Three-year old Caitlin Downey sat next to her mother, Shawnna, in a chair in the Cahill Auditorium at Braintree Town Hall, healthy and happy following the harrowing experience of her liver transplant when she was just 5 months old.
Caitlin’s story is one of the thousands of transplant sagas experienced nationally, and it is for that reason that Matthew Boger, the Donor Registry Coordinator for New England Organ Bank, came to Braintree on Wednesday.
“It’s an important thing to help save lives,” he said.
According to Boger, 110,000 people are waiting for donations nationally, 4,800 of those in New England, and over 2,900 in Massachusetts alone.
Bringing awareness to those kinds of numbers is the first goal in declaring April “Donate Life Month” in Braintree, a recognition that is acknowledged nationally.
The second goal? Getting 50 percent of all of Massachusetts registered license holders to be donors.
“[It’s] an opportunity to continue our education efforts, celebrate the lives saved and enhanced through donation and honor the donors who made the ultimate gift,” Boger said in a release. “Last year, the lives of over 240 New Englanders were saved because individuals registered as organ donors on their state driver’s license or online through the Donate Life New England registry. In addition, the lives of 25,000 in this region were enhanced by tissue donations from registered tissue donors. Registering as a donor can make a very real difference in the life of someone desperately in need of a transplant.”
For many, the RMV is the first stop in putting their name on an organ donor list.
It is why the Braintree partnership is so important, Boger said, as there is an RMV in the town itself.
“We have an appreciation for what this program means,” Mayor Joseph Sullivan said. “It’s a tremendous gift that extends someone’s life…and it’s all about promotion today, that [this program] can be in the best way utilized.”
“We’re bringing light to this critically important thing,” Boger said. “And although it’s Donate Life Month, this is a daily occurrence.”
Braintree Fire Chief Kevin Murphy as well as Police Chief Paul Frazier were in attendance at the ceremony to be recognized in their efforts to help save lives first and foremost.
Although organ donation is the final option in the care of a patient, Sandy Duffy, a Braintree resident whose son’s organs have helped over 45 people in 19 different states, understands the importance on an entirely different level.
“[My son Chris] lives on in all of these people. A lot of people wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for him. He lives on…and my husband and sons feel good to be able to help.”
Chris died of a brain aneurism at age 35 10 years prior. Duffy Field at Hollingsworth Park has since been dedicated to the resident, who coached baseball in the town.
“I hope others hear my story and become inspired,” Sandy said. “We have to have things like this to remind the public – there are so many people waiting for organs.”
Sullivan recognized the work of Blondie Doherty and Rachel Kaprielian for their work at the Braintree RMV in asking people if they would like to be donors.
Although the RMV registration is important, Boger noted that donors don’t have to have the heard on their license if they would like to become a donor – nor does the heart qualify them for life.
Anyone would would like to put their name on or take their name off the donor list may do so online at the RMV website.
A flag was given to the town by the NE Organ Bank, which will fly throughout the month of April, recognizing Donate Life Month.