Photo by Jason White
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White watches as Lewis and Clark Community College students Brooke McAteer, of Millstadt, and Chris Barnes, of Bethalto, sign up to be organ donors Tuesday at Reid Memorial Library on the Godfrey campus.
GODFREY — Secretary of State Jesse White urged Lewis and Clark Community College students to give the gift of life Tuesday by signing up for the state’s organ and tissue donor registry.
White, an Alton native, spoke at the Godfrey campus’ Reid Memorial Library to promote the Be a Hero! Donor Awareness Campaign to see which college can register the most organ/tissue donors. Students with the top campaigns will get internships with Donate Life Illinois partners.
Each year, 300 Illinoisans die waiting for an organ transplant; more than 5,000 are on the waiting list. About 5.5 million Illinoisans are registered donors.
Earlier this month White unveiled a TV, radio and movie theater ad campaign airing in English and Spanish throughout April, National Donate Life Month.
White said one donor can save or improve 25 lives.
“We want you to become a hero,” White said. “What better gift can you give to another human being than the gift of life?”
Guest speaker Catherine Dunnagan of Wood River dramatically illustrated White’s point.
On July 30, 2008, Dunnagan’s skin began itching. She went to Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis for answers the next day, the start of a series of doctor’s visits that led to a diagnosis of bile duct cancer. Doctors gave her six to eight months to live without a liver transplant.
On May 24, 2009, she finally got her transplant, but her story didn’t end there. She was readmitted to the hospital on July 4, 2009, after she woke up vomiting blood. An artery that supplies blood to the liver had ruptured, putting her life in immediate jeopardy. She got a second liver transplant within 14 hours.
“I’m only alive because of two strangers,” Dunnagan said.
Patty Kallal shared her family’s story from the organ donors’ perspective. Kallal lost her husband, Mike “Popeye” Kallal, in a car crash on Sept. 4, 2004, while he was on his way to work from Jerseyville.
A few months before he died, Mike Kallal talked about donating his organs when he died. Kallal’s daughter Katie recalls her father’s take on the issue: “When I die, the doctors can take whatever they want because where I am going I won’t need them.”
“Let your family and friends know that if you die tomorrow, you would want to be an organ and tissue donor,” Patty Kallal said.
Two weeks after Mike Kallal died, Mid-America Transplant Services informed the family that his cornea tissue restored sight to two recipients. Because of the severity of the accident, doctors could not use his other organs and tissues, but the family was happy to hear the news of the successful transplant, Kallal said.
“If you knew my husband, you know he saw the good in everyone,” she said.
In 2008, the family started the Spring Organ-Tissue Donation Awareness 5k run and 2-mile walk in Kallal’s memory. This year’s run will be Saturday, April 26, at Dolan City Park in Jerseyville. Proceeds fund a scholarship at Jersey Community High School and benefit Mid-America Transplant Services in St. Louis. More information is available at http://www.sodarace.org/.
Illinoisans can register with the Secretary of State Organ/Tissue Donor Program at the website www.lifegoeson.com, by calling 800-210-2106 or by visiting a local driver services facility.