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North country families of organ donors honored Monday

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Alexis L. “Lexi” Scanlin wanted a medical career early on in life, but the spunky 20-year-old ended up driving cross-country with friends in 2000 before landing in Las Vegas, Nevada.

In May, a few years after the busyness of bright, flashing lights and chaotic crowds on the Las Vegas strip, Miss Scanlin unexpectedly died, at the age of 25. She had checked off becoming an organ donor when she first got her license at the age of 16, and within days of her death, she became a life-saver to people who received both of her kidneys, liver, corneas and tissue.

“That’s what helped all of us, the fact that she lives on,” said Lucia O’Dell, Lexi’s aunt. “It’s not only healing recipients, it’s also healing for my sister, Lexi’s mother, Lori Farney.”

Lexi was a Carthage native, who, among other north country organ donors and/or recipients, were honored during a brief ceremony Monday at Samaritan Medical Center. Prior to living in Las Vegas, she lived in Orlando, Fla., with her mother. Her father, Herbert J. Scanlin, resides in Jefferson County.

During the ceremony, a photograph of Lexi was displayed adjacent to a floragraph of Ryan J. Converse, who died in July 2010 and whose organs were also then donated. Both Lexi and Mr. Converse, 21, will be honored Jan. 1 as their floragraph/photos will be featured on the Donate Life float in the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif.

Before she died, Mrs. O’Dell said, Lexi encouraged many family members to become organ donors because she felt so strongly about the cause.

Lexi’s family will be watching the Rose Parade while having a party, honoring her and others who have donated or received organs. Mr. Converse’s family and friends will do the same, and his parents, Joseph J. and Vicki L., will attend the parade to catch a glimpse of Ryan’s floragraph as the Donate Life float goes by.

As Mrs. Converse fought back tears, her husband told the crowd of about 40 people that his son was full of life and had a big heart.

“The ups and downs of life teach us many lessons,” said Rob Kochik, executive director of the Finger Lakes Donor Recovery Network, a division of the University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester. “Donor families pass through grief on the way to peace and remembrance.”

During Monday’s ceremony, Mr. and Mrs. Converse used glue and floral materials to craft Ryan’s eyebrows in the floragraph of him. In a few days, it will be sent back to Pasadena, Calif., in preparation of being put on the Donate Life float.

“It’s a huge honor for us,” Mr. Converse said. “The Finger Lakes Donor recovery network — it’s unbelievable how far they go to make you feel good and to get the word out about organ donation.”

A handful of other north country families were presented with roses Monday by Mr. Kochik, who honored their deceased and/or living loved ones for their organ donation. He said it’s also important to recognize the medical staff members that are involved in organ recovery and transplant efforts.

Dr. A. Melynne Youngblood said she’ll never forget helping to care for Ryan throughout the short time he was at Samaritan before his organs were recovered.

“Since early in my career I have been involved with recipients,” she said. “A part of you felt such excitement, and at the same time you felt terrible sadness because a family was going through a terrible tragedy.”

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