Reflections on Work with LifeNet Health

The following post was written by Andrew Thetford, GHF ’19. Every ninth grader at Norfolk Academy is required to participate in some sort of community service on Wednesday afternoons in the fall. The GHF ’19s were lucky enough to have that experience tailored to their interest in and passion for health and wellbeing: they were invited to LifeNet Health to help expand youth outreach.

From the very beginning of our six week community service program at LifeNet Health, the Organ (and tissue) Procurement Agency for Virginia, we were introduced to the LifeNet Health slogan: Saving Lives.  Restoring Health.  Giving Hope.  The last part, “Giving Hope”, was recently added to emphasize the amazing, positive impact that organ and tissue donation has on recipients and their family.  The program that my cohort took part in served to educated us on organ and tissue donation and also to raise awareness about its importance.

From our first day there, where we toured the beautiful LifeNet Health facilities, to the last, where we gave a presentation to the executive board, we were constantly learning more and more about organ tissue and realizing just how important it was that we spread its message.  During our second and third sessions, we were introduced to the many myths and misconceptions people have about organ and tissue donation, and even met an employee who received a spine graft.  This meeting was particularly enlightening, as it opened up our minds to how something no bigger than a quarter could change a woman and her family’s lives forever.  Our fourth and fifth meetings were dedicated to coming up with a solution for the lack of awareness about organ and tissue donation, especially in the teenage generation.  Our proposed solution was to create a LifeNet Health Instagram account, featuring video clips, informational pictures, and a little something we came up with known as #MythMonday, where each Monday we post a picture with a common myth or little known fact. Followers then comment whether they think the myth or fact is truth or fiction.  We concluded our program with a presentation to the executive board, including CEO Rony Thomas.

The GHF '19s at their final presentation.

The GHF ’19s at their final presentation.

Before I came to LifeNet Health, I had really not thought about organ and tissue donation, and I know that this is the same for most of my classmates, and indeed my generation.  Maybe we learned about checking the box when we get our license, or had a casual conversation with our parents about it, but we had never seriously thought about it, certainly never stressed over what decision we are going to make when we get our license.  However, LifeNet Health has helped us to realize how much this needs to change.  Through the hands on programs we have taken part in the last six weeks, we have realized that the importance of organ and tissue donation should play a larger role for everyone, especially teenagers like us.  We can no longer allow the lack of knowledge about organ and tissue donation to grow unchecked.

Our six week program at LifeNet Health was an amazing, enlightening experience.  Each of us left LifeNet Health that last Wednesday disappointed that we could not stay for longer, but also excited, for the bright hopes that our social media solution holds.  We hope for continued success in all LifeNet Health operations, and would like to especially thank Ms. Franza, Neubauer, Bishop, and Mr. Rony Thomas for their effort, time, and thought that made our weeks there all that they were.

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