Transplant Warriors

October 23, 2013 Updated Oct 23, 2013 at 8:02 PM EDT

By Desiree Wiley

October 23, 2013 Updated Oct 23, 2013 at 8:02 PM EDT

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW0) - Graduate students at the University at Buffalo have taken on a big task.

Aisha O’Mally, along with Jessica Covert, is spearheading “The Transplant Warriors” in “Campaign 4 Life.”

“It’s an initiative throughout New York State to increase the number of registered organ donors,” said O’Mally.

The New York State’s donor registry is lagging and these two academics want to inspire change.

“Campaign 4 Life” started four years ago when a professor at the University at Buffalo wrote the grant for the campaign. “It’s a one month long push to try and register as many donors as you can,” said O’Mally.

Anyone is able to make a team and campaign in their own unique way. “ We’ve been going to classrooms talking about the campaign and tailgating at some of the football games,” said O’Mally.

Teams focus campaigning in March and October of every year. Covert says, “We’ve been thinking about having a permanent club here at UB,” said Covert. “This isn’t just a month long initiative for us.”

She started this group for a very special reason.

“I received a heart transplant back in 2004,” said O’Mally.

When she was 23 years old, she discovered she had hyperthyroidism, a condition where the thyroid gland makes too many hormones.

“The doctors put me on medication and monitored me,” she said.

Medication wasn’t cutting it and O’Mally’s condition worsened.

“I remember laying down and hearing gurgling. When I opened my mouth you could hear it, I felt like I was drowning,” says O’Mally.

Doctors diagnosed her with bronchitis then pneumonia. “I knew something was seriously wrong when I was not getting better. They were giving me all these antibiotics and nothing was working,” said O’Mally.

Her mother dragged her back to the hospital for more tests and doctors discovered her heart was failing. “My heart was too weak to pump,” said O’Mally. Blood was flowing into her heart, but not flowing out.

While in the hospital she experienced a heart attack and was given a pacemaker. Before resorting to transplantation, doctors tried improving her condition with more medication.

“After four or five months there was no improvement, so they evaluated me for a heart transplant. That is when I started to freak out, “ said O’Mally. This all came after she got a new job, bought a new car and began trying to life on her own.

“I wasn’t scared to die. I was on a mission,” said O’Mally.

She didn’t want to slow down but she had no choice. Working out, driving and doing laundry became impossible tasks.

As her condition got worse, she moved up the transplant waiting list. Finally at 24, she received a heart from a Massachusetts woman. Her transplant has changed her life forever.

“It was a very difficult journey, however it’s given me passion and drive. It’s given me a voice,” says O’Mally.

She plans to use that voice to inspire donors throughout the UB campus and the community.

She hopes people will remember her message when thinking about donating. O’Mally said, “The greatest gift is the gift of life.”