Need for organs, living donors on the rise

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As people start putting together wish lists for gifts this holiday season, more and more need the gift of life.

The number of living organ donors has grown, but so has the list of people waiting to find a match.

Diagnosed with leukemia, Hailey Craig says she had to turn to strangers for help.

“I was told I’d need to have a bone marrow transplant and nobody in my immediate family matched,” Craig said. “They had told me that if I had kept doing the rounds of chemo, there was a 70 percent chance the leukemia would come back. And if I did the transplant, and it was successful, that in five years, I’d be, they don't like to use the word cured, but closest to cured as could be. So it really gave me my life back.”

She said the experience even led her into the medical field, and she's now a certified surgical technologist and living a healthy life without treatments. Her Sacred Heart coworker Cari Janke says it was an easy decision to donate when her mom was in need of a kidney.

“I wanted to be the match. I wanted it to be me. I was excited to be able to give it to her. I saw her health declining and I wanted nothing more than to be able to help her and give her life,” Janke said.

“My mom felt great right away, so I was able to see her up walking around, which was amazing. She looked better than she had in a long time.”

The need has grown. With people living longer, about 120,000 are waiting for a life-saving organ, according to Mayo Clinic Health System.

“They're having to have medical procedures or dialysis multiple times during the week. Their quality of life is not what it would be or not what it is after the gift,” Kelly Buchholtz, Donation Coordinator at Mayo said.

“An organ is way better than a new Barbie, for Christmas or any kind of a gift. It's a gift that will just follow you through life. It's such an amazing thing, and people are so grateful for what you do,” Janke said.

Hospitals also said there's been a rise in kidney chain donations, where often six or more people get matched based on the kindness of strangers.

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