During the recent Culver City Council Meeting, Dr. Mason Sommers received a proclamation in honor of Donate Life Awareness Month and on behalf of Donate Life California.
Dr. Sommers, the recipient of a young heart, has been a Donate Life ambassador for three years. Just in his early 50s, he suffered congested heart failure and lost all organ functioning.
“I was hospitalized and I wasn’t even a candidate for a transplant because my body was too weak,” Dr. Sommers said. “However, I was on a special device that kept circulating blood through my heart. “Finally, I went through the process of preparing myself to be a recipient to be a match. Sadly, with the demise of a young 23-year-old male who had been in an accident with blunt head force trauma and who at the young age had decided to become an organ donor and I was blessed to receive his heart.”
Situations like Dr. Sommers’ happen everyday and it is through the donation of organs and tissues upon a person’s death that other lives can be saved. Donate Life is the national organization, while One Legacy is the local Los Angeles organ procurement organization that facilitates the transfer of donated organs to recipients through United Network for Organs Sharing.
Throughout the year, Donate Life and ambassadors like Dr. Sommers spend time educating people about the importance of becoming organ donors and how to register to become organ donors.
“Our mission is to raise awareness about the need for tissue and organ registry which can be done either online, at www.donatelifecalifornia.org or when one registers at the DMV to get a drivers license,” Dr. Sommers said. “You get the pink dot on your drivers license where you let people know that you have made a decision to donate your organs upon you demise.”
The evening of the Culver City Council Meeting and proclamation, Rachael Greenberg, who lost her husband a little more than a year ago because of a brain hemorrhage, accompanied Dr. Sommers. Greenberg’s husband registered as an organ donor back in 2007 at the Department of Motor Vehicles in Culver City. Also present was Donna Hoch, whom Dr. Sommers met at a reception on behalf of donor families. Hoch lost her son, age 21, but he was able to provide tissue for people who were in need as he too registered as a donor, also at the DMV in Culver City.
“She (Greenberg) recalled he being so excited about having made that decision,” Dr. Sommers said. “So she is now a donate life ambassador.”
Dr. Sommers, a clinical psychologist, indicates that eight lives can be saved through direct organ donations (heart, liver, lungs, kidneys and pancreas). Tissue can save several lives as well and make a difference with things such as corneas. For Dr. Sommers having had a second chance at life has more than motivated him to gety behind the effort to educate people about the benefits of donating organs.
“I decided that I wanted to give back so I am the ambassador to four cities: Culver City, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and the City of Duarte,” Dr. Sommers said. “During April, I go and receive a proclamation from the city councils and speak about my experience. This year I was blessed to be joined by two other people.”
It is always a challenge to meet people and engage them in the conversation to become organ donors given the many misconceptions or misinformation that exist. Yet, it does not discourage him from his objective.
“One of the most common things is to hear people say that if a person is involved in an accident and if the emergency rescue team knows that they are an organ donor, that they will not do everything in their power to save their lives: that is totally ridiculous,” Dr. Sommers said. “Nobody is ever asked if they are a donor in an emergency situation. The reality is that in order to be an organ donor, you have to die under very specific circumstances, in the hospital.”
On Saturday, at the California State University in Fullerton, an annual 5K run/walk will be hosted at the campus with more than 12,000 families, recipients, people on the waiting list and donors in attendance. Registration begins at 7 a.m. with the run/walk starting at 9 a.m.
“We are all going to die but the idea that in our passing we have the opportunity to give new life, kind of changes the futility of death because we create beautiful lives for other people,” Dr. Sommers said. “It is an amazing opportunity to raise awareness about the need to register.”