By Evan Casey
Over 85 hospitals across Wisconsin participated in a flag raising ceremony to bring awareness to the importance of organ donation Monday morning, including the Aurora Sinai Medical Center located at 945 N. 12th St. The hospitals that participated are members of Donate Life Wisconsin, a statewide initiative to encourage individuals to register to sign up to donate organs, eyes and tissue.
April is national Donate Life Month, a month designated to celebrate the benefits of organ donation.
There are currently over 114,000 patients waiting for a transplant of some kind across the nation.
According to a press release by the hospital, one donor can save eight lives.
Ashley Johnson, an administrative assistant for The Blood Center of Wisconsin, was present at the event. She is trying to educate people about the importance of becoming a donor.
“You save lives and you leave behind a legacy when you become a donor,” said Johnson. “To see the recipients walking around and carrying on with their lives today is a beautiful thing.”
In Wisconsin, anyone over the age of 15 and a half can register as a donor regardless of gender or racial background. More than 800 organs were transplanted and more than 700 people received an organ transplant in 2017, according to a press release.
Steve Zeige of Milwaukee came to the event to tell his story. He was diagnosed with a form of blood cancer in 2011 and was told he had months to live. However, Zeige is still around today after receiving a bone marrow transplant in 2015.
“I was supposed to be gone, but I’m still here to talk about it,” said Zeige. “When I got better, I felt a want to give back. If I can talk to someone else and give them hope [then] that’s what it’s all about.”
Zeige has been volunteering with Be The Match, a national marrow donor program that matched him with his donor. Be The Match operates the National Marrow Donor Program, the largest and most diverse marrow registry in the world, according to their website.
“Although I can’t be a donor, at least I can help someone else in some small way,” said Zeige. “This is literally saving people’s lives.”