Tim Lewis, assistant professor of business, knows first-hand the impact that an organ donor can have. In 2012, his son Tyson was the recipient of a donor heart--a gift that extended his life by six years. Lewis wanted to honor that gift by encouraging others to consider signing the Organ Donor Registry during April, national Donate Life Month.

Lewis and the students of Phi Beta Lambda business club organized a campus-wide “Me Plus One” drive, with the goal of signing up 250 new donors in April. So far, the push has yielded 172 new donors on the registry.

PictureYC students sign up to be added to the organ donor registry and put on green ribbons to raise awareness after chapel on April 1.
Speaking in chapel on April 1, Lewis told the campus community about the need in Nebraska and across the nation for donors. “As we sit here, 114,000 people in the United States need a life saving transplant in the next 60 days. 2,000 of those are children under 16….20 people every day die in the U.S. while waiting for a transplant,” he said.

Lewis asked for anyone in the audience gathered for chapel that day to stand if they were already registered organ donors. About three quarters of the audience of 400+ stood. “On behalf of parents and families that are sitting in hospitals all over the country today, waiting, I thank you for your heroic willingness to help,” he told them.

According to Lewis, 95 percent of people say they think being an organ donor is a good thing, however only 58 percent of eligible people in the United States are registered donors. “In the state of Nebraska, that number is just under 80 percent, so way to go Cornhuskers,” Lewis added, reminding the audience that every donor can save up to nine people’s lives.

Some choose not to register as an organ donor due to bad information, said Lewis, who dispelled the top three myths:
  1. It’s going to cost my family money. “This is simply not true,” Lewis explained, noting that all costs associated with transplant are the responsibility of the recipient, not the donor.
  2. I’m too old, or have something wrong with me that makes me ineligible to be a donor. Lewis explained that most people are eligible to give something, from skin to corneas, and that it should be left up to the experts to decide. He encouraged everyone to register, regardless of age or physical limitations.
  3. I won’t be able to have a normal funeral. In 98 percent of cases, there are no visible changes to the body of an organ donor and no change to the appearance, so this really shouldn’t be a concern that limits participation in the registry, said Lewis.

“It’s a numbers game,” said Lewis. Most people in the U.S. will die of old age, heart disease or cancer, making them unable to provide this gift of life to another. “There’s a very small group of people ultimately that will be able to give.” That’s why having as large a number people registered to give is so important.

Lewis’s son Tyson passed away last September, waiting for a second heart transplant, as the first transplant heart was failing. While lying in his hospital bed waiting, Tyson told his dad that when he was better, he wanted to dedicate his time to raising awareness for organ donation. “I’ll do it with you,” Lewis told him. Keeping that promise to his son is what prompted Lewis to host the registry drive on the York College campus. Lewis challenged everyone to register and bring a friend or family member with them.

Missed the sign-up on campus? Don’t worry, there is still time to participate. You can sign the registry for Nebraska or search for other states’ registries at www.liveonnebraska.org.