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‘The Gift of Life’: NMU student nurses taking part in challenge

The Northern Michigan University School of Nursing is participating in the Gift of Life Campus Challenge to register organ donors. From left are NMU Professor Kary Jacobson, nursing instructor and GOL faculty adviser; Kirsten Peek, a student nurse who is involved in public relations with the Student Nurses Association; Michelle Andriacchi, nursing professor GOL faculty adviser; Olivia Arntsen, student nurse and vice president of the SNA; and Alyssa Milski, student nurse and president of the SNA. (Photo courtesy of Michelle Andriacchi)

MARQUETTE — Donating organs is a noble pursuit into itself, but a little competition can make this endeavor a little more interesting.

The Northern Michigan University School of Nursing invites the community to participate in the Gift of Life Campus Challenge, which runs through Feb. 18.

The challenge is to see which college campus in Michigan can register the most organ donors.

Michelle Andriacchi, NMU assistant professor of nursing, called the annual event “kind of a friendly competition.”

She said the competition judges participants in several ways: on the highest number of registered donors and a percentage of the population that donates, the latter benefiting a smaller school such as NMU.

It also comes with an activity trophy.

“This is the first time Northern’s participating in it, so it’s really exciting,” Andriacchi said.

It’s particularly beneficial during the COVID-19 pandemic when the student nurses usually have a charity ball and other events that they can’t have now, she said.

“It came at kind of a perfect time, and they are so excited,” Andriacchi said.

Andriacchi said that 10 years ago when she attended Wayne State University, she lost a friend, who was only 20 years old. Fortunately, her friend’s organs were donated.

“Her parents found out about this challenge and said, ‘You guys should do this. You should take this on,'” Andriacchi said.

So, they did, and then some.

“Wayne State has one every year,” she said.

Andriacchi said at first she was hesitant about bringing up the Gift of Life Campus Challenge to the NMU student nurses, suggesting that holding one during the pandemic wasn’t the best time.

She quickly got her answer.

“They said, ‘We want to do this right now. We want to join now,'” Andriacchi said. “And they’re just run with it. They’re doing such a good job on it.”

She noted NMU is performing well in the competition, having registered close to 30 people as of last week.

The nurses have set up tables and put up posters throughout the campus to reach out to people, plus they’re engaging in a social media push, Andriacchi said. They also plan to hold information sessions.

The educational component can be beneficial as well.

Andriacchi said the NMU students get to educate the community about organ donation, which is timely considering the current climate.

“It possibly can save up to eight people per organ donor plus up to 70 people tissue-wise,” she said.

According to Gift of Life Michigan, an individual is added to the national transplant waiting list every 10 minutes, and 22 patients die each day because not enough organs are available.

One NMU student nurse acknowledged the good timing of the Gift of Life Campus Challenge.

“We wanted to bring something positive to our community during these challenging times, and what better way to care for others than spreading awareness about organ donation registration?” said Alyssa Milski, NMU’s Student Nurses Association president, in an email.

Andriacchi said anyone — not just the NMU community — can register in the GOL event.

Visit golm.org/go/nmu to learn more or to register.

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net

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