. There are more people this year than last.”
Heather Harris, the Hospital Relations coordinator at New England Donor Services shared more stories in honor of donors outside the hospital, as many members of the public and hospital staff held Donate Life signs.
One of those stories was of Ashley Newton, 19, the daughter of a hospital employee who was able to save three lives after losing hers, by donating a heart, liver and kidneys.
“Last year, 30,000 people received life saving donations in the country. There have been 300 since January just in New England and about 1.5 million people rely on tissue and eye donations to restore sight across the country,” said Harris. “There are currently 1,200 people on the transplant list right here in the state of Connecticut and only 46 percent of the Connecticut population is registered as donors.”
Across the country, there are currently 118,000 people waiting for a lifesaving transplant, which includes heart, lungs, liver, kidney, pancreas and small intestines, explained Harris.
“22 people die every day waiting for a lifesaving transplant that did not receive one. One organ donor can save the lives of up to eight people and one tissue donor can enhance the lives of up to 75 people,” said Harris.
NEDS works with roughly 200 hospitals to increase the availability of organ, tissue and eye donations, which prompted the flag to be raised in April, during National Donate Life month.
Harris explained if anyone is interested in becoming a donor and has an apple product, they can register on the health app. Once the app is opened, go to medical ID and it will bring individuals directly to the Donate Life link to register.
“The Bristol Hospital will now raise the flag every time there is a donor here, to honor the recipient,” said Harris.