Sharing Facts & Stories of Hope

Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Team Visits Local Students

The Decision of a LifetimeGaret shares her story of illness since age thirteen and her survival, with the support of medicine and the love of family and friends, until she reached the unexpected age of fifty, when she received a liver transplant. Her story resonates well with students of high-school age, as she became ill as a teen and her organ donor was a seventeen-year-old student from Frederick, Maryland. 

Why did Garet share her story with high school students? Garet Spiese is the project secretary for the Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness (OTDA) project, and she and OTDA Project Coordinator Heather Shearer visited Lancaster County Career and Technology Center to speak with Health Careers students in October. The group of forty-five (45) Health Careers students were very receptive to the brief introduction to organ and tissue donation which Heather presented by showing the five-minute video “Organ Donation and Transplantation: How Does It Work?” Then Garet shared her story.

In addition to their presentations, Heather and Garet distributed to every student a packet which contained materials and stories related to organ and tissue donation. Heather talked about each sheet in the packet as students followed along.

  • They learned about statistics: that there are 133,187* people waiting for a life-saving organ transplant, 8,510 of them in Pennsylvania alone.
  • They were enlightened about myths and facts surrounding organ donation: for example, that the wealthy remain “just a number” on the UNOS waiting list as do those less affluent -- because one is wealthy does not mean they receive preferential treatment when it comes to organ donation.
  • They identified which organs and tissues of the body can be donated.
  • They found out that practically every religion supports organ donation.
  • They also learned that one can donate organs, whether an infant or an elderly person.

The students had many questions, including:

  • How long is an organ viable for transplant outside the body?
  • What jobs are available in the organ transplant field for healthcare workers?
  • When a person receives a transplant, for how long must they take anti-rejection medication?

In conclusion, Heather showed the video, “Ray of Hope,” about Jason Ray, a 20-year-old organ donor and former mascot for the North Carolina Tarheels. The floor was open to final questions and discussion, then Heather and Garet distributed Donate Life pens and lanyards.

If you would like a similar presentation in your classroom, contact Heather Shearer at She will be happy to make arrangements with OTDA Project Personnel to come inspire your students about organ and tissue donation.


*This waiting list varies daily