The Ultimate Gift: Getting the word out about organ donations

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People in need of a vital organ donation to live say their worlds get turned upside down with worry, which begs the question: What would you do if you needed an organ donation and your doctor said time was of the essence?

That can be one of the most difficult things for patients who find out that their kidney or liver is failing and they need to go find a living donor.

April Capone manages Yale-New Haven Health's Center for Living Organ Donors. She says the number of people in need of donor organs in Connecticut is a public health crisis, with more than 1,200 a year.

The Center's Dr. Sanjay Kulkarni says patients are encouraged to make a "15-second connection."

"The idea is just get the word out and wait to see if people are interested," Kulkarni says.

Capone says she knows for a fact that there are people out there who would be willing to donate an organ if asked.

While in kidney failure in 2009, Carlos Sanchez reluctantly typed two sentences on Facebook. Within five minutes, someone he hardly knew at the time offered him a kidney and followed up with this message: "I'll get tested. I got 2, so what the hell? You can have one, seriously."

That message was from April Capone, when she was the mayor of East Haven, and long before she worked in the medical world.

"I was in the right place at the right time and happened to see it the second it posted and I just knew...that I was meant to be his donor," she says.

Dr. Kulkarni removed her left kidney and transplanted it into Sanchez. The two became so connected that Sanchez sang at Capone's wedding in October.

"She's a person I will love for the rest of my life," Sanchez says.

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