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Student Spotlights

Organ donation career becomes 'something more'

May 24, 2016

Indianapolis 500 race driver Stefan Wilson.

Indy 500 race driver Stefan Wilson, in the black shirt with fans, is working with the Indiana Donor Network on a campaign called "Driven2Save Lives," supporting organ and tissue donation. Wilson's brother Justin, who was an IndyCar driver, was killed in a racing accident in 2015; his donated organs helped save six lives.

Few jobs in health care are more intense than working in an emergency room or as a paramedic, when seconds can mean the difference between life and death.

But for Sarah Taylor, a student in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, working in those fields was an introduction to what can follow those lifesaving efforts: becoming part of the organ- and tissue-donation system, serving the Indiana Donor Network as a clinical support coordinator.

The Indiana Donor Network is one of 58 designated organ-recovery organizations in the United States. It provides a vital link between people waiting for lifesaving organ transplants and donors and works closely with Indiana hospitals, donor families and the United Network for Organ Sharing.

Sarah Taylor

IUPUI student Sarah Taylor, right, is enjoying her work on behalf of the Indiana Donor Network, which helps save lives by connecting donors to recipients and health care teams. | PHOTOS COURTESY OF INDIANA DONOR NETWORK

Taylor has been involved with health care since 2008. Her work in Columbus, Indiana, as an emergency room technician and in Columbus and Greenwood as a paramedic exposed her to the life-or-death stakes that health care professionals deal with every day.

"As a paramedic provider or working in an emergency room, you become focused on saving the life of someone right in front of you," she said. "If that doesn't occur, it can create a void, leaving you wishing there was something more you could have done to save a person’s life."

That "something more" turned out to be organ and tissue donation.

"It was humbling to think that even after death, someone could save a stranger’s life through the selfless decision to donate, and in doing so allow their legacy to live on," she said. "I was intrigued by that; the more I learned about donation, the more I wanted to be part of that community."

In December 2012, Taylor joined the Indiana Donor Network, then called the Indiana Organ Procurement Organization. She's never regretted the decision.

"The Indiana Donor Network is such a unique facet of health care," Taylor said. "It’s really amazing to see so many people from so many backgrounds come together with one common goal in mind- to save lives."

Taylor, who already has an associate's degree in paramedic science from the School of Medicine's health professions program, began pursuing a bachelor of science degree from the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. She'll earn that degree in December.

She is part of the Vital Link Donation Center, which Taylor considers the epicenter of the company. The donation process starts there and includes several steps:

  • New referral calls from hospitals and coroners
  • Determining donor eligibility
  • Walking donor families through the process of tissue donation
  • Completing legal paperwork
  • Coordinating logistics with clinical teams

Taylor helps create training materials for the Donor Network and is also involved in the organization's educational training programs. That allows her to contribute to the network's future.

Taylor thinks a lot about the future, if only because "our work can ensure that recipients and their families have one," she said. "This work has made me a more well-rounded health care professional while showing me how much good there still is in the world. The donation/transplant community is truly one of a kind."

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