TWIN FALLS, Idaho – Mike Parke was prepared to die in 2008.
Then he was handed a lifeline in the form of a brand-new liver. And one transplant surgery later, Parke, 42, is feeling the best he has in years.
The surgery swapped in a new organ for his original liver, which was shrunken and crippled by a genetic disease. But now Parke also has a new perspective on life. And he’s made it his mission to encourage everyone to sign up with the Idaho Donor Registry.
The owner of Parke’s Magic Valley Funeral Home in Twin Falls said Thursday that he plans to start a foundation to help cover the many medical costs for transplant patients. Parke will offer a $1,800 discount on funeral services to families of people who donate organs and plans to talk to area service groups and anyone else who’s interested.
He timed his announcement with National Donate Life Month, a nationwide push to encourage donations. And he’s transformed, he said, from someone who wasn’t very supportive of donations into a passionate advocate still astonished by the gift he received.
“Somebody died for that,” he said. “Somebody died so I could live.”
Though Idahoans seem to participate fairly well in the state registry, officials say more donors are always needed.
Dixie Madsen with Intermountain Donor Services, the Utah-based group that coordinates Idaho’s list, said about 65 percent of the state’s licensed drivers choose to register as donors on their licenses. Though it’s hard to be sure how many Idahoans are waiting for transplants, she said, they likely number 300 to 400 statewide.
More than 106,000 people are currently waiting for organs nationwide; on average, 18 of them die every day while they wait.
Many people see the value in registering, Madsen said, but others sometimes need a little push. A donor or recipient sharing a personal experience can help. “All of a sudden it puts a face and a name to this broad concept,” she said.