TAMPA – (April 1, 2021) – Every April, LifeLink celebrates Donate Life Month, a national observance created by Donate Life America to focus on the need and importance of organ, eye and tissue donation. Due to the lack of available organs, more than 107,000 people across the country are waiting for a lifesaving transplant. During the month, the public is encouraged to learn more about donation through virtual education programs offered by LifeLink as well as registering through the state’s organ, eye and tissue donor registry. The month is also a chance to honor and recognize the generosity of donors who make saving lives through transplant possible.
Marissa Arvonio was one of the 39,000 grateful patients who received a lifesaving organ transplant in 2020, during the pandemic. Suffering from type 1 diabetes since the age of 4, Marissa struggled for years with complications that led to many 911 calls and emergency hospital stays. In 2017 Marissa developed Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP), an autoimmune disease that attacks nerves in the body, causing her to lose the ability to walk and forced her to leave a demanding career in fashion merchandising. “I had to stay in the hospital for a month. I couldn’t do much of anything. My mother came to live with me for a while because I didn’t even have the muscle strength to sit up by myself,” said Marissa.
A year later on her honeymoon, doctors called to let her know that she was in kidney failure and needed a transplant to survive. “I got home and went into Uremia before I was able to make an appointment and ended up in the hospital again. My body completely shut down, I almost lost my life,” says Marissa. She immediately began dialysis, a treatment that filters and purifies the blood through a machine, multiple times a week for hours on end.
After two years on the transplant waiting list and on her 35th birthday Marissa received a lifesaving kidney and pancreas transplant. “I woke up and walked the first day after my transplant with a walker. It’s hard when you’re sick for so long to know what a good day is. I had never felt like this before in my whole life. My CIDP is in remission and I bike 15 miles a day now,” says Marissa. “I went from being alive to actually living.” With a functioning kidney Marissa no longer needs dialysis and thanks to her pancreas she no longer suffers from type 1 diabetes.
Soon after transplant Marissa wrote a letter to her donor family and shared her gratitude. “I told them how blessed I was and how sorry I was for their loss. The one thing I want to know most is what my donor wanted to do in life and if it is something I can finish for them or carry out. I promised to pay it forward,” says Marissa. Now Marissa is excited about the future and is making plans to travel including a honeymoon redo as well as looking for a job that involves helping people and making a difference. Marissa credits her husband Scot, and family for their support and encouragement throughout her transplant journey.
For the thousands of individuals listed for a lifesaving transplant, organ donation offers hope for a longer life. Anyone can be a potential donor, regardless of age or medical history; a single donor can save or improve the lives of up to 75 people. Individuals interested in celebrating this month are encouraged to follow LifeLink social media pages on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to participate in the education programs offered.
How to Celebrate National Donate Life Month
- Give hope and save lives by registering your donation decision on the state organ, eye and tissue donor registry or when renewing or obtaining a driver license.
- Share your donation decision with family and friends.
- Learn more about donation with LifeLink during the month of April
- April 7th – Donate Life Living Donor Day Panel Facebook Live Event at 2PM to 3PM
- Join LifeLink in this new celebration where we honor living donors and discuss the different types of living donation opportunities including living kidney and liver donation.
- April 10th to 16th – Blue and Green Spirit Week
- Each day of the week leading up to National Blue and Green Day is dedicated to a special theme, and will include: recognizing donors, volunteers and healthcare heroes; giving hope to those waiting and engaging the public in fun at-home activities.
- Light up your home or business with blue and green lights to bring awareness to the donation cause. Celebrate during spirit week or on Blue and Green Day! Post your photo on social media and tag LifeLink on Facebook.
- April 13th – Messages of Hope: Donor Family and Recipient Communication Panel Facebook Live Event at 12PM to 1PM
- Join LifeLink for a virtual presentation to learn how LifeLink connects families who want to communicate or meet after donation and transplantation.
- April 16th – National Blue and Green Day
- Wear blue and green colors in support of the Donate Life message and mission. Submit a photo in your most creative and spirited blue and green day attire to the Donate Life America photo contest starting April 16th to April 20th.
- April 18th to 24th – National Pediatric Transplant Week
- This week is dedicated to kids with a focus on ending the pediatric transplant waiting list.
- April 22nd – The Journey: Pediatric Donation Panel Facebook Live Event at 6pm to 7pm
- Join LifeLink as we discuss the journey of pediatric donation through the eyes of a donor mom, transplant recipient and professionals who work within the pediatric community.
- April 27th – How Tax Collectors and LifeLink Work Together to Save Lives Panel Facebook Live at 10AM to 11AM
- Join LifeLink as we share how tax collectors support donation when individuals obtain a driver license as well as information on a new initiative to help save lives with a Donate Life Florida specialty plate.