For many students, the start of a new school year is an exciting time. For teachers, it’s an opportunity to approach teaching with a new enthusiasm after a summer away from work and students. Lehigh Career and Technical Institute (LCTI) nurse, Liz Kennedy, believes that the beginning of the school year signifies a time to help students, and another opportunity to educate them about organ and tissue donation education.
Allentown, PA residents, Liz and Dave Kennedy, have personal insight into the life-saving and enhancing power of organ and tissue donation. Their son, David Kennedy Jr., died in a car accident when he was just 19. This tragedy hit the Kennedy family hard. Little did they know at the time, saying “yes” to donation would have a lasting, positive effect on them.
David Jr. was a tissue donor and was able to enhance the lives of more than 45 others through the selfless act of being a donor. “If your child dies, you can’t bring them back. But donation was something that we could do. It has helped us heal.” said David’s mother, Liz. “I wasn’t educated that much about tissue donation, and now knowing how many people it helped, I try to share this information and educate others.”
Since David Jr.’s death, Liz and Dave continue his legacy through educating the community about organ and tissue donation. Liz has been a nurse for more than 40 years, and has worked as a nurse at LCTI for 15 years. She has a strong connection with her students, and wants them to have all of the facts and information necessary to make an educated decision about registering as an organ and tissue donor.
“I see how interested students are in learning about donation and understanding the facts. As they get ready to get their driver’s license, it’s an important time for them to learn about organ and tissue donation. It’s their choice. I give them the information and then they can make an informed decision.” Liz said.
Dave also works in education. He became President of the Parkland Board of School Directors in 2015, and has served on the Board for the past 19 years. He has been a part of the Joint Operating Committee for LCTI for 19 years. Dave’s background is in printing sales, and he has been on LCTI’s Advisory Board for the Print Technology Lab since the 1970s.
Together Dave and Liz have shared their story many times throughout the community, including speaking at local high schools. “I think that our personal experience has given us a perspective that is unique and others can really understand. We’ve been through it and we have an insight that others can see and appreciate. I think it may be difficult for many parents to discuss donation with their children because no one wants to think about the worst happening. I think it’s easier for us to have these conversations with the kids. The students see us as educators and feel comfortable to ask questions, which they may feel uncomfortable asking their parents.” said Liz.
Education is power. When people learn the truth about donation, and are able to dispel the untrue myths and misconceptions – they are often motivated to register – which is critically needed. Due to the need for more donors in the U.S., an average of 21 people die each day while waiting for a life-saving organ and tissue transplant. In Gift of Life’s region – the eastern half of PA, southern NJ and DE – more than 5,600 men, women and children are waiting for a transplant. Nationally, over 119,000 are waiting. Just one organ and tissue donor can save and enhance the lives of up to 50 others through organ and tissue donation, showing how impactful choosing to register as a donor can be. You can help! Register today to be an organ and tissue donor at donors1.org. It only takes 30 seconds to register.