State kicks off National Donate Life Month and new donor registry

Life will go on for 41-year-old Brian Troy of Rockford—when he gets a heart. Troy spent his first full day, after a two-month hospital stay, attending a press conference April 4 at the Rock River Valley Blood Center, aimed at kicking off National Donate Life Month and promoting the state’s new donor registry program.

Troy spoke haltingly about the difference organ donation can make.

“Brian is what this is all about,” Gift of Hope President and Chief Executive Officer Jarold Anderson said.

Gift of Hope is an Elmhurst-based organ and tissue donor network. Anderson said the lack of donors has made survival a gamble.

“Sadly, there is some luck involved. There (are) not enough organs to go around,” he said.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White had one wish for Troy.

“We just hope you get your gift in a timely manner,” White said.

The secretary of state was in Rockford as part of a six-city tour, which began in Chicago. Other cities included Springfield, Champaign, Rock Island, Quincy and Carbondale.

The conference showcased an advertising campaign promoting the state’s new donor registry database. White said “real people who are waiting for the gift of life” would star in the radio and television commercials, accompanied by Bob Marley’s “Waiting In Vain.”

House Bill 1077, which became law Jan. 1, makes family consent unnecessary, White’s press secretary, Dave Druker, said. “If I wanted to be an organ donor, nothing could overrule that,” Druker said.

The legislation, which created “First Person Consent,” requires potential and current donors to join the new database, since, Druker said, donors can’t be transferred from one database to another.

He said Illinois had the country’s largest donor registry. According to Druker, more than 300,000 people have joined the new database since January.

“We’re off to an excellent start,” Druker said.

According to the secretary of state’s office, people can register at any driver’s license facility, online at or call the Illinois Secretary of State Organ/Tissue Donor Program at 1 (800) 210-2106. Minors still require family consent.

White stressed what impact the new registry will have.

“It will bring forth the delivery of more organs,” he said, adding 100 more people will be helped each year.

According to White, the new donor program makes donors’ wishes more secure than before.

“We found that, with the old system, 20 percent of families opted out,” he said.

Director of Tourism, Culture and Special Events Cyndie Hall, who read a proclamation on behalf of Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey, stressed the need for donors.

“There are many people dying for the lack of people registered,” Hall said.

Troy said he keeps a list of organs that would be wasted, if not donated. He said those include the eyes, heart and even skin.

“If you’re passing on to the next world, you don’t have need of the shell anymore,” Troy said.

Anderson concurred.

“Heaven doesn’t need our organs, and we sure need them here,” he said.

From the April 12-18, 2006, issue

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