The event “One Choice Renews Lives” took place on April 14 in the Chancellor’s Room at Milo Bail Student Center.
The event was sponsored by the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter as part of the National Organ Donor Awareness Competition (NODAC). The students’ goal is to add at least 50 more donors to the Nebraska organ registry by May 1.
Four panelists spoke about their organ and tissue donation experiences, including Emily Niebrugge, Hugh Reilly, Alexa Blaine and Amy Freshman.
Followed by the event, members of PRSSA and MavPR set up a booth where students were able to learn more about organ donation and took part in making butterfly crafts and coloring pages for Live on Nebraska families.
Alexa Blaine, UNO neuroscience major and tissue recipient, always had a strong passion for volleyball and was dedicated to pursue it in school. In 2017, things changed for Blaine when she suffered a meniscus tear.
After three additional tears and three surgeries, Blaine was told her volleyball career was over.
“I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life,” Blaine said.
Finally, Blaine found out she qualified for tissue donation and was placed on a transplant list. One week later she got a phone call saying they found a match.
“The mental part of it was really tough,” Blaine said.
Currently, Blaine works at a hospital as a CNA and says she can work a 12-hour shift with no problems.
Amy Freshman, UNO communication studies instructor, caregiver of an organ recipient, and wife of a liver transplant recipient, discussed her journey at the event.
“As a caregiver, we see things from the outside in,” Freshman said.
Her husband Bob was diagnosed in the fall of 2017 at a routine physical with cirrhosis, which was related to type two diabetes and some lifestyle issues.
At that time of diagnosis, they were told that you could live a long time with cirrhosis. The summer of 2019 is when they started to notice Bob lost a lot of weight but was gaining weight in his stomach.
They soon found out that his sorosis went rampant; in 2019, they were told in the doctor’s office that they needed to discuss a transplant or end of life.
“I’m not ready to do life without you, let’s explore this,” Freshman said to her husband.
April 5 of 2020 is when they received a phone call from UNMC telling them that they found an organ for Bob. They only had 30 minutes to get to the hospital in time for the transplant. Bob went into surgery as soon as they arrived at UNMC.
“It is a gift at a second chance of life,” says Freshman.
Hugh Reilly, retired School of Communication director and kidney transplant recipient, was told he had to go on dialysis and that he needed a kidney transplant, or he wouldn’t be living much longer.
Reilly was on dialysis for about 8 months.
“It was a very necessary but unpleasant experience,” Reilly said.
After a lengthy process of tests, Reilly’s eldest daughter ended up being his donor.
“I was weak, I couldn’t do things I normally would do,” Reilly said.
Reilly has since recovered and is doing much better now.
According to Live on Nebraska’s website, one registered donor can save up to eight people and one tissue donor can heal 100 or more patients.
For more information, or to register, visit: https://liveonnebraska.org/