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by Terri Hogan
Senior Staff Writer
Terry Murray is no longer a school teacher, but the lesson she continues to share with local teens is impacting countless lives.
Murray, of Olney, works with the Washington Regional Transplant Community to speak at Montgomery County high schools about organ donation. The organization handles organ tissue recovery and distribution for the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.
Speaking to students comes naturally to Murray, who spent 34 years as a teacher, 18 at Springbrook High School near Colesville.
And the subject matter comes from the heart, as she talks about her family’s personal tragedy and the good that evolved from it.
Murray recently shared her story with students in Joyce Talbert’s health class at Col. Zadok Magruder High School. On Jan. 3, 1999, her husband, Allen Murray, went up on the roof to make some repairs. While climbing the ladder, he fell two stories to his death.
“I was making breakfast that morning and by 4 p.m. I was a widow with two kids with no dad,” she said.
Allen Murray was well known in the local swimming community, having coached at all levels. The aquatic facility at Montgomery College’s Takoma Park campus, where he was the director, is named in his honor.
Murray told the students that she and her family did not hesitate to donate his organs, including bone, skin, connective tissue, heart valves and eyes.
It was not her first experience with an organ transplant. Terry’s mother donated a kidney to Terry’s brother, who suffered from kidney disease.
She got involved with the Washington Regional Transplant Community when asked by Holy Cross Hospital to share her story with new nurses.
She was then asked to join the organization’s Donor Family Counsel. When the organization decided to create an educational component, she jumped at the opportunity because of her teaching background.
“I initially got into this for pure selfishness,” Murray said. “I love to teach and it was a way to get my teacher fix.”
She now realizes that her impact is far-reaching. Murray knows teens have an important decision to make when they get their driver’s license and wants them to know what it means to say yes to donation.
Making a difference
According to the Maryland Motor Vehicles Administration website, anyone 18 years or over may be an organ donor. However, minors who are 15 years and nine months old may add a donor designation if a parent or guardian consents in writing.
An organ donation request may be submitted while applying or renewing a learner’s permit or a driver’s license.
“Talk to your family about this now, while you are healthy,” Murray urged the students. “Don’t add more grief to a grieving family.”
While none of the students in Talbert’s class had their driver’s license yet, some said they did have a learner’s permit.
Talbert said she first invited Murray to Magruder three years ago to make a presentation during her mental health unit for a discussion on grief.
“Her presentation touches on another way to look at the topic,” Talbert said. “While a grieving family feels the loss of a loved one, they can also feel the gain of another person having their life extended by the generous act of organ and tissue donation.”
She said her students enjoy Murray’s presentations and have told her that it is one of their favorites each semester.
“Her personal stories are the perfect culmination to her lesson,” Talbert said. “Students often ask to speak to her after the class has ended and share their personal experiences with organ and tissue donation.”
She said that on the day of Murray’s recent presentation, one of her students had a discussion during lunch with a friend who is not in Talbert’s class.
“He brought his friend, a senior transfer student, to my class to talk to Terry,” Talbert said. “The student revealed that he had had a liver transplant and asked her how he could become a guest speaker to his peers.”
Talbert said she has had students come back to visit her class during their senior year to show her the heart symbol on their driver’s license, representing their decision to be an organ and tissue donor.
The presentation continues to have an impact on Talbert’s students.
Anya Basirolomi, a junior, said she’s planning on becoming an organ and tissue donor.
“I am interested in helping and saving lives in any way possible, she said. “I did not think of becoming a donor before the presentation. The presentation gave me lots of insight on the number of possible lives that could be saved by using my organs and tissues, which convinced me to become a donor.”
Steven Molina, a sophomore, said he, too, plans to become an organ donor.
“Since middle school I have planned to become an organ donor,” he said. “The presentation reinforced my decision. Many people these days wait for a long time to receive an organ, but as long as I am able to help just one person then it makes a difference.”
Samantha Aronson, a sophomore, said that while she planned to become an organ donor, she had never talked about it with her family.
“I thought it was really cool how it doesn’t matter what color the skin donation is because healthy skin grows over it,” Aronson said. “And that you can still have an open casket even after the organ transplant.”
Alejandra Ticas, a sophomore, had planned to become an organ donor, but credits the presentation with giving her a better understanding.
“I want to help many people and their families,” she said. “The most important thing that I took away from the presentation was that I can save 25 lives. That’s a large number and that means a happy person and family.”
The numbers tell the tale
On average, Terry will talk at more than 25 schools each year, sometimes up to seven times per day and up to 150-200 students per school. That means she will reach nearly 5,000 local youths each year.
Over the past 15 years, she has spoken to the majority of Montgomery County high schools.
There is evidence to prove that Terry’s talks are making a difference.
According to data provided by the Washington Regional Transplant Community, since Jan. 1, 2000, 52,331 Montgomery County residents, ages 16-24, registered to be organ donors.
In comparison, there were 24,012 in Prince George’s County and 18,863 in Howard County.
Montgomery County makes up 20 percent of all Maryland’s registered donors in this age group.
The Washington Regional Transplant Community claims there are more than 2,400 people in the D.C. area waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. Because of the insufficient number of donors, however, nearly 20 people will die each day while waiting for an organ donation.
Terry said she has met many people who have benefited from organ donation.
“Even one life is saved because of my education efforts in the community, it is worth it,” she said.
The Washington Regional Transplant Community can be found at www.beadonor.org, 703-641-0100 or email@example.com.
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