2016 Transplant and Organ Donation Calendar: Jill Dillon

Lonnie Jelinski, Jill Dillon and Sara SolinksyWhen Jill Dillon, an optometrist at Marshfield Clinic, decided to become a living donor to help her longtime patient Lonnie Jelinski, she couldn't have imagined the ripple effect of her decision.


Lonnie was visiting Jill for a routine eye appointment and told Jill about his need for a transplant. "I thought to myself," says Jill, "'Why don't I give him one of mine?' " When Lonnie came back for his next appointment six months later and was closer to needing a new kidney, Jill made the offer. Lonnie couldn't believe it, but Jill was sure in her decision.


Jill and Lonnie were evaluated at a regional medical center. When the transplant was postponed, Jill began researching their options. She reviewed the UW Health Transplant Program quality and outcomes data, and recommended to Lonnie that they go to UW Hospital and Clinics instead. After both of them underwent thorough evaluations, they discovered they were not, after all, a good match. Thankfully, in January 2011, Lonnie received a kidney from a deceased donor. At that point, UW Health transplant surgeon Dr. Luis Fernandez gently asked Jill, "So what are you going to do with that kidney now?" He told Jill about non-directed donation, kidney chains and the incredible need for donation.


Three months later, Jill confirmed her decision to become a non-directed donor, agreeing to offer her kidney to someone else in need. At that point, things happened very quickly. She went to work and told her co-worker Laura Grassl about her decision. Laura couldn't believe the timing. She had just read on Facebook that a friend from high school, Sara Solinsky, was in need of a kidney. Sara, age 31, was a young mother experiencing kidney failure as a result of a virus she had in her 20's. Jill contacted Sara and they went to UW Hospital and Clinics for testing and then learned they were a good match. Jill's donation to Sara took place in July 2011, and since then the two have become close friends and passionate advocates for organ donation.


Jill and Sara recently formed Central Wisconsin Gift of Life, a group of volunteers who work to fundraise and educate others about organ donation. "Before Lonnie, I didn't understand the need for organ donation," says Jill. "Now I want to do everything I can to teach people about living donation and the need for more registered donors."