Kristy Vandenberg, Executive Director
The Ultimate Gift of Life
My new passion has become encouraging others to sign up as registered organ donors. When I retired from the American Red Cross I looked for another opportunity to impact lives across the Texas Hill Country, Texas and throughout the country.
As some of you may know April is National Donate Life Month. With over 121,000 people on the donor waiting list – approximately the population of 10 Hill Country counties – the need for registered donors is very real. Currently, an average of 18 people die every day because an organ was not available.
A recent national survey found that 90% of the people questioned thought that organ donation was a good idea. However, in Kerr County and many of the surrounding counties, registration rates are at 30% or lower. So, why are the registration rates low? What is stopping people from the action of signing up?
I believe we need to share information. We need to address the myths and talk about the facts. My new opportunity provides me with the chance to “tell the story” of those who have gone through loss and turned it into a time of hope. Since announcing the formation of this new non-profit, I have had the honor of hearing from many of our neighbors who have been touched by organ donation. I am looking forward to sharing those stories in future columns.
And, after really talking to my family about organ donation, I have also found personal connections. I knew that my stepfather had a very bad heart. I remember my mother accompanying him to Houston, where I lived at the time, so that he could have heart surgery for an aortic aneurysm. They returned to Michigan where he lived another 4 years, prior to his heart totally giving out. What I learned recently is that he was an organ donor – and that though his heart was weak – his eyes were strong. Two other people benefitted from his choice to be a cornea donor and were given back the gift of sight.
My stepsister recently shared that her husband who passed away suddenly at the age of 45 was also an organ donor. He was an athlete and in excellent physical condition. One night she awoke to find him in cardiac arrest on the bathroom floor. She told me that she felt some comfort in the fact that he was able to live on and help others with tissue, bone and cornea donation after he was gone.
That’s the amazing thing about all the stories that I have heard. The families of those lost find some measure of peace from knowing that their loved one has helped another family with sight, a heartbeat, kidney function, and other medical, non-fixable conditions. I believe that increasing the numbers of people registered will provide hope for the families of those on the waiting list.
You are never too old, nor too young to donate. The waiting list is filled with children, young and old adults. Babies need help, as do the elderly. The great news is that you could be the one that “matches” their need. One person can help up to 8 people with organ donations and over 50 others with eye and tissue donation.
There is a national database of registered donors, and it takes 2-3 minutes to register! The goal of The Ultimate Gift of Life is to share information which will increase the number of registered donors. If you have a “heart” on your driver’s license, I encourage you to take a few minutes to insure that you are also on the national registry at www.organdonor.gov. If you have multiple residences – register for both states where you live.
I look forward to sharing more stories about your neighbors who have experienced, first hand, the amazing journey and ways they have been touched about organ donation. If you would like to contact me, our phone number is 830-792-9197 and email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Please check out TheUltimateGiftOfLife.com for additional information. God Bless Ya’ll!