April is National Donate Life Month, a time for all Americans to celebrate the generosity of those who have saved lives by becoming organ, eye and tissue donors. That hits home for young alumna Hannah Griffith, ’18, and her family.
When Hannah was a sophomore at Heidelberg, her dad received a new heart. Lifeline of Ohio was the organization that helped to facilitate the transplant. She could not have known at the time that she would find a permanent professional home with the organization.
“To now work for the organization that saved my dad’s life is so special and incredibly important to me,” says Hannah, a communication major who started with the organization as an intern following graduation.
Her internship was so successful that Lifeline of Ohio hired her as a full-time employee, and she’s already received a couple of promotions. Today, she is the Community Events Liaison and really enjoying serving an organization that means so much to her.
Dash for Donation
Hannah applied to be Lifeline of Ohio’s Dash for Donation intern in March of her senior year. Her first day was actually the day after graduation. “To say that I was incredibly tired would be an understatement,” she recalls.
In that role, Hannah assisted in planning and organizing the Dash for Donation 5K walk and run in which Lifeline of Ohio celebrates transplant recipients and honors donors and their families.
“It is really a special event for people who have been touched by donation. … I really fell in love with the mission of the organization, the incredible people I worked with and the good that Lifeline of Ohio does for the community.”
She knew then and there that she wanted to turn that internship into full-time employment, and she did!
Hannah was initially hired as Lifeline of Ohio’s Public Relations Assistant, but was quickly promoted to her current position. In this role, she schedules community events, and helps to spread the word about organ donation and register new donors. She works closely with volunteers and recently, she has started working with the media team to assist with running the organization’s social media platforms. Additionally, she leads the Employee Recognition Award committee, produces the weekly staff bulletin, among other responsibilities.
As with so many of us, the pandemic has caused a shift in how the organization conducts its work but the mission remains. Hannah and her colleagues work from home almost exclusively. With pandemic restrictions, the team had to get creative with their interactions with volunteers and the usual in-person events. It was difficult to overcome, but they got it done.
Rewards outweigh challenges
Just by the nature of the business, dealing with death is a common theme for Lifeline of Ohio. It can be overwhelming.
“You cannot have a donor unless someone has passed away,” Hannah says. “And reading about death, speaking with donor families, talking to recipients who have survivor’s guilt can be incredibly difficult some days.” But it’s all about perspective.
“Many times, families leave the hospital with nothing but their grief after the loss of a loved one, but with donation, they can leave knowing their loved one has saved someone or helped to heal someone.”
The secret is to take one day at a time and keep in mind that the organ donor gave life through their donation.
“Hearing stories of our heroic and selfless donors is always heart-breaking but knowing that those people also helped to save and heal another person – and knowing I was in just a small way – a part of that? Nothing is more special and rewarding.”
And there is no greater reward than when a volunteer or a community member finally receives a transplant. Sometimes, it’s personal. Hannah recalls a request from the mother of a little boy who had recently been placed on the transplant list for a new liver. She provided some Lifeline of Ohio “swag” for the little boy, and cried when she heard that the family got the call that a liver match had been found for the boy.
The day-to-day accomplishments – doing a great job on a project, assisting with a press conference, meeting with different organizations and new people, completing a major event … those may seem mundane but they sustain Hannah and her co-workers during heavier times.
A great foundation
During her senior year at the Berg, Hannah completed her senior capstone project on organ, eye and tissue donation. This set the stage for her career choice, but she also credits a number of “cheerleaders” – ‘Berg professors and mentors – who guided and encouraged her, helping her to figure out what she wanted to do with her life and career. Loudest among them was Hannah’s communication professor, Dr. Robin Heaton.
“Heidelberg prepared me so much, and I cannot give enough credit to my professors – Dr. Heaton, Dr. Courtney DeMayo Pugno, Dr. Julie O’Reilly and Dr. David Hogan – and so many more who really helped me to be successful where I am now.”
She also gained valuable organization and leadership skills with her society, Delta Sigma Chi, for which she served as president her senior year.
“Being a Delt taught me organization, how to juggle many things at once and helped me learn how to interact with a lot of different personalities,” she says.
Advice for future Student Princes
We’ll let Hannah put this one into her own words: “Let Heidelberg be your home. Find reasons to stay – when you’re looking at colleges it’s so easy to go somewhere because the campus is beautiful or the food is good, but eventually those reasons will fade. You’ll be in the middle of midterms and your neighbors in your dorm are belting out songs and honestly, it will start to feel like maybe it would be easier to just pack it up and leave – but don’t. Find your reason to stay, get involved. For me, it was the Delts, the track team my freshman year, BEC, my friends, working in the Admission Office. Find a reason to stay and you will have the best time. Get involved, put yourself out there, try new things even if it scares you to join a different group or meet new people – do it!”