Today is a special day for those in the spirit of giving. It marks the beginning of National Donate Life Month.
Last year, Gift of Life Michigan helped over 1,000 Michiganders donate organs and tissue for transplant as their final act of generosity. But, with hundreds of thousands still in need of a life-saving organ, there is plenty of work to be done.
Meet Larry Klaus. He’s been an advocate for the Donate Life program since his days as a Michigan Eye-Bank Board Member.
Larry has first-hand knowledge of the tremendously long waiting list.
“For people who need kidneys, spleens, whatever. What am I going to do with them when I’m dead? This is my attitude,” laughed Larry. “I can’t use it anymore. None of my relatives or siblings are going to use them – I hope. So, give somebody another chance to live.”
More than 50 lives can be saved through the generosity of just one organ, tissue, and cornea donor.
In 2013, Michigan donors and their families provided 915 organs for transplant – each one representing a life saved – and tens of thousands of tissue grafts that will lead to better mobility and health for those in need.
Even though it was the second highest harvest on record, it only made a small dent in the list of thousands who are still waiting.
“To me, it’s a no-brainer. If you’re driving down the road and you see somebody in the ditch, you’ve got a 4-Wheel Drive with a tow rope, you ask them if you can pull them out. And, it makes you feel good to do something for somebody,” Larry explained. “Hopefully, if you do enough forward, maybe somebody will help you some time.”
It’s a selflessness that’s inherently apparent in the U.P.; people giving what they can to help others in their community.
But sometimes, when tragedy strikes, chaos can consume families and by the time they realize it may have been their loved ones’ wishes – it’s too late. That’s why on days like today, it might be a good idea to sit down with your family and have that conversation, like Larry did some time ago.
“I talked it over with my wife. She was really kind of unexpected. She had COPD and we knew it was coming eventually. But, it came quicker than we thought,” remarked Larry. “All I did was tell the people in the emergency room, ‘She’s an organ donor.’ And then, because of my past association on the Board with the Michigan Eye-Bank, I also called them myself.”
But you don’t have to go that length. It’s as simple as stopping by a Secretary of State Branch office or logging in online to join the 3.5 million plus who have already signed up.
Because, as Larry can attest, his wife’s gift of life may be returned to the very same family he holds dearly.