Donate Life Flag Raises Spirits, Organ Donation Awareness
MADISON - An early-morning spring shower couldn't dampen the spirit of the crowd gathered for the raising of a Donate Life flag over UW Hospital in honor of Donate Life month. On hand to promote organ-donation awareness were transplant recipients, family members of organ donors and UW Health staff.
"I was hoping today would be this big beautiful sunshine day, because when you talk about life in April, that is usually what you think about," began Donna Katen-Bahensky, UW Hospital and Clinics President and CEO. "But we are going to talk about how April is Donate Life month and how important it is both to our organization and to the families and patients across Wisconsin."
Katen-Bahensky continued, "We can't send the message out loud enough or often enough that organ donation forever changes people's lives. Register online at YesIWillWisconsin.com and let your family know that you are willing to be an organ donor."
Mary Nachreiner knows firsthand the changes organ donation can bring. Her 16-year-old daughter Kelly donated her organs after a car crash took her life in early 2000.
"I was with Kelly when she made the decision that day at the DMV, four weeks before the accident," said Nachreiner. "It was one of my proudest parental moments. Here she was, willing to give unconditionally to anyone in need."
Kelly's decision directly saved three people's lives, but the effects of her gift were felt much more widely. On May 9, 2000 the Kelly Nachreiner Bill became law, and organ-donation education became mandatory in driver's education classes across the state. Kelly's law led to the largest-ever increase in organ-donation signups.
"She will live on in so many ways," said Nachreiner. "One blessing bestowed upon our family here at UW Hospital was the opportunity for us to honor her wishes to be an organ donor."
UW Hospital employee Kurt Unterholzner understands the blessings bestowed by organ donors. Without them, he would likely not be working in the hospital's Organ Procurement Organization today.
"Thirty years ago this month, had you been at UW Hospital, you would have likely seen me strolling in for my three-times-a-week dialysis treatment. It was not a good time in my life," said Kurt. "I'm not the only one obviously, but I was one of those people that was waiting and hurting and wondering what was going to happen in my future."
"But I am one of the lucky few," added Unterholzner. "So for me today is quite a special day. Raising the Donate Life flag symbolizes what people like Mary and her family went through and everything they've done so that people like me can pursue their dreams in life and have another life. I'm speaking on recipients' behalf today; we're incredibly grateful."
Raise your own flag this April and celebrate Donate Life month by signing up at YesIWillWisconsin.com and talking with your loved ones about your decision.
Date Published: 04/08/2011