SGI Graduates Share Story of Organ and Tissue Donation

It’s a simple, selfless act of kindness that can prolong an individual’s life

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Organ and tissue donation is a topic Rebecca Nason has been passionate about since she was a child. She was only five years old, when her cousin, Danea Johnson was added to the waiting list for a kidney. Late January 1996 an unfortunate car accident resulted in a second chance at life for Danea, at the young age of 12. Her kidney donor’s family opted for their son’s generosity to be recognized, which still is to this day. They celebrate “Kidney Day” on January 28th annually by meeting for dinner to honor his memory.

Because the lifespan of a donated kidney is so short, Danea’s health resulted in her being placed on the list again in 2016. She received notification late on December 18, 2017 that a match was located. After a successful surgery the next day, she was given yet another gift of life and a second “Kidney Day” to honor.

After a short illness, on April 16, 2015 Rebecca’s stepfather, Robin Willmott, took his final breath. Friends and co-workers asked how they could help during that difficult time. Rebecca’s one request was to try and prevent other families from saying goodbye as early as they did. He was fighting hard for a lung transplant across the country, but his body unfortunately had other plans. Through his generosity, others were granted the gift of life. Some are even fortunate enough to receive this gift more than once in their lifetime, like Rebecca’s cousin.

When the time came, it was an easy decision for Rebecca to indicate that she would be willing to be a donor when filling out her learner’s permit application. She’s also had this discussion many times with her loved ones, so they’d be well informed of her wishes at the time of need. Rebecca asked her loved ones who hadn’t indicated or discussed wishes with their family, to please consider the selfless act of organ, eye or tissue donation. She was ashamed to learn that New York State ranks lowest of all 50 states for residents registered as organ donors.

Rebecca started donating blood with Unyts in 2010 for her heroes, Robin and Danea. She currently has over 60 successful blood/platelet donations with Unyts. She believes blood donation is a simple, selfless act that can prolong an individual’s life; affecting their future, their loved ones, their community, and quite possibly the world.

In 2011, Rebecca switched to strictly platelets. A quick test had determined that her blood type and platelet count were ideal for platelet donation. One major difference is that she can donate more often (every 14 days compared to the 56 days for whole blood). For Rebecca, the worst part is the finger prick during testing, to determine if her iron levels are at a suitable level. Periodically squeezing a stress ball while lying on a heated chair with a comfy blanket, and watching a movie is the easy part! Not to mention the variety of snacks and drinks and the enjoyable conversation with the staff.

“They know me so well, that they greet me by name before I sign in and still continue to thank me each visit for taking the time to donate with Unyts,” says Rebecca. “They even remember the little things, like having a glass of chocolate milk ready for me, setting up the machine so I can donate using my left arm and turning the heating blanket on to the maximum level. Knowing you’re appreciated makes the desire to donate again so much easier!”

For Rebecca, the most rewarding part of donating is the mystery of who she’s helping. She doesn’t know the name of a single individual that has received her platelet donations. It could be a newborn with a blood disorder, a cancer patient undergoing treatment or the victim of a serious injury. Rebecca fondly remembers her donation towards the end of December 2017. Since platelets have a five day shelf life, the staff notified her that after testing was complete, her donation would likely be a Christmas miracle for a local family.

Through her story, Rebecca hopes to make an impact by encouraging others to register as an organ, eye, and tissue donor at along with donating whole blood, double reds or platelets. She is looking forward to hearing other’s stories and increasing awareness about donation in the community at the blood drive she’s hosting at her work, Amigone Funeral Home, Inc., 2600 Sheridan Dr., Tonawanda on Friday, January 25, 2019. Click here to make an appointment!

We thank you, Rebecca, for your generous donations and for your commitment to being an advocate of donation and our mission.