DONATE LIFE ORGAN DONATION AWARENESS-MADISON, WISCONSIN
Kelly's Law still saving lives after 10 years
MADISON -- When 16-year-old Kelly Nachreiner died four weeks after receiving her driver's license, she had no way of knowing that 10 years later teenagers across Wisconsin would receive education about organ donation because of a law that bears her name.
When Kelly, a Sauk Prairie High School student, died Jan. 4, 2000 from injuries she sustained in an automobile accident a few days earlier, her decision to donate her organs saved three lives.
Since former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson signed the Kelly Nachreiner bill into law, requiring Wisconsin driver's education teachers to devote 30 minutes of class time to discuss organ donation, 15-to-19 year-olds now have the highest percentage of "yes" responses for organ donation in the state.
According to the Department of Health Services, about 70 percent of teens 16 to 19 said they wanted to be tissue and organ donors in 2009.
A May 24 ceremony to honor the 10-year anniversary of Kelly's bill quickly became a ceremony to honor Kelly and her family.
"I was crying, she wasn't, but I was," said Thompson, recalling the time he first heard Kelly's story from her mother, Mary Nachreiner.
Thompson spoke at the ceremony held at the UW-Health Organ Procurement Organization where Mary now works. He praised the Nachreiner family, which attended the event along with a man whose life was saved by Kelly's organs, for setting aside its grieving to pursue a higher purpose.
Dr. Anthony D'Alessandro, medical director for UW's OPO, said Kelly's law led to the largest increase in organ donation ever in the United States.
Mary Nachreiner was the last to speak at the ceremony. She told a few stories about her middle daughter's free spirit and creativity, and said that she still is amazed by the profound impact Kelly's decision to be an organ donor has made.
During budget-reduction discussions earlier this year, the Sauk Prairie School Board considered cutting driver's education, where students are exposed to organ-donation instruction because of Kelly's bill.
The board ultimately decided not to cut driver's education, but it remains on the administrator's list of potential cuts for future budget discussions.