Ingrid Palacios the Community & Family Services Coordinator for New England Donor Services. (Courtesy Photo)
Health, Lifestyle, News

Donor Awareness Month ends on a happy note for LeBrasseur, New England Donor Services

LYNN — As April's National Donate Life Month ends, locals with successful donor stories prove that awareness really does help.

At the beginning of the month, Lynner Miranda LeBrasseur used the $2,000 that was raised for her and put up a billboard in the middle of Wyoma Square stating that she is a young mother with blood type O in search of a kidney. The Item shed light on her story, which led to news outlets all over the country picking it up and sharing it as well.

"I am completely overwhelmed with responses from the article in the paper and all the news channel coverage," she said. "I have received well over 200 emails from people either wanting to donate a kidney or just wanting to wish me luck."

LeBrasseur's story reached strangers in California, Florida, Tennessee, North Carolina, and even Canada who were inspired by her struggle to find a donor match. Some of them are even taking the first steps to see if they could donate their kidney to the mother of two.

"I hope that someone will be a match for me, or if not me then for someone else," said LeBrasseur. "it is a long process, and I am hoping to hear back soon."

Before a person can finish the process of donating an organ, there is a lot of information they and their family need to know. For the last eight years, donor specialist Ingrid Palacios has worked with New England Donor Services to provide all of that information, especially to those in underserved or minority communities. Palacios meets with families one-on-one in every single state located in New England, with a large number of them being in the Greater Boston area.

"I do a lot of educating about the common needs and misconceptions and one of the biggest is families not being registered because they fear if they get sick, or get in an accident, or something happens, the hospital won't save them and would let them die to save the organ," said Palacios. "The hospitals have no idea if someone is registered and they don't have access to the national data to know if someone is a registered donor and their only priority is to save your life."

Palacios said more than 6,000 people are on waitlists to receive an organ in Massachusetts. According to her, Caucasians are more prone to donate and have a lot more knowledge about the process, followed by Hispanics, Blacks, then Asians. Even with more than 130 million people in the U.S. registered to donate, 22 people die every day waiting for an organ with most of them being a minority.

"The need to support our minority communities and the underserved communities is very important, so we reach out to them and give them all the organ donor information."

According to Palacios, when the hospital has taken every measure to save the person's life and they still die then, by law, they must call donor services and collaborate on seeing if there is a suitable patient. Palacios talks about other misconceptions such as families not thinking the organ of a loved one who died from the opioid crisis is suitable, which is false, and the struggle of their religion not supporting it, which is usually before they learn that Pope Francis considers it "the ultimate act of love for your neighbor."

"The families who go through with registering to donate end up happy with the decision because they know life came out of loss," said Palacios.

Palacios can be reached at Ingrid_Palacios@neds.org. For those seeking ways to register to donate, they can do so at their local DMV or RMV when they renew their license or when they go online and visit registerme.org.

Even just one success story can have the ability to inspire someone else to save a life by donating an organ. Jim Wilson, the Chief Operating Officer of the Item, and his family just experienced a successful donor story of their own. A few years ago, Wilson's son Ben took medication which created problems in his kidneys, that led him to years of having to go through dialysis treatments.

Last week, the Wilson family got the call they have been waiting years for. They found a perfect donor match for Ben. His kidney transplant surgery was on Thursday and Ben's doctors called it a full success. Ben, 24, may still be on the road to recovery after his long-awaited surgery, but the Wilsons just gained friends that will last a lifetime.

"The donor family said there are so many things happening in the world and they wanted to do something good, so we're lifelong family now and are already planning to meet for dinner after everyone is all healed," said Wilson. "This is a miracle and dream come true for both families."

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