By Laura Drinan
Hometown Weekly Reporter
The start of April will mark the beginning of National Donate Life Month, a time to raise awareness for organ, tissue, and eye donations, and celebrate those who have saved lives through donations.
For Medfield’s Liz Sandeman and her family, though, organ and tissue donations are a year-round concern.
After her sister, T, died waiting for a lung transplant in 2014, Liz became involved with New England Donor Services. She now volunteers her time to educate the public on organ and tissue donations, and to encourage more to register as organ donors.
“I don’t want other families to lose loved ones simply because there aren’t enough registered donors,” Liz said.
While anyone, regardless of things like medical history or age, can become an organ donor, the chances that one’s organs will be used after death are slim. Of everyone who dies in America, only two percent die in a way that would preserve their organs for donation.
“If you die in that two percent and you’re not registered, you’re not only taking your organs with you to be buried or burned if you’re cremated, you’re taking people off the waiting list with you.”
It is a cause about which Liz’s three children have become passionate, as well. In the past, the family has visited places like Machu Picchu and the Sydney Opera House, where they have proudly unfurled the Donate Life flag.
The flag, however, still had many places to visit.
Over February vacation, Liz and her daughter, Sophie Griffin, a senior at Medfield High School, packed the flag and flew to Tanzania, where the two climbed Mount Kilimanjaro – the highest free-standing mountain in the world.
While making arrangements for their trip to Africa, Liz and her family raised money for New England Donor Services with the promise to write each contributor’s name on the flag that they held on Mount Kilimanjaro’s summit. Even after they returned from their trip, they continued receiving donations, and have been able to raise $10,000 for the organization.
Climbing the 19,341-foot mountain was not an easy task for Liz and Sophie. During the six-day trek, Liz encountered issues with her knee and Sophie suffered from altitude sickness. However, they found strength from a pin that Liz wore throughout their journey with the picture of her sister on it.
After hours of hiking up the steep trail, Liz and Sophie could see the sign marking the top of the mountain. Their team of guides and porters brought hot chocolate for them to enjoy before making the final push to the summit, where they unfolded the Donate Life flag decorated with the dozens of names of those who offered their support.
Those interested in further educating themselves about organ, tissue, and eye donations are encouraged to visit www.donatelife.net and register to be a donor at www.registerme.org.