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November 17, 2015 —Edison, NJ - The Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation (MTF) [www.mtf.org] announced today that Bethany Conkel of Dayton, Ohio, whose son, Amalya Nathaniel, (whose name means work of the Lord, given by the Lord) was a neonatal organ and tissue donor, will represent MTF on the Donate Life Float at the 2016 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, CA.
In March 2012, Bethany and Eric Conkel learned that their unborn son had a terminal neural tube defect called anencephaly, which results in the failure of the brain, skull, and scalp to develop. Determined to make the most of their son’s life and death, the Conkels decided to pursue organ and whole body donation. It was a difficult journey but, shortly before Bethany’s scheduled delivery date, they learned that their son could donate his liver, pancreas and whole body. You can learn more about their journey here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpx0fms5dws
Life Connection of Ohio helped to facilitate Amalya’s donation and, despite the lack of options for transplant due to his small size, his organs and tissues were placed with researchers through the International Institute for the Advancement of Medicine (IIAM)[www.iiam.org], a division of MTF. His donations went directly to medical researchers to advance studies in type 1 diabetes, train medical professionals and help improve emergency treatments for pediatric patients.
“For us, donation was able to add an extra layer of meaning to Amalya’s brief 37 weeks in utero and 80 minutes alive in our arms,” said Bethany Conkel. “Donation has truly brought us unexplainable peace, joy and healing. My husband and I have founded a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization called Purposeful Gift (www.purposefulgift.com) to help educate other families.”
“We are delighted to sponsor Bethany Conkel and to support the Donate Life Float at the Tournament of Roses Parade. The Conkel family’s story highlights the incredible gift of tissue and organ donation and the importance of the work done at IIAM and MTF," said Martha Anderson, Executive Vice-President, Donor Services.
The International Institute for the Advancement of Medicine (IIAM) works with researchers and medical education programs in the U.S. and abroad. According to Gina Dunne Smith, General Manager of IIAM, the experience with the Conkel family led IIAM to develop a neonatal donation program to support families of babies with terminal diagnoses who wish to contribute to medical advancement through organ and tissue donation. This program offers a unique service to researchers and to families whose babies will die from natural causes shortly after birth. To date IIAM has worked with over 40 families who have chosen neonatal donation and has placed 146 organs and tissues with researchers throughout the U.S.