RAHWAY, NJ — National Professional Social Work Month is celebrated each March as an opportunity to spotlight the profession and those who contribute to the field. The NJ Sharing Network has put forth Rahway resident Jacqueline Salvatore as an example of a social worker who benefits the community. Salvatore is a family-services coordinator at NJ Sharing Network who provides care, support, information and education to families during and after the discussion of the organ- and tissue-donation process.
“I have the privilege of working with families during an organ transplant as well as during the aftercare process,” Salvatore told LocalSource over the phone on March 30. “I work with families on both sides, both the donor and recipient, and honor those who have given the gift of life and answer any questions they might have. We meet the people during the most difficult times and stay with them for life. We’re there every step of the way.”
In previous years, there was a lack of donors in the black community. People like Salvatore are working to bridge the gap between the difference in the amount of donors from each community.
“There were people who would never think to donate their organs 15 to 20 years ago,” she said over the phone. “We have a variety of communities who volunteer and want things to change. There is less conflict with the black community now.”
Alonzo Younger, a member of the black community who received a liver transplant, believes that there needs to be more awareness about organ donation brought into the black communities.
“I think the black communities need to be more educated about the matter,” Younger, of Uniondale, said over the phone on March 31. “I think the problem is a lack of education. Some people claim it has to do with the heinous experiments that were done on blacks, but that was over 100 years ago.”
Salvatore works to diminish any myths or misconceptions people might have about the donation process.
“Some people believe that we want to take their organs while they’re still alive,” she said. “That’s simply not the case. We don’t even get involved until a person has been pronounced dead. Most people don’t even qualify as a donor. In order to use their organs, they have to die on a ventilator in a hospital. Any other cause of death would eliminate their opportunity of being a donor. We might be able to use their tissue up to 24 hours after death, but organs start to die immediately.”
Salvatore is still fairly new to her position at Sharing Network, working there just a little less than a year. So far she says the job is enjoyable and rewarding.
“I enjoy being with one family and helping them,” she said. “Everyone is unique and they all have different needs. You never know what they might need. I’m always learning. Grief doesn’t end; it lasts forever but we learn to grow with it. I grow with the families I work with and offer them a ray of light. This is something I really connected with.”
The need for liver transplants is incredibly high right now in NJ. There is a waiting list with thousands of names, and people die every day in need of an organ.
“We have about 4,000 names on the waiting list for a liver in NJ,” she said. “Less than 1 percent of people are eligible to be donors. Our goal is to give the gift of life whenever possible.”