MIDTOWN, Manhattan (PIX11) — It’s a tough conversation to have with loved ones, but have you or other family members checked the box for organ donations?
There was a huge gathering at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Saturday, all about gratitude for organ donations.
It was called Remember and Rejoice at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. And it was the largest gathering of organ donor families and transplant recipients in the country. It was organized by the Manhattan chapter of TRIO, Transplant Recipients International Organization.
More than 800 people attended the 26th annual ecumenical service honoring all the New York organ donors, their families and the organ transplant recipients.
“It’s an overwhelming feeling of gratitude,” Jennifer Mayadas-Dering, a heart recipient, told PIX11 News. “I wake up every day thinking of Sarah.”
It’s been two years since 53-year-old Jennifer Mayados-Dering received the heart that saved her life from 28-year-old Sarah Griffin, a mother of four who died unexpectedly.
Jennifer was in great physical shape, a professional racketball player, but caught a virus that sent her into heart failure.
“Luckily, I had some of the best doctors,” Jennifer told PIX11 News. “After six weeks, I got the call the perfect heart had been found for me and at that point, Life was going to begin again for me.”
Doctors at Westchester Medical Center were able to perform a successful heart transplant.
And Sarah’s sister Michelle Johnson didn’t know she had checked the organ donor box.
“The donor team came in and explained everything, knowing at our time of grief, that she was able to save others and give them a second chance at life,” Johnson told PIX11 News.
Sarah Griffin’s donation saved five lives, including Jennifer’s.
And everyone inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral believes in this one message.
“The first thing you have to do is to tell your family about donations. Make sure you have that tough conversation because families authorize donations for their loved ones,” Leonard Achan, the president and CEO of liveonny.org, told PIX11 News. “Or go to the DMV or liveonny.org. Click on to become a donor. It just takes two minutes and there are so many people in need.”
Michelle Johnson, the sister of the heart donor, agreed.
“After meeting my sister’s heart recipient, I was like, I have to do this to help save others if I can,” Johnson told PIX11 News.
As one donor recipient said, the message isn’t just to check the donor box. It’s also important to make the connection to the donor family because it’s so healing for all.
If you’d like more information about donations, you can go to liveonny.org.