New York State has the second lowest organ donation rate in the country, as reported by Co-director of bLifeUR and sophomore Owen Orloff. According to the Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network, the need for organs in the state is one short of 9,900. At our local Strong Memorial Hospital alone, some 600 people remain on waiting lists, their fates uncertain.
bLifeUR — a new SA-recognized organization on campus — is hoping to change these statistics. The organ donation awareness club aims to combat the taboo of organ donation that seems to arise from a lack of information and awareness.
Co-director and senior Dan Halligan, Co-director and junior Kaitlyn Mokay and Orloff co-founded the club as an affiliate of bLifeNY, which is a group that was founded by two UR Medical Center transplant surgeons in summer 2011 to increase organ donation rates in New York State.
The two bLifeNY co-founders — Orloff’s father, Mark Orloff, and Christopher Barry — spoke at the club’s first meeting. Orloff’s father stressed the unique situation of how organ failure is unlike other conditions and diseases that currently have no solution, because transplantation is a viable option for most patients.
“The problem isn’t medical,” he said. “It’s political — social.”
Barry titled his presentation “The Challenges of Engendering a Cultural Shift: Organ Donation Awareness and Action.” In a series of graphs and charts, Barry showed how transplantation is both economically and medically more successful in prolonging human life than temporary solutions, such as dialysis for patients with kidney failure.
Additionally, he stressed the immense need for organs and emphasized the ever-growing organ transplantat waiting list.
Barry had the audience’s full attention when he said, “if you’re not an organ donor when you die, you’re taking other people’s lives with you.”
So, how did this cause arrive on campus? bLifeNY was looking for a support system and reached out to students at local universities. A summer internship at Strong Memorial Hospital got Mokay involved.
“After learning more, it was hard not to get passionate about it,” she said.
Orloff thought organ donation was an issue that many students could “rally behind to create change.”
College students are a prime audience because they are generally of age to consent to be a donor and still keep in touch with their family back home. This allows the message to spread further geographically and across generations.
“I hope that bLife … [will bring] UR to the forefront of combating the shortage of organs in NY state and becomes a model for other grassroots awareness and campaign groups,” Orloff said. “The sky is the limit for us.”
While the group is new this year, it has already hit the ground running. To kick off Donate Life month in April, the club will be tabling in Wilson Commons at the end of March to register donors and encourage students to “be the miracle of organ donation … and donate life,” Orloff said.
Alani is a member of the class of 2015.