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Family says organ donation is a life-changing gift

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Family says organ donation is a life-changing gift
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When Levi Bartlett was born, his family says doctors didn't expect him to live two hours. Monday, he celebrated his third birthday. Levi's got another milestone coming up as well -- the first anniversary of his life-changing kidney transplant. Sarah Blazonis caught up with Levi and his family to talk about what the transplant has meant for them.

UTICA, N.Y. -- It's been a year of change for three-year-old Levi Bartlett and his family.

"It's gone from a life of alarms and dialysis and delivery trucks to pre-school and less appointments, no machines," said Lisa Novak, Levi's grandmother.

It's all thanks to the gift of a complete stranger.

Since birth, Levi had struggled with the effects of being born with prune belly syndrome and the end stages of renal failure. Since receiving a kidney transplant last May 19, he's eating on his own, constantly on the go and on his way to becoming the next basketball great.

"They've certainly given Levi quite a life," said Novak. "It's quite a gift."

Levi is one of the lucky ones.

The Center for Donation and Transplant says that while 30,000 people receive organ transplants every year, there are more than 100,000 names still left on waiting lists.

It's because of that need seen by thousands of families like Levi's that St. Elizabeth's Medical Center formed its Donation Council. The council will work with the Center for Donation and Transplant to raise awareness about the need for donors, let people learn more about the process, and let them fill out registration forms where they can choose among a variety of different types of organ donations.

"Our goal really is to have people have conversations at home. When they come into the hospital when there's a bad accident, it's not the time to be talking about donation for the first time," said Sally Davidson, IC nurse manager at St. Elizabeth's.

Another main goal: To raise the number of registered donors in Oneida County from the currently low 14 percent.

As for Levi, he's expected to need another transplant between the ages of 18 and 21. His family says they'll continue working to raise awareness for him and the thousands others on waiting lists nationwide.

Anyone interested in learning more about donation can head to the awareness day on the first floor of the medical center until 8 p.m. Tuesday or visit www.cdtny.org.

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