National Donor Day Friday, Feb. 14

Blood/marrow drives, registration events focus on need for donors


Courtesy of Sarah Guzinski-Sherman

RN, Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital

National Donor Day on Friday, Feb. 14 is a time to focus on all types of donation – organ, eye, tissue, blood, platelets and marrow – by participating in blood/marrow drives or donor registration events. It is also a day to recognize our loved ones who have given the gift of donation, have received a donation, are currently waiting or did not receive an organ in time.

The facts

  • Over 113,000 men, women and children are waiting for lifesaving organ transplants. Even the largest football stadium in the US could not fit the number of patients on the national transplant waiting list.
  • Every 10 minutes, another person is added to the national transplant waiting list.
  • 8,000 deaths occur every year in the U.S. because organs are not donated in time.
  • 22 people die each day because the organ they need is not donated in time.
  • 82% of patients waiting are in need of a kidney.
  • If you donate your organs, you would be able to save up to eight lives.
  • If you donate your eyes, you could restore sight for two people.
  • If you donate your tissue, you could heal the lives of up to 75 people.

“A large number of people donated kidneys to strangers in 2019 at the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison in what marked a big increase over previous years,” states an Associated Press article from January. “There were 28 people who gave their kidneys to strangers, and that’s a big surge from other years. UW Hospital had its first non-directed donor in 2003, and from then until 2017, there was an average of four such donors every year. Last year, the number increased to 12 before increasing to 28 this year. The National Kidney Registry says there were about 300 such donors nationwide this year.”

What people should know

Newborns and senior citizens into their 90s have been organ donors. The health of your organs is more important than your age. Although most donations come from deceased donors, a few organs (a kidney, part of a liver, lung, or intestine, and some tissues) can be donated by living donors. Living donors most frequently donate kidneys. Today, you don’t have to necessarily be a perfect match. The first step is to be willing.

My story

I am considered to be an altruistic or non-directed donor, which basically means I wanted to donate to someone in need but didn’t have a specific recipient. I participated in what is called a donor chain. Basically, I started a chain by having a kidney to donate without a specific recipient. My recipient had a willing but incompatible donor. The chain continued as their donor donated to another recipient. My specific chain had four people in it.

In Oct. 2019, I donated my kidney to a complete stranger. Many people don’t understand why I was driven to donate one of my organs to a stranger, but honestly, I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t. Many of us don’t think about organ donation until a family member or friend is in need; then it suddenly makes complete sense to try and be a donor. I don’t see less value in a stranger’s life, than in the life of a family or friend.

I work in Tomahawk at Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital in the Emergency Department as a nurse. As a healthcare provider in this setting, I see people celebrate happiness and struggle with heartache. I decided to give my kidney to a stranger mainly because I was tired of watching all of the heartache and sadness. I wanted to take the grief away from at least one person and their family. Luckily I was able to do so and have no regrets.

I’m very lucky to work alongside some other very selfless individuals. In the past, Chris Foster (an EMT for Lincoln County EMS) donated her kidney to a family member. Currently, two of my coworkers, Janessa Lepak (a paramedic for Lincoln County EMS) and Becca Krohn (an emergency room tech at Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital) have joined the bone marrow registry in an effort to provide lifesaving bone marrow transplants for blood cancers such as leukemia.

I think it’s so important to continue raising awareness for such an important issue. In our lifetime, I think we can all expect to be affected by donation in one way or another. In these times, our neighbors, work colleagues or even strangers will become our heroes.

How to help

  • Sign up to be an organ donor at
  • Donate blood. Community Blood Center comes to the hospital in Tomahawk every four weeks.
  • Sign up to be a bone marrow donor at
  • Sign up to be a living donor or get more info at UW Health Transplant Program at
  • Celebrate, raise awareness and remember those that have signed up to donate, have donated or have received a donation. Inspire everyone around you.
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