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Roxanne Watson's Heroic Contribution to Organ Donation

Updated: Nov 3, 2020

Compiled by Emily Naismith, Marketing and Strategy Intern

Please tell us about yourself and why you are passionate about organ donation and registration?

In May of 2006, I was at work when I suffered a silent heart attack that went undiagnosed for six weeks when I eventually went to the local ER for treatment. I was placed immediately into cardiac care and for two years was treated in my loc

Roxanne Watson, a heart recipient, has registered and educated thousands of people about organ donation advocacy.

al community. In June of 2008, I was sent to Montefiore Medical Advanced Cardiac Care for evaluation and was placed on the heart transplant waitlist. For two more years I waited and my perfect match came in July of 2010. Four years of grueling life-threatening illness motivated me to start helping others.

I began volunteering nine days after discharge and since I could not go back to work I threw all my energy into sharing my story everywhere I could. Eleven months after transplant I was invited to go on the OWN Network and share my story on Ask Oprah's Allstars Show where I got to meet my donor’s family. What a beautiful surprise. In that meeting I was given a picture of my donor which I have now carried for almost nine years.

How do you approach individuals who are skeptical about becoming donors?

When I approach a person who is skeptical I simply take out my donors picture or display it on my table and I tell his story. I tell the story of how he was able to save five lives with his organs. I share the story of each of his recipients:

  • A 7 year Hispanic girl from Staten Island who received his kidney

  • A 18 year old African American boy from the Bronx who received his other kidney

  • A 40 year old Jewish lawyer from Manhattan who received both of his lungs

  • A 62 year old Chinese Man from Chinatown who received his liver

  • And me, 56 with his heart

That story alone is usually powerful enough to get them to sign up or at least think very hard about doing it.

A photo of Roxanne’s donor, Michael Bovill.

What do you enjoy most about promoting organ donation advocacy?

The best thing about the whole experience is having the chance to live a second life and because of the story being able to travel around the world and meet amazing people I would have never got to meet otherwise. I love sharing and answering questions about my journey and the experiences of others all in the hopes of inspiring others to become donors.

Roxanne Watson pictured with her donor’s father, John Bovill.

What are some tips you can give to SODA’s student leaders as they help their peers sign up to be donors?

The biggest tip I can give to anyone hoping to sign up donors is to be yourself and tell your audience why you wish them to sign up. You don't have to be a recipient to do this but you do have to share your story with heart to move people to action. Becoming a donor is a big important decision and you must make them feel that urgency to help others.

Roxanne with SUNY Rockland Community College student Rhonda Harris, after she became the 11,000th person that Watson signed up to the New York organ donor registry.

Why does it matter that students advocate for organ donation?

I find my best success at schools and colleges because students are still learning and still open to learning. They listen and they make their own decisions. It's the best time of life when you are fearless and open for new things. I find most of the students I teach are very attentive and want to help others so it's a natural thing. Peer learning is also a powerful tool to help in this cause. I have signed up over 11,000 people now, probably 8,000 of those were college and high school aged.

Are you interested in signing up as an organ donor? Register here!

Lastly, what’s your favorite thing to do while social distancing?

While I'm social distancing I have been catching up on my writing both personal and professional. I have a radio show called "Michael’s Gifts" that broadcasts once a week on WRCR so I have been catching up on my guests list for the future shows and doing some research. I had planned over 20 events for National Organ Donation Month so I'm trying to figure out how to reach my audience online instead. I have to admit I hate social distancing!

Interested in making a donation? Visit our website to learn more and contribute!

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