Secretary of State and organ donation advocates celebrate "Gift of Life" in southwest Michigan
APRIL 23, 2013
Leaders urge residents to join more than one million who have
already signed up on Michigan's Organ Donor Registry in the last two years
PORTAGE, Mich. – At a Donate Life Month celebration in the Kalamazoo area today, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, joined by organ and eye donation leaders, said that while efforts to expand Michigan's Organ Donor Registry have been successful, it's critical that more residents get involved.
"Every name on the registry means hope for the individual who is waiting for that one, life-saving phone call," said Johnson during the event, held at the Secretary of State's South Kalamazoo PLUS Office. "More than 3,000 Michiganians are in need of life-saving transplants."
Johnson was joined at press conference by Lisa Langley, executive director of the Michigan Eye-Bank, police officer Kristen Main of Battle Creek, who received a bone transplant and Cassandra Perry, a cornea recipient from Northville.
"On behalf of the 2,034 people who have been given the gift of sight in the past year, all of us at the Michigan Eye-Bank are grateful for the generosity of Michigan residents willing to give of themselves to help others through donation," said Langley. "These donors and their families represent all that is good and kind in this world. And it's the Michigan Secretary of State staff, with Ruth Johnson at the helm, who provide people with the opportunity to make their donation wishes known."
Main, 26, was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma in her arm when she was age 12. As an active young athlete, the prospect of having her arm amputated to stop the cancer from metastasizing was devastating. However, bone graft surgery was a success, and Main went on to play many sports in middle and high school. She's now a police sergeant (a recent promotion) for the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Police Department.
"An unknown donor became a hero in my eyes," said Main. "My life would have been drastically different had I not received a transplant."
Perry, 42, told her story as well, recalling how, as a single mom, she was losing her eyesight and worried for her kids' future.
"I know how precious the gift of sight is and why it's so critical to encourage everyone to add their names to the donor registry," Perry said. "The Michigan Eye-Bank is committed to finding the causes and cures of blinding eye conditions, and that is something everyone can support."
Peter Lawrence of Kalamazoo shared the story of his wife Karen, 48, who died in January. She was able to save the lives of three people through organ donation and enhance the lives of many more through tissue donation.
Johnson noted the South Kalamazoo Secretary of State PLUS Office has been a leader in organ donor signups, signing up more than 8,000 people to the donor registry last year alone, Johnson said. That was an 18-percent increase over the previous year.
More than 55 percent of the adults in Kalamazoo County and neighboring St. Joseph County have joined the organ donor rolls, compared to a rate of about 40 percent statewide.
Johnson, working with partners Gift of Life Michigan and the Michigan Eye-Bank, made huge changes in the way the Secretary of State's office approached organ donation after she was elected in 2010. She put organ donor reminders on widely used SOS forms and social media and directed employees to ask customers if they wanted to sign up on the donor registry.
Those efforts, at very little cost, led to record-breaking expansion of the organ donor rolls – nearly one million people signed up to become potential donors in 2011-2012.
According to national statistics, 18 people die each day from the lack of available organs for transplant; however, one donor can save up to 8 lives and enhance the lives of more than 50 people.
Anyone can join the Michigan Organ Donor Registry by visiting www.Michigan.gov/sos or any Secretary of State branch office. Those who sign up receive a heart logo sticker to place on their driver's license that indicates their wish to be an organ donor. A new card with a permanent heart emblem is issued at renewal time.
For more information about branch office locations, hours and services, visit www.michigan.gov/sos and sign up for official Secretary of State Twitter feeds at www.twitter.com/Michsos and Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/Michigansos.
Customers also may call the Department of State Information Center to speak to a customer service representative at 888-SOS-MICH (767-6424).
For media questions, please call Gisgie Dávila Gendreau at 517-373-2520.