“Turn something tragic into something heroic and courageous”

LifeChoice LogoI began my career in the Westport, CT, Fire Department in 2007 as a 20-year-old kid who had just achieved his lifelong goal of becoming a firefighter.  During the first few years of my career, I became a volunteer with Donate Life CT to raise awareness about organ and tissue donation.

Ironically, only a couple years later, I blew out my knee on the job and required surgery that involved donated tissue.  I went through nine months of rehabilitation to get conditioned to do the job again and went back on the line.  Throughout this time, I had given speeches and worked events as a volunteer for organ and tissue donation, always thinking that organ donation was the biggest and most iconic part.

It wasn’t until I met another volunteer who had lost a sister in a motor vehicle accident that I realized how important tissue donation is.  We were talking about it and I mentioned how I never really felt like I had much “street cred” being a tissue recipient giving speeches next to heart and liver recipients.  She then told me about her sister and how she was only able to donate her tissue due to the circumstances of her accident.  I was truly humbled hearing her talk about how the experience of losing a sister was able to have some positive outcome.  And that is really the reason that I feel organ and tissue donation is so important, especially in the emergency services field.

Every day we are faced with terrible and tragic scenes where people lose their lives.  But given the advances in modern medicine, we have the ability as human beings to turn something tragic into something heroic and courageous.  I think that the mission of organ and tissue donation is an extension of our mission in the field, and I encourage everybody to talk it over with their friends and families.  Chances are you know somebody who has benefited from organ or tissue donation.  Even if you don’t, the statistics showing the need for more registered donors are staggering.

I encourage you to learn more about organ and tissue donation and consider becoming registered donors.

– Firefighter Joseph Arnson

National Donate Life Month: Jason’s Story

Jason age 12 (2)The following is a guest blog post that came to us as via our commitment to the intersection of EMS and Organ Donation, courtesy of LifeChoice Donor Services, and as part of National Donate Life Month.

The fear which truly speaks to the heart of a first responder and parent answering a child trauma call is, what if that were my son, daughter, niece, or nephew.  I’m here to tell you, having that fear realized is even worse than your worst anticipations. I was a police officer on the City of Groton PD for 25 years. I was on the Dive/Rescue team for 16 years, a Critical Incident Stress Debriefer, started the Dept. bicycle team, MRT, CPR Instructor, and received the Dept. Life Saving Medal. I have seen just about every type of crime, accident, injury, or wrong that can be perpetrated by one human being against another.  None of those skills prepares you to respond to your own son’s motor bike accident in front of your house on a cold early December Saturday while decorating for Christmas in 1997.

Memories of a screech of tires, a scream for “Dad”, doing CPR with my wife, a Nurse Practitioner, the distant sirens, and faces in the periphery. The aftermath of a miscalculation by Jason, my 15 year old, and another friend’s collision, would never be undone.  The hazy memory of an ambulance ride, hospital personnel, worried faces, and then finally a pronouncement the next day of an unrecoverable traumatic brain injury, despite the helmet, all reside within me still.

Through the haze, numbness, denial, phone calls, hugs, and raw soul-wracking tears, I remember being quietly asked about donation.  My wife, having been a critical care nurse at one time, found it easy to respond yes, while I was not yet ready to accept this finality.  But I also knew deep within my heart that if lives could be saved by such a simple choice when no other outcome was possible, then of course we’d do that.  And it might even make some sense out of a senseless loss, or at least be a life-affirming positive side to an otherwise helpless situation.  It also gave us some sense of control in the chaos around us.

The decision was made to donate any and all organs, bone, and skin tissue, and I distinctly remember thinking why do anything limited or ‘half-ass’, that if a life or lives could be saved by this simple act, even though my son’s could not, then that’s what we’d do, and I signed the papers.  (As a side note to all this, we were still able to have an open casket and say our final goodbyes to Jason.)   I won’t pretend it was easy, but it was right, and over time has made life without Jason easier knowing his life had meaning, and does, in a real sense, still go on.

By Jim Murray, Jason’s dad

Norwich, CT

LifeChoice is the federally designated, non-profit organ procurement organization (OPO) for six counties in Connecticut and three counties in Western Massachusetts, with a combined population of 2.3 million people. The OPO serves 23 acute care hospitals for organ and tissue donation, and has two organ transplant hospitals: Hartford Hospital in Hartford, CT, and Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, MA. For more information or to schedule an in-service, please contact Donna Crombez at dcrombez@lifechoiceopo.org.

Myths about organ donation, and its relation to EMS, debunked

WFSB 3 Connecticut


Organ donation is a popular topic, however there are some myths that may keep people from joining the registry.

Organ donors can change the lives of so many people in need.

“A gift of medicine, that only a person can give,” said Caitlyn Bernabucci, of Life Choice Donor Services. “Just one donor can help more than 50 people through the gift of organs and tissues.”

She said the need is great right now, and that about 21 people die every day waiting for a transplant.

Still, more than half of Connecticut residents are not signed up for the donor registry, and Bernabucci said some damaging misconceptions are to blame.

“We want to make sure people understand the facts,” she said.

The first misconception is that organs will be taken before the person is actually dead, but that simply is not the case. Read the whole story here…

Praise from LifeChoice Donor Services

LifeChoice Donor Services and Aetna Ambulance are partnersWe recently had an organ donor at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, MA. The lung team was going to fly into a Massachusetts airport, so we had to book with an MA ambulance. At the last minute they changed their destination to Bradley, they were on the ground before we knew it! Aetna came through – as always, and quickly had an ambulance meet the team and bring them to BMC. In the world of organ donation timing is everything. Thanks for all the hard work!

-Tania A. Houle, MBA, CPTC

In-House Clinical Donation Coordinator

LifeChoice Donor Services

Aetna Ambulance a Vital Link in Making Organ Donation Possible

LifeChoice Donor Services and Aetna Ambulance are partnersThe following is an excerpt of an email message from LifeChoice:

“This patient’s family was very uplifted that he was able to be a donor and found great comfort knowing that he was able to continue to help others in death as he had in life.  This could not have been possible without the involvement of EMS (Aetna Ambulance, in referenced case) when a patient codes at home.

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