Rounding Out The Numbers Game

Before I actually began working on the Donate Life Utah Campaign, I was only able to relate to the issue in terms of numbers. In my very first post titled “Organ Donation is a Numbers Game We Can Win,” I wrote about how winnable this struggle for organ donors is. What seems so elusive in other campaigns–finding a cure for breast cancer, stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS, getting enough H1N1 vaccinations to meet the demand–is completely doable in the organ donor race. The solution for the lack of transplant organs is to generate more organ donors. Simple.

As the six week campaign wore on, I came to realize that a campaign of this importance is much more nuanced. When I met people–the family of organ donation–I began to understand what we were doing was literally life-saving. With more than 1,600 new donors registered by the end of the campaign, there will likely be at least one life saved, one family changed and one critical gain realized.

I observed something magical when the donor and recipient families gathered. Joy and sorrow became a singular emotion. They understood each others’ pain and past. They hoped and they waited together. Kaidence Stephenson’s mom cried before television cameras imploring viewers to save others the way that Kaidence was saved with a new heart. Mallory Wahlstrom, a kidney donor for her brother, was poised and confident while her mom and sister watched on the sidelines, grateful for having “dodged a bullet” with Mallory and brother Andrew. Terri Chugg looked on behind dark glasses missing her daughter Bambi whose heart transplant never came.

I began to understand the role of fate in the organ equation. When Allyson Gamble caught the flu during her pregnancy, she contracted a virus that caused dilated cardiomyopathy. Over a year later the situation was unmanageable with medication and she was forced to begin the painful and agonizing wait for a new heart.  Her prayers were answered and she is today humbled and grateful for the new life. Bambi Chugg Thomas found herself in the identical position after the birth of her daughter. A mechanical heart kept her alive for a short time but her new heart never arrived and she lost her battle for life at age 24. Two women under identical circumstances experienced opposite outcomes by a twist of fate.

I met some energetic people who were turned on by this campaign. Ryan Tripp a.k.a.”Lawn Mower Boy” (because he broke two Guinness Book world records on his lawnmower as a teenager) was present, insightful and organized in his PR efforts. David Nemelka from the Quest for the Gift of Life Foundation was a Whirling Dervish with the media and the campaign workers. My fellow bloggers Vanessa, Jeanne and Vera (although we’ve never met in person) had great insights and feelings that they poured into their writing. They inspired me to be more human in my own posts.

There are some final numbers to report. In six weeks, our social media efforts which began at 0, ended with 200 Twitter followers, 600 Facebook fans and more than 1,000 unique visits to the blog. From others who have worked on organ donor campaigns, our 1,600+ new donors represented exceptional results. Southern Utah University will receive $9,000 in scholarship money. New donors broke a Guinness Book world record (previously at 142) for the number of donors to sign up in one day. About 100 people walked and ran in the inaugural Donate Life Utah 9K Race and .9K Walk.

As this phase of the campaign comes to an end, I now understand how complex and emotional the subject of organ donation is–how lives are saved while others hang in the balance. The numbers are more important to me now than when I began six weeks ago. What started as statistics–one donor saves nine lives–is more meaningful now that I have encountered some of the lives that were saved. Although my formal participation in the campaign will end, I will continue to support organ donation on my own and I will end my final post where I began in my first post. “At the end of the day, the most important number is one.  One person can make a difference,” I wrote.  I hope it was me.

Congratulations to Southern Utah University!

Nice job to Southern Utah University! SUU came out on top in the race for organ donors. 1,159 students registered as donors on Saturday October 24, 2009.

Total, 1,678 people registered as organ donors this last Saturday—imagine what amazing things will come for those who are waiting for organ transplants because of all those new people willing to donate.

Thank you to everyone who became a donor and to all those who helped spread the word.

Now, a lot of you are students from out of state. Don’t let this be the last time you think about organ donation! Take the information you’ve learned home to your home state.

According to the current national goals of Donate Life America
(, Utah is one of 25 states that meet the effective donor registry design criteria

Effective Registry Design Criteria:
1. Donor designation is considered legally binding consent
2. Includes consent for tissue donation
3. Individuals can enroll through a dedicated Web site
4. DMV enrolls donors via driver’s license and ID card applications and renewals
5. No follow-up step required for DMV or online enrollment
6. DMV exports donor records to registry database
7. Organ, eye and tissue recovery agencies can effectively access donor designations

That means that half of the United States does NOT meet this criteria and has low numbers of registered donors!

We want you all to tell people about organ donation, but Iif you are from one of the following 25 states, we especially need you to spread the word about organ donation.

•    Arkansas
•    Connecticut
•    Florida
•    Georgia
•    Hawaii
•    Idaho
•    Kansas
•    Louisiana
•    Maine
•    Michigan
•    Mississippi
•    Missouri
•    Nebraska
•    Nevada
•    New Hampshire
•    New Jersey
•    New Mexico
•    New York
•    North Dakota
•    Rhode Island
•    South Dakota
•    Texas
•    Vermont
•    West Virginia
•    Wisconsin

Remember! It’s all about awareness. The more people who are aware of how donation can save lives, the more willing they will be to become registered donors.

Awareness, Awareness, Awareness

Posted in Facts and Figures by tebazele on October 26, 2009
Tags: , ,

Until I turned 21, I’d never been asked if I wanted to be an organ donor! By that point, I’d already had two previous licenses and one permit, plenty of opportunities for someone to educate me about the options. I would gladly have been a donor had I been asked the question, but I’d never been asked.

Undoubtably, a majority of American’s are in my same boat. They don’t know that they can become an organ donor, or they don’t know how to go about becoming one. More importantly, though, most Americans have no idea what becoming an organ donor entails.

Even with the media attention this subject has been receiving lately (Seven Pounds and My Sister’s Keeper, anyone?), people don’t really understand the details of the process. Does one have to plan out who will receive which organs like Will Smith did in Seven Pounds? No. The process actually goes like this:

1. First, you go to the DMV where you got your license and you fill out a form, specifically checking “Yes” next to the question that asks, “Would you like to be an organ donor?”

2. You receive a new driver’s license with the donor symbol on it. In some states, this is a heart; in Utah, it’s simply a “Y” next to the abbreviated question “Donor?”

That’s all, two steps. Of course, that’s all you do. If the unthinkable happens and a donor actually has the opportunity to donate their vital organs, the doctors:

1. Look at their license to determine if this person is indeed an organ donor.

2. Bring them to the hospital as quickly as possible in order to perform the surgeries that will carefully preserve the organs and allow them to be transplanted into someone else’s body, an act that will likely save that person’s life.

3. Stitch the donor back up, preserving the body for burial.

Awareness about organ donation is all about describing the process in such straightforward terms that it takes the fear of the unknown out of it. But a list like this one also removes the heart from great sacrifice. Donating your organs, or being willing to do so if the opportunity arises, can literally allow someone to live who is going to die.

Donate Life Utah 9K Race and .9K Walk a Success

Saturday, October 24, National Make a Difference Day, was the date of the inaugural Donate Life Utah Race or organ donor awareness. Runners wore shirts bearing the number nine, the estimated number of lives that are potentially saved with one donor’s gift.

While the race and walk were the central focus of Saturday’s gathering, organizers learned earlier in the week that their request to attempt a Guinness Book World Record had been accepted. The record previously held by a Rugby Team in the U.K. was 142 donors to sign up in one day. Saturday’s attempt was reported as successful by the Salt Lake Tribune.


Face painting, inflatable toys and refreshments were among the attractions on race day.


Race participants braving some chilly weather were serenaded with live music from an acoustic guitarist and singer.


Race participants of all ages showed their support running or walking. Some walked in the name of organ recipients. Others donated their time and energy for a worthy cause. 


Results of the Donate Life Utah Campaign campus events and the race results will be available in the coming days.

Westminster College Student Leads Organ Donor Drive

Fabian Castillo is the 2009-2010 Service Chair for the Associated Students of Westminster College (ASWC) in Salt Lake City. He spearheaded the campus-wide drive at Westminster to generate organ donors for the Donate Life Utah 2009 campaign.

As part of the school’s efforts, Castillo organized a Frisbee Kick-Off Party to generate awareness about the campaign and the critical need for organ donors. A sign-up table was manned for a week in the student union building at the school where AWSC volunteers handed out information and collected donor registration forms. Student volunteers were also present at sporting events to hand-out registration forms.


As a wrap-up to the campaign, Westminster students were encouraged to show up and sign up at Last Saturday’s Donate Like Utah 9K Race and .9K Walk at Liberty Park. The race was an opportunity for donor registrants to break a Guinness Book World Record for the most people to sign up as donors in one 8 hour period.

As Service Chair, Castillo is called upon throughout the year to organize various campus activities.  Although he has no personal connection to organ donation, the campaign has been especially important to him. “I think it’s a great opportunity for all of us to become aware. Other causes are not as close to home and this campaign helps us to understand that little actions can make a huge difference,” he says.

Guinness World Book Record Media Release

Posted in Press by michellebruno on October 22, 2009
Tags: , ,



Photo Opportunity





WHO:  The Quest for the Gift of Life Foundation, in partnership with the Utah Donate Life Coalition and all 10 Utah state universities are asking all Utahans to help in setting a Guinness World Record.


WHAT:  The Guinness Book of World Records has accepted a proposal to set the record for “Most People to Sign Up as Organ Donors.”  The record must be completed within an 8-hour period and will be an attempt to break an existing record that was set by 142 people at a rugby game in England in 2003.


WHEN:                                            Saturday, October 24, 2009



WHERE:                                          Liberty Park, 900 south 700 east, Salt Lake City


Saturday is also National Make a Difference Day.  Student Body Presidents from each school are asking all community members to join them Saturday morning to make a difference and set a Guinness World Record. Spearheading the campaign is two-time Guinness World Record holder Ryan Tripp, also known as the “Lawnmower Boy.”  Tripp stated, “It is not often that someone has the chance to set a Guinness World Record. This weekend, any Utahan who would like to help make a difference can come and participate. I don’t recommend sitting on a lawnmower for 42 consecutive days to set a world record.  It will be much easier for someone to take 42 seconds to sign up as an organ donor.  I wish someone would have told me that earlier.”


Learning About Organ Donation Through Twitter

Posted in Stats by 2DorksinLove on October 21, 2009
Tags: , ,

I’ve been using Twitter for about a year now. My own account has over 3700 followers, and I follow a similar number. There certainly is a lot of chatter going on, but there are lots of nuggets of good information given out too. Since I started working with DonateLifeUT’s Twitter account, I have found that you can learn a lot about organ donation through Twitter if you know what to do.

First, you can follow our Twitter account, @DonateLifeUT. We send out links to our new blog posts, information about upcoming events, organ donation facts, and links to news stories.

The second task to complete is to use Twitter’s search function. The bar is located just above the “Trending Topics” on your Twitter page, or you can also visit Enter a search term like “organ donation” or “organ donor”. You will get a list that includes all the past tweets (messages on Twitter) that included those terms. I’ve found links to organ donation news stories this way, as well as learned new facts.

Third, in conjunction with the search tool, you can find people who tweet about organ donation. When you find a message that looks good, click on the person’s name. You can see their other tweets and click to follow them if you desire. When I find someone who talks about organ donation a lot, I also like to click on the people they are following and who follow them, which usually allows me to find even more people interested in organ donation.

Finally, you can always send out a message yourself talking about organ donation or asking a question. Twitter is all about making connections with people and sharing information. I find that I usually have at least a few people who will respond to any question I send out.

What have you learned about organ donation through Twitter?

Donate Life Utah to Attempt Guinness World Record Saturday

The Guinness World Records Company has confirmed that it will recognize an attempt to set the record for “Most people to sign up as organ donors – 8 hours.” The record attempt is scheduled for this Saturday, October 24 at the Donate Life Utah 9K Race and .9K Walk.

The Race and Walk will be held in Liberty Park in Salt Lake City. For more information and to sign up for the race, visit the race site.


 The National Kidney Research Fund and the Welsh Rugby Union in the U.K. set the current record for organ donors. The groups encouraged 145 people attending the Wales vs. Barbarians rugby match at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, to sign up to the organ donor register on May 31, 2003.

 The idea for the World Record attempt is the brainchild of Ryan “Lawnmower Boy” Tripp who set a world record for the “most miles ridden on a lawnmower” at the age of 12 and at the age of 14 set another record for “the fastest time to mow the lawns of the State Capitols of all 50 States.” Tripp is the Executive Secretary and PR Coordinator for the Quest for the Gift of Life Foundation, the sponsor of the Donate Life Utah Campaign.

In an email to campaign staffers today, Tripp commented on his enthusiasm about the record attempt. “I am excited about the opportunity we have before us, as well as nervous about the responsibility to accomplish it,” he wrote. 

 The organ donor world record attempt this Saturday will cap off a 9 day sprint on college and university campuses to generate 9,000 organ donors in time for the “National Make a Difference Day” celebration.

How Will Obama’s Healthcare Plan Affect Organ Donation?

How will Obama’s Healthcare plan affect Organ Donation?

At this point, the answer is not very much.

As a presidential candidate back in 2007, President Obama explained explicitly his ideas about how to fix the US healthcare system. He stated ideas about universal healthcare coverage as well as some ways for determining who should receive what type and level of care—in other words, he stated some methods that would determine eligibility for care. Before giving care, patients would be required to state their age and overall health and answer questions like how often they smoke and drink. At this point, Obama’s healthcare plan seemed like it would reserve organ donation for only the most eligible, but as the plan has been revised, these stringent requirements for eligibility have been mostly removed or ignored by politicians.

If we want to see what organ donation might be like under Obama care, we can look to Europe, at least for the source of many of these eligibility questions. And we can also see what organ donation is like there. The mentality about eligibility has certainly affected organ donation in many European countries. In England, patients who do not take care of their bodies (primarily alcoholics or smokers who won’t reform…) are refused organ transplants.

While my moral sense tells me that a smoker who needs a lung transplant chose their own fate when they started smoking, I also dislike the idea that some government organization is in charge of that person living or dying.

Currently, the UNOS (United Network for Organ Sharing) board of directors determines who is eligible for transplants. This organization is an independent, nonprofit one, but it turns out, it works closely with a Federal organization, the US Department of Health and Human Services.

It seems that the only difference in organ donation from an acceptance of Obama’s healthcare plan would be a potential change in who is responsible for determining the eligibility of those in need of organ transplants. The UNOS already restricts some patients from receiving transplants based on similar eligibility questions proposed by Obama’s administration, but the UNOS board is not officially connected to the government. Under Obama care, it might become so.

The question is “What would the US government do if it was in charge of organ donation?” Would it impose unreasonable and unfair requirements for eligibility? Would it require every citizen to be an organ donor without the necessity of obtaining consent? Would it simply leave the system as it is? Or would the government fund education about the benefits of donation, improving it for all of us? We need answers to these questions before we can decided how Obama’s healthcare plan will affect organ donation.

Donate Life Utah 9K Race Releases Poster

Posted in Events by michellebruno on October 18, 2009
Tags: , ,

The Donate Life Utah campaign team has released a “poster” to publicize the 9K race and .9 K walk using the images of kidney donor Mallory Wahlstrom and heart recipient Kaidence Stephenson. The race is scheduled for Saturday, October 24, National Make a Difference Day.


The photo of Mallory and Kaidence was taken by photographer Kenny Crookston during a recent media event to publicize the race. Race participants are invited to join Mallory and Kaidence in raising awareness for organ donation and attempting to set a Guinness Book World Record for the most organ donors to sign up in one day.

Visit the race site for more information and to sign up.

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