JERSEYVILLE - Blessed and grateful are sentiments expressed by many organ donor recipients. Several recipients and a donor family shared their stories at the third annual Spring Organ/Tissue Donation Awareness Run in Jerseyville Saturday.
"Jacob was a giver," Rita Hagen of Brussels said of her son. "When he died, it wasn't a hard choice (to donate his organs). It wasn't a choice at all, really."
When Jacob was 22, he fell down a set of concrete stairs, striking his head. He was in a coma at St. John's Mercy Hospital in St. Louis for six days before a brain aneurysm took his life in 2008.
"It was very unexpected. No one expects their child to die so young," Hagen said.
When Jacob died, the director came in to talk to Hagen and her husband, Keith, about donating Jacob's organs.
"When he talked to us about it, we knew that's what we would do," Hagen said.
A representative from Mid-America Transplant Services talked to them about what could be donated. Jacob's pancreas went to a 22-year-old girl and at least 18 people have been helped after receiving his muscle tissue. Jacob's corneas, liver, kidneys and skin tissue also were donated.
The Hagens have heard from two of the recipients who received muscle tissue.
"That's wonderful," Hagen said. "You never see a face to put a name to it, but it's nice that someone took the time to write and tell us it improved their life."
Bill Dougherty, of Jerseyville, received a cornea transplant 15 years ago.
"My vision was 20-200. I was blind in one eye and that really screws up your depth perception. I ran into every house we owned with our car," he told the crowd before the race began.
Ron Ferguson said it was a miracle that he was able to be a kidney recipient because of his blood type.
"Only six percent of the population have Type O blood, but it actually worked in my favor when I got my kidney," Ferguson said.
A young man who died in a car crash and had a signed donor card had type O blood.
"The normal waiting period is four to five years and I got mine in three," Ferguson said.
While most recipients receive an organ after someone has died, Ronda Sullivan, of Jerseyville, has a close friend to thank for her kidney donation.
"I was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease in October 2002 and put on the national donor list in 2005," Sullivan said.
In November 2007, Renae Lueker, a friend of more than 20 years, donated a kidney.
"We were a perfect match," Sullivan said. "She said 'I have two (kidneys), I only need one.' She's doing excellent, she hasn't needed any follow-up care."
One donor recipient who wasn't at the race Saturday is Dana Barrett. She received her kidney through the national donor list 10 years ago after a 2 1/2-year wait. She is now battling Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"I was diagnosed with lupus when I was 20," Barrett said, "and had chemotherapy off and on for nine years. Prolonged chemo deteriorates kidney function."
Barrett said there are six antigens that make a perfect match. Her family members matched only half of those.
"But I was blessed with a perfect match," she said.
More than 200 signed up for the race to raise awareness of the need for donors. In addition, race proceeds go toward a scholarship fund at Jersey Community High School in memory of Mike Kallal. Kallal died in a car crash in September 2004 and his wife, Patty, coordinates the race.
"We couldn't do this without the support of so many people in the community," Kallal said, "including the Jersey Wellness Center and Jersey Nursing and Rehab. Last year we raised enough to award three $1,000 scholarships and donate $1,750 to Mid-America Transplant Services."
To be an organ donor, join the First_Person Consent Organ/Tissue Donor Registry by:
- visiting www.LifeGoesOn.com
- calling the program at (800) 210-2106
- sending a request to the Illinois Secretary of State office in Springfield
- visiting any driver's services facility