Jun 11, 2014
08:10 AM
Health & Science

Connecticut Dad’s (Father’s Day) Pride: Son’s Organ Donation Helps 43

Connecticut Dad’s (Father’s Day) Pride: Son’s Organ Donation Helps 43

Jeremy Jennings.

Pat Jennings’ son, Jeremy, was the kind of person you would have wanted to know.

Universally friendly and willing to help others, “he was willing to help you out in a time of need,” Jennings says of his son. “In a way, everyone he met was a friend if they wanted to be.”

Jeremy Jennings, who lived in Meriden, ended his life on June 2, 2012, at age 35.

“I think losing a child has got to be the worst thing anyone can experience,” says Jennings, whose grief as another Father's Day comes around is greatly eased by the legacy his late son left.

From personal tragedy for the Jennings family has come an unexpected happiness in helping others. It's what his son would have wanted.

Jeremy had registered as an organ donor prior to his death.

(Picture of Jeremy Jennings, right, provided by his family.)

“Jeremy really never said anything to me about being an organ donor other than that he was registered,” his father recalls. “We decided to donate his organs because that was his wish.”

According to the last update provided to the family in January, Jeremy’s donation has helped 43 people in 13 states, including a newborn baby, a teenager, an elderly man and many others.

Also see our story The Changing Face of Fatherhood in Connecticut

The Jennings family worked with LifeChoice Donor Services, Inc., a federally designated, nonprofit organ procurement organization (OPO) serving parts of Connecticut and Massachusetts, during the difficult time following their son’s passing. The organization acts as a facilitator that works with donors, or their families, and the recipients.

“They basically bent over backwards,” Jennings says of working with LifeChoice.

Caitlyn Bernabucci of LifeChoice (logo below) says that is the OPO’s goal to provide as much information and support as possible throughout the donation process.

Eighteen people die each day in the U.S. while waiting for a transplant. Nationally, there are more than 122,000 people waiting for transplants. Approximately 1,400 of those individuals live in Connecticut, according to Bernabucci.

“One donor can help more than 50 people,” says Bernabucci. “It is important for people to not rule themselves out.”

Both organs and tissue can be donated, and when someone registers as a donor they are consenting to donate any organs and tissues that are suitable to save or enhance someone's life. For organs, that includes the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, intestine and pancreas. For tissue, that includes skin, bone, veins, valves, tendons and corneas.

(Infographic, right, courtesty of Donor Alliance)

If someone has specific wishes about which organs and tissue they do not want to donate, they can visit donatelifenewengland.org.

Bernabucci says many people opt not to donate certain organs or tissue because they don’t believe they’re healthy enough to be viable. Bernabucci ensures that all donations go through a “very intense” scanning process to ensure the donations are healthy and a good match for recipients.

“It’s a very powerful gift,” says Bernabucci. Jeremy Jennings’ story is just one example of what’s possible through organ donation.

Pat Jennings says he was not an organ donor before his son’s passing, but since going through the process with LifeChoice and seeing the difference his son’s donation has made, he’s reconsidering his choice.

For more information on LifeChoice visit its website. 

Contact me by email at khartman@connecticutmag.com and follow me on Twitter, and connect with Connecticut Magazine on Twitter, onFacebook and on Google +

Connecticut Dad’s (Father’s Day) Pride: Son’s Organ Donation Helps 43

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