National Donate Life Month kicks off with recognition of donors, families and patients in Wisconsin

National Donate Life Month kicks off with recognition of donors, families and patients in Wisconsin

April is National Donate Life Month, and local hospitals took the time to recognize donors and their families Monday morning.

More than 85 Donate Life Wisconsin member and partner hospital organizations participated in the inaugural Pause to Give Life event, which was created as a new, statewide observance to take place annually on the first Monday morning of April to mark the start of National Donate Life Month.

DLW is a nonprofit alliance of organizations and individuals hoping to increase donation of organs, eyes and tissues to save lives. DLW uses education and advocacy to encourage people to register as donors.

The event included a flag-raising ceremony and moment of silence to promote the mission of organ, tissue and eye donation and to honor donors and their families.

It happened at 10:08 a.m. to signify that one donor can save eight lives. The moment of silence lasted one minute and 14 seconds to recognize the more than 114,000 patients waiting for a life-saving transplant.

Lisa Buechner attended the event at UW Hospital in Madison. Both she and her husband of 27 years knew they wanted to be organ donors before his unexpected death.

“He was so helpful in life that he wanted to be helpful in death as well,” Buechner said.

Buechner said organ donation has done as much for her as it has for the six people whose lives were saved when they received her husband’s organs, including his heart, after he died unexpectedly from a brain aneurysm.

“It’s just been such a benefit for me in my grieving process to know that he’s been able to give others the chance to live and laugh the way that he had for so many years,” Buechner said.

Buechner said there’s been nothing but positivity that has come from her husband being an organ donor.

“Of course, his death was a terrible thing. But since then, organ donation has really given me the energy to keep going.”

Buechner encourages anyone on the fence about organ donation to become more aware and recognize the need for more donors.

Two thousand of the 114,000 patients waiting for a transplant are in Wisconsin, according to DLW.

In 2017, more than 800 organs were transplanted and more than 700 people received an organ transplant in Wisconsin. Nearly 3 million, almost 60 percent of eligible people, have registered as donors.

The UW Transplant Program performed 568 transplants in 2017, including 125 liver transplants, the most in the program’s 51-year history, UW Health said in a press release.

UW also said in the release that the program retained its position as the largest pancreas program in the country, completing 57 pancreas transplants.

UW Organ and Tissue Donation served 150 deceased donors and their families in 2017 and reached an 89 percent conversion rate, which measures the medically eligible donors who actually become donors, UW Health said.

As a result, UW OTD saved 388 lives in 2017.

“As always, it is the donors and their families who are the true heroes in this story, and we are reminded time and again of how these incredible acts of generosity, made during a family’s darkest hour, can bring light and life to so many,” Michael Anderson, executive director of UW OTD, said in the press release.