Events put spotlight on organ donation
By Christin Nance Lazerus firstname.lastname@example.org April 15, 2014 11:08PM
Julie Crane who shared her story of donation with the crowd, presented the colors with Reverend David Neville, and a staff security guard, at Methodist Hospital Southlake, in Merrillville on 4/15/14 | John Booz/for the Sun-Times Media
More than 120,000 men, women and children currently need lifesaving organ transplants.
Every 10 minutes another name is added to the national organ transplant waiting list.
An average of 18 people die each day from the lack of available organs for transplant.
In 2012, there were 14,013 Organ Donors resulting in 28,052 organ transplants.
In 2012, more than 46,000 corneas were transplanted.
More than 1 million tissue transplants are done each year and the surgical need for tissue has been steadily rising.
According to research, 98 percent of all adults have heard about organ donation and 86 percent have heard of tissue donation.
90 percent of Americans say they support donation, but only 30 percent know the essential steps to take to be a donor.
Register to be an organ, eye and tissue donor at www.donatelifeindiana.org.
For more stories on donors and recipients, visit giftofhope.org.
Updated: May 17, 2014 6:10AM
Winamac resident Rhonda Berger lost her daughter, Jennifer Spurgeon, in an apartment fire in January 2009. Berger and the rest of Spurgeon’s family were devastated by the loss, but Spurgeon’s decision to become an organ donor has allowed a piece of Jennifer to live on.
“It was a great relief to go through that terrible tragedy but know that she gave hope to others,” Berger said.
Berger has met and become friends with the two recipients of Spurgeon’s kidneys — a 60-year-old woman and a 22-year-old man.
“Meeting Betty, it’s almost like Jennifer is still here; she giggles and has the same personality,” Berger said. “Zach was studying to be a CPA, but he changed his mind to become a pediatric dialysis nurse at Riley Hospital for Children, where he spent a lot of time as a kid. Seeing their lives blossom with Jennifer’s gift has been quite healing.”
Berger’s story was just one of the stories shared by organ, eye and tissue donors and recipients as local hospitals celebrated National Donate Life Month on Tuesday. Methodist Hospitals interim CEO Michael Davenport and Porter Regional Hospital CEO Steve Lunn read proclamations encouraging everyone to become donors to provide help to the estimated 120,000 people on the waiting list in the United States and flags reading “Donate Life” were raised in Merrillville and Valparaiso. An estimated 18 people die each day while waiting for transplants.
Schererville resident Linda Ramos spoke to Lake Central High School students Tuesday about the importance of signing up to be organ donors when they get their driver’s licenses. She’s received both cornea and pancreas transplants due to complications from Type 1 juvenile diabetes, hypoglycemia and pregnancy.
“This is my mission for Donate Life Month because I know how it’s changed my life,” Ramos said. “When you donate, you’re not just saving a life, you’re saving a whole family. They gave my daughter back her mother, my husband back a wife and my parents back their daughter.”
Lake County has the second highest number of patients on the organ waiting list in Indiana with 201, trailing only Marion County, according to data from the Indiana Organ Procurement Organization. In Porter County, 40 people are on the organ waiting list.
IOPO professional services coordinator Cindy Alexander said about 70 percent of licensed drivers in Indiana are registered as organ donors, but the number is particularly high among young people, with nearly 90 percent opting to donate.
“We’re trying to find new avenues to appeal to populations who haven’t signed up, so we’ve reached out to the UAW and other unions,” Alexander said.
For some, a personal connection led to their organ donations. Julie Crane, a neuro ICU nurse at Methodist, donated one of her kidneys in 2005 when a family friend — a 5-year-old boy — was suffering from prune belly syndrome, which causes malformation of his abdominal organs.
“When I told my mom I was going to do it, she said ‘Go for it!’ ” Crane said. “We only use about one-third of one kidney, so the way I looked at it is I have an extra kidney.
“I’ve given him nine good years without dialysis, nine years of good health and nine years of fighting with his sister.”
For Angie Merryman and Crystal Nunez, the heartbreak of losing their brother and mother to cirrhosis of the liver led them to volunteer and become advocates for organ donation.
Their 37-year-old brother, Javier Nunez, went from being an avid cyclist to struggling to stay active. He got on the organ waiting list and received a liver transplant on his birthday — Aug. 3, 2011, but he died from a cerebral hemorrhage four days later.
Merryman said their father immediately brought up the possibility of donating his son’s organs, eyes and tissues. Nunez’s family donated his corneas and bone grafts.
“Receiving letters from recipients, we were able to use those and they were helpful in the healing process,” Merryman said.
Their mother died last month, on March 8, while waiting for a transplant.
“We were really thinking that any day now there was going to be a match,” Merryman said.