Featured, Live Beautiful


Today I spoke at my high school alma mater, Tabor Academy. One of my fellow alumni friends asked if I would be willing to share my speech. What is not to love about sharing!? So here it is:

Good morning! My name is Emily Johnson. I graduated from Tabor in 1998. My 4 years here were some of the best years of my life. I loved rowing on the crew team as well as being part of the cross country team. I performed horribly on the AP physics and French exam. Nonetheless; I did graduate from college! I am a registered nurse and also play a variety of other roles in both my personal and professional life.

However, I am not here today to talk about my experience at Tabor. I am here to share some important information with you. But before I do that – I would ask that you close your eyes. Take a deep breath in though your nose. Now let it out. With your eyes still closed, place your hand on your chest. Take another inhalation through your nose. Now exhale. Move your hand over your heart and take another deep inhale and then slowly release. Do you feel that? Yeah. Your lungs filling up with air; your heart beating strong. Some day that will all stop.

I remind you of this not to be morbid; or a buzz kill; or a Debbie Downer on your Tuesday morning here at All School Meeting but because I want to bring attention to a very important question that you will be asked or may have already been asked.

Do you want to be an organ donor?

April is National Donate Life Month and I am here today to provide information and awareness surrounding the topic of organ and tissue donation. This is not a topic that is often discussed in high schools; but I think this information is important to have as you will be faced with this decision if you plan on getting your drivers license. Even if you don’t plan on driving you can still make the decision to save a life and register online to be an organ & tissue donor.

So besides the fact that helping someone is pretty much the most awesome thing you can do in life – why bother registering to be a donor? I will give you 3 reasons.

1.) The need is great. Approx. 120,000 men, women, and children are waiting for a life saving transplant (that # fills up Fenway Park, Gillette Stadium, and the Boston Garden) Imagine all those people sitting there waiting for a phone call to save their life. Every 10 min another name is added to the waitlist and everyday 22 people die from lack of available organs for transplant.

2.) Death is often sudden & unexpected. We are all aware of this as we have lost classmates and alumni – family members and friends. Registering your decision ahead of time relieves your family of the burden to have to make the decision for you during a time of shock and grief.

3.) The 3rd reason I will share with you in a moment.

But first here are some facts:

You can be a donor at any age.

Celebrity or financial status are not factors in getting a transplant.

Donation is possible with many medical conditions

 All major religions approve of organ and tissue donation. Donation is viewed as the highest form of giving and caring to others.

 There is a national computer system and strict standards in place to ensure ethical and fair distribution of organs.

Organs that can be donated after death are the heart, liver, kidneys, lungs, pancreas and small intestines. Tissues include corneas, skin, veins, heart valves, tendons, ligaments and bones.

One deceased donor can save up to 9 lives through organ donation and can save and enhance more than 100 lives through the lifesaving and healing gift of tissue donation.

Professionally I have had the privilege of caring for both organ donors & their families as well as transplant recipients. I have made the calls to patients tethered to oxygen waiting for lungs to become available to tell them that “It was a go.” I have sat with grieving families and answered their countless questions about donation. I have run through OR hallways because the donor was crashing and minutes without a blood pressure means the organs would be lost. I have told surgeons they would have to wait because the family needed 5 more minutes to say goodbye.

But nothing comes close to the personal experience of being a donor sister. Five years ago my brother unexpectedly died. Through his gift of tissue donation he saved and enhanced the lives of 117 people. Out of those 117 people I know there are 2 people in NC whose eyesight has been restored thanks to his corneas. There is a woman in PA whose heart is now healthy thanks to his heart valve and I received a letter of gratitude from a woman who is no longer wheelchair bound thanks to his ligaments. It AMAZES me. His donation brought me an immense amount of comfort and hope during the dark days after his death.

So this. This opportunity to offer hope. This is the 3rd reason why you should register to donate. Give the gift of hope. Give the gift of life.

Thank you so much for your time and attention this morning. I wish you all well.

You Might Also Like

1 Comment

  1. Joe Mann

    April 27, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    Emily, I knew you were special when I first met you. You proved to be just that as a great nurse-coordinator at DUKE and you’re still proving it in all you do. I still remember the sinking feelings that both Carol and I had when the Boston marathon bombing occurred knowing you are a runner. Vivid also is the memory of learning you were not harmed. Yes, you are special.

Leave a Reply