April is National Donate Life Month
Connectlife is excited to announce that we are continuing with the “Garden of Life” theme from last year for National Donate Life Month 2021. This year, same as last, all Donate Life Month activities and celebrations will take place online. Join in the celebrations by following ConnectLife on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn and here on our website. Share our posts on your social media pages!
Throughout the month, we will be sharing stories of local heroes, facts about organ, eye, and tissue donation and transplantation, and recognizing local healthcare workers for their lifesaving work during this pandemic.
Garden of Life Theme
Despite the difficult times we are living in, we can "keep going, keep growing." This quote along with the garden of life serves are reminders of the hope and transformed life that we often see in stories of donation and transplantation.
Calendar of Events
Download the calendar here.
Honoring Local Heroes: Hannah, Shane, & MacKenzie
When Shane was little, his siblings called him "Shane the Pain" because he always wanted to be included in what the big kids were doing. That is until he discovered his love for fishing around the age of 6. Then fishing was all he wanted to do with anyone who would take him.
Shane never cared about fitting in. He was always very stubborn and definitely was his own unique individual. He wasn’t into sports and didn’t care about popularity when he was in school. He was the kid who stuck up for the kids being bullied. He never wanted to see people sad or hurt and because of this he was very respected by his teachers (as told to me by one of his former teachers). Shane was known to go into classes he wasn’t supposed to be in just to see if the teachers would notice. Sometimes that turned into him helping out in that class.
Shane had an infectious smile (and smirk) and was so fun and full of life. You never knew what that boy would do at any given time which is part of why people were drawn to him. He always had a fishing story to tell to whoever would listen and would take anyone who wanted to go out fishing.
I have reached out to several of his friends to get their descriptions of him and the responses have been so overwhelming as his mother to know how deeply he has touched and helped so many people. One friend stated he would describe Shane as the most compassionate, caring, and helpful person he ever met. He never let anyone down. He was hilarious and definitely a class clown, but he was also the person you went to if you were sad. He always thought of others before himself. And he was always having fun. And he was extremely honest. A very honest person.
Shane, myself, and Shane’s step dad had had a few conversation in regards to organ donation. Shane knew our wishes as we are both an organ donor and it was something he thought was great but hadn’t gotten around to signing up to be an organ donor. Shane’s step mother and I made this decision for him because we knew he would want to help others if he could. Organ donation is sometimes not an easy choice but one that can save and help may different people. Shane was completely about helping other and if he were here today I know he would have agreed with our choice and try to convince others to be donors as well. Not only has Shane saved many lives while he was alive he is also doing so in death. - says Mindy, Shane's mom
As of right now, Shane's family only knows that something was donated to someone in Wisconsin. They look forward to finding out more of where his donations went to.
Hannah was an amazing daughter and friend. Her friends often looked up to her. She was a go-getter and was very goal oriented. She loved to have fun! Wine tours and going to dinner at a variety of local restaurants were some of her favorite things to do.
She was one of the strongest people. She never let whatever was wrong get her down. No matter what the circumstance, she picked herself up and kept on going. She was very loving with family and was a sweet role model for her siblings.
I had no idea she was an organ donor. It’s just not something we discussed...I found out she was a donor at the hospital after she passed away. The hospital staff gave me a heads up that ConnectLife would be in touch within hours... it was a lot to take in to be perfectly honest. The call came at about 1:00 am, and I didn’t hesitate to give authorization because I believed it to be her wish. - says Hannah's mom, Sue
Hannah's family hopes to one day learn more about the recipients of Hannah's tissue donation. They keep Hannah’s memory alive by talking about her and telling funny stories and memories. They also think of her during trips to Allegany State Park where they have spread some of her ashes as it was one of her favorite places to be.
MacKenzie (Kenzie) Kulesza
MacKenzie was eleven years old when she tragically passed away. She loved to make people laugh and cheer them up when they were down by telling jokes or acting silly. She also loved to help people and she loved animals, especially horses. She was well known for her love for the country artist, Luke Bryan.
She was becoming the bargaining queen when she would go to yard sales and flea markets, she loved getting bargains and would get so excited when someone would give her something for free because she was cute. Her mom remembers the excitement in Kenzie’s voice when she would say, "Mom, guess what!" then tell her all about it. She loved spending time with her friends and having slumber parties and beating me at backgammon, she was getting pretty good at it too. Kenzie loved being an aunt to her niece Maci. Kenzie was simply developing into a wonderful young woman.
On November 10, 2020 Kenzie and some of her friends walked to the store down the road from her house. On the way back three of the girls were hit by a vehicle. When her family was at the hospital, they were told that she was brain dead, it was devastating. As a parent you think about donating your own organs, not your child's, it is not supposed to happen this way.
“I was not an organ donor, never thought much about it really. When the reality of my daughter's condition sunk in, an overwhelming feeling came over me, something said donate her organs. If she wasn't going to make it then she could live on in someone else. I have no doubt in my mind that this is what she would want, that's how she was.” – Kenzie’s mom
On November 12, 2020, Kenzie was removed from life support, with her family by her side. Initially there were three people that were ready to receive some of Kenzie's organs, unfortunately they were too damaged to be transplanted. Instead those organs will be used for education, Kenzie will be a teacher. Her corneas went to two people to help with their vision. Her heart valves and tissues will also be used to help people. She would be so proud that she is continuing to help people. She truly is a hero.
The Importance of Organ, Eye & Tissue Donation
About 100,000 people in the US are waiting for a lifesaving organ, that's more people than all of the seats at the KeyBank Center, New Era Field, and Salen's Field combined. More than 10% of those waiting are living here in New York State.
Join The Donate Life Registry
As Western New York's only federally designated organ, eye, and tissue procurement organization, ConnectLife saves and enhances lives through the support and compassion of donors who graciously choose to give the gift of life.
Did you know...
1 organ donor can save up to 8 lives
1 tissue donor can restore health and heal up to 75 lives
1 cornea donor can restore sight to 2 people
Have You Had The Talk?
Step 1: Make your loved ones aware of your healthcare decisions and wishes to be an organ donor. This is the most important step.
Step 2: Visit ConnectLife.org/Register or call 716-529-4300 to have an enrollment card mailed to you. You can also register at your local auto bureau.