Transplantation holds the promise of life for thousands of patients with life-threatening conditions and diseases. It also touches families and recipients in many different ways.
Three Merrill families share their touching stories about organ and tissue donation during The Gift of Life, an educational and awareness program at Ministry Good Samaritan Health Center on Wednesday, April 16.
More than 28,000 organ transplants, 45,000 eye transplants and 750,000 tissue transplants are performed each year in the United States. However only 8,000 families donated their loved one’s organs and only 6,500 people made the decision to become a living donor last year.
For Bill Baumann, a birth defect produced the need for a kidney transplant in February 2004. He didn’t have to go far as his sister was identified as a donor match and was willing to participate.
“I could never appreciate my sister enough and can’t give it back, except with love,” said Bauman. “I was surprised how slick the whole process was as I was back to work on a limited schedule just 10 days after my transplant.”
With more than 40,000 people under the age of 50 currently on the transplant waiting list and with 2,000 of those right here in Wisconsin, building awareness of organ and tissue donation is more important than ever.
Sharon Karow has been a longtime champion of organ and tissue donation in Merrill and Central Wisconsin. She shared the story of her nephew who died in a sudden accident and became her inspiration for encouraging others to become donors.
“Things are changing for the better,” said Karow, who recently celebrated 40 years as a nurse at Ministry Good Samaritan with a number of those years as the facilities organ and tissue liaison. “The amount of information and systems we now have in place make it much easier for people to make a decision about being a donor.”
For Eunice and Stephen Mann of Merrill, it wasn’t until they saw a television news report on kidney donation that they considered becoming a donor. “We had both been involved in blood and platelet donations at Ministry Good Samaritan, but this has been so much more,” said Eunice Mann.
Eunice was quickly ruled out as a donor, but Stephen qualified as a Humanitarian Donor and donated a kidney to someone he did not know in March of 2013.
“Other than Stephan’s initial recovery from surgery, our lives have not changed one bit other than to have been a part of this awesome experience,” she added.
Making a decision about donation comes, for many families at a time of great stress anxiety and sadness, by taking the time to understand the facts about donation, you can educate and prepare your family about your decision to become a donor and they will find peace of mind knowing their wishes have been carried out.
“We are grateful to our participants who shared their amazing stories and those who came to learn more about organ and tissue donation,” said Sue Kruger, Chaplain at Ministry Good Samaritan. “There are many misconceptions about eligibility and the donation process and these stories from people right here in our community will go a long way to encourage new donors.”
For additional information on Wisconsin’s organ and tissue registry, visit YesIWillWisconsin.com.