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Donate LIfe Month

Video: Julia's Story

Public education materials on organ donation indicate eight lives can be saved by a single organ donor, however, that statistic doesn't represent a fraction of the impact a single donor can make on the lives of others.  For every transplant recipient saved and each donor who gives the gift of life, the effects ripple into the lives of their loved ones and friends, as well as every person influenced by their story in the future. 

Darren Sussman, a kidney/pancreas recipient, can attest to this fact first hand.  A year and a half ago, Darren was suffering from end stage kidney failure thanks to a lifetime of type 1 diabetes.  He was on dialysis, which sucked him of energy to the point that he had to rest at the top of the stairs in his home before continuing on to his bedroom.  Darren was on the waiting list for a kidney and pancreas transplant, which would get him off dialysis and cure his diabetes.  When he was first placed on the list for organ transplantation Darren picked up the phone with anticipation every time it rang.  But by December 2010, he had long since stopped thinking every call was "his call" for a second chance at life, When his phone rang while he was out to dinner with friends and the caller said it was time to come into the hospital, Darren thought a friend was playing a prank on him.

Meanwhile, the Paleveda family was already at a local hospital, grieving the loss of their beloved son, brother and friend, Casey.  Casey Paleveda, 22, died as a result of a drug overdose which resulted in loss of brain function.  The Palevedas were presented with the option of organ donation, a chance for Casey's final legacy to be one of life.  They said "yes".

Little did Darren Sussman or the Paleveda family know, but at that moment, their lives were forever entwined.  Darren received Casey's kidney and pancreas in December, 2010.  The donation process between donor family and transplant recipient is anonymous, although it is not unusual for communication to pass between the two through appropriate channels. It's not typical for a family to meet a recipient of their loved one's organs by chance, but in the case of Darren Sussman and the Paleveda family, they did. 

During his free time, Darren does everything in his power to increase organ donation so that other patients in need of a life-saving transplants are helped, and to honor Casey's memory.  Even though the Paleveda family isn't typically in the audience when Darren tells his story, they support his mission to save lives, and they are present in spirit.  When their shared legacy inspires someone else to register as a donor they call it "The Casey Connection" - where the gifts of one donor, Casey Paleveda, and the voice of one organ recipient, Darren Sussman, continue to impact lives resulting in an immeasurable opportunity to save the lives of others. 

This April, during the federally sanctioned Donate Life Month, LifeLink® of Florida honors the spirit of those individuals who make transplants possible-organ, tissue and eye donors. We celebrate the lives of those who received their second chance - and finally, we call attention to the more than 130,000 - nearly 900 of whom are local - men, women and children who still wait across the United States.

The Casey Connection, a short documentary detailing Darren's story and Casey's legacy, will show at Centro Ybor Muvico on April 14, 2012, at 12:30 pm, 2:00 pm, 3:00 pm, 4:00 pm, 5:00 pm and 7:00 pm and admission will be FREE.  LifeLink of Florida will also hold an event at Centro Ybor between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm to celebrate Donate Life Month, complete with family friendly activities and food, all FREE, and a special Linking Hands For Life main event from noon-12:30.  Contact LifeLink® at 813-253-2640 for more information.

LifeLink of Florida is a non-profit community service organization dedicated to the recovery of organs and tissues for transplantation.

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