The Gift of Life

By: Alice Barr
By: Alice Barr

More than five-thousand people in Illinois are waiting for an organ transplant and every year 500 of those people die on the waiting list. But we can help change that by becoming organ donors and giving the gift of life.
"I'll give you this one," Linda Graves says, handing her father a gift.
Giving has a special meaning for one Roscoe family.
"Your parents give you life. But to be able to have the opportunity to give back is something that most people don't get the opportunity to do and I did," says Graves.
Twenty three years ago, Linda Graves saved her father's life, by giving of herself.
"At first I was a little apprehensive, because I thought well if she donates a kidney and something happens to her other kidney why she's without a kidney," says Graves' father Ed Skrine.
Concerns over the long-term health effects of organ donation often prevent people from giving. But experts say our bodies adapt, for instance we regenerate cells when we donate blood, bone marrow or part of a liver.
"If we are free of things like high blood pressure, diabetes, or any type of kidney disease, we can live very well an entire lifetime with just one kidney," says Julie Tilbury, coordinator for the National Bone Marrow Donor Registry, with the Rock River Valley Blood Center.
Graves has had no health problems and her remaining kidney has grown stronger, as has her bond with her father. And the giving didn't end there. Graves' son died of a heart attack last year, at just 35 years old. His mother says donating his organs gave his death a purpose.
Graves says, "We actually have met a person that we had donated one of his corneas to and this is a woman now that can see her children and enjoy her family."
This family hopes to go on enjoying each other for many more Christmases to come.
"She's living real good. I'm living good. What more could we want?" says Skrine.
...Which leaves one more question.
"What do you give your daughter for christmas after she gives you a kidney?" "Well that is hard to say."
Tilbury says people often want to save their organs in case a family member needs one. But she says it's unusual to match a family member, and more likely that life-saving gift will come from a stranger.
Graves is now considering donating bone marrow to her sister-in-law with cancer. Tilbury says that's a painless procedure. You can sign up on the organ tissue donor registry online, or at the D.M.V.
Contact the Rock River Valley Blood Center at 815-965-875, or toll free at 866-889-9073 for more information.


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