Today, we introduce the 25th chapter of our Illinois Donor Diaries. Beth shares her incredible story and multiple ties to the issue below.
Throughout my life I have learned about the need for organ transplants through various ways – a very young family friend who needed a liver transplant and died waiting, a co-worker who donated a kidney to her father, my friend’s father who had not just one, but two heart transplants, my friend and co-worker who lost her young, healthy husband to a brain aneurysm and donated his organs to save several lives, including taking two people off dialysis, and eventually my own father who needed a kidney transplant.
When I received my first drivers license at the age of 16 I immediately signed the back and told my parents of my wishes to donate my organs if I was to die and had my mom and sister witness my signature; this was back in the day where that’s how one could join the registry. At that time, I had no idea that I didn’t even have to die to donate an organ or how much of an impact organ donation would have on me and my family.
Several years later, my father was diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD). This disease is hereditary and causes cysts to grow all over the kidneys and eventually caused his kidneys to stop working. When he began the tests for a transplant, the doctor found an eyelet cell tumor on his pancreas. Although the tumor was removed, he had to go 5 years cancer free before being eligible for a transplant.
Meanwhile, dialysis sustained his life until he was eligible for transplant. Maybe it is because of my past experiences or the time waiting for my dad to be eligible for a transplant that I had no hesitations to give him one of my kidneys. After many tests and many days of waiting and anticipation, the doctors gave us the okay to proceed. On June 26, 2008 I was able to give my father the “gift of life” by giving him my left kidney.
Over 100,000 Americans are on the UNOS waiting list for a transplant. The most needed organ is a kidney with almost 78,000 Americans waiting for one. Most people are born with two kidneys and only need one to survive. The second highest needed organ is a liver. Almost 16,000 Americans await a liver transplant, which can also come from a living donor. If just one family member, friend, or even a complete stranger would donate a kidney or part of their liver to these 94,000 people, the wait list would be reduced to only 6,000!
The feeling of saving a life is indescribable… not just for living donors but also for the family of a deceased donor. So, why not give the gift of life… when you are alive, or after you pass on… or both!
Loves Park, IL