ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Right now there are 6,000 people on a waiting list for an organ or tissue donation in Illinois. The state says of those patients, nearly 400 will die this year while waiting for a match, but not all conditions are life threatening.
Former Harlem football stand-out Brenton Benedict went from breezing by the sidelines to sitting on them, after suffering a sports related knee injury five years ago.
“I try playing it starts to hurt and it gives out again, even when I wear a brace while I play,” said Benedict.
Now in college, the 19-year-old is taking a new approach to healing his pain after more than three unsuccessful surgeries, his dad Steven put him on an organ and tissue donor's list to receive new cartilage and a section of that supports the knee cap.
It took six months to find a match. Benedict had surgery at Rush Hospital in Chicago. We're told parts from the transplant came from a 14 year old who recently died.
Local trauma nurses say hospitals are in desperate need of younger donors because they tend to offer more viable parts, some that could save up to 50 people.
“Usually they don’t have the heart disease and wear and tear on their joints that an older person would have," said Jeannine Zuba a nurse at OSF Saint Anthony.
Benedict will spend the next year recovering from his surgery, thanking a donor not necessarily for saving his life, but returning him to the one he once lived.
Medical experts say we should talk to our kids about becoming donors, that way if a child is interested, the decision won't be as hard for parents who may have lost their son or daughter. Benedict got on the list in July but the wait can be much longer for some.
You can sign up to become a donor online by visiting https://www.ilsos.gov/organdonorregister.