MAYWOOD, Ill. -- Thousands of men, women and children are waiting for lifesaving organs in Illinois, joining the more than 106,000 people who are on waiting lists across the nation.
Unfortunately, this year thousands of those waiting will die without ever having a chance for a transplant due to the huge shortage of transplantable hearts, liver, kidney, lungs and other tissue.
"When you need a transplant, probably the most difficult part of the whole process is waiting for someone to make that donation," said Michael Rummel, RN, an organ procurement coordinator at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood. "Waiting takes a heavy toll not just on the patient but on the families and caregivers, too."
To help raise awareness about the need for increased donation, hundreds of organ transplant patients and their families will gather to speak and light candles at Loyola’s The Greatest Gift candlelight ceremony to remember and honor their donors as part of National Donate Life Month, which takes place in April. The ceremony will also reunite patients with the transplant physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains and priests who cared from them during their illnesses.
The yearly commemoration, which also will honor live organ donors and the families of deceased donors, will take place from 4-5 p.m., Thursday, April 22, in the Paul V. Galvin Memorial Chapel of Loyola University Hospital, 2160 S. First Ave., Maywood. Participating in the ceremony will be:
* The family of Cameron Chana, a 22-year-old resident of Clarendon Hills who died on May 30, 2009, in a bus accident near Charleston, Ill. Years earlier Cameron had signed up to be an organ donor. His selfless act has saved and enhanced the lives of a number of people.
* Guadalupe Vazquez, a Latino grandmother, wife and resident of Cicero who underwent a liver transplant. She and her family are anxious to spread the message about the desperate need for organ donation in the minority community.
* Valerie Batz, a Barrington wife and mother of twins who was hours away from dying before a new set of lungs were found for her. Now, more than 12 years after her life-saving transplant, she is a tireless advocate for organ donation.
* Chuck Vrasich, a Woodstock football coach, husband and father whose muscular dystrophy caused his heart to fail, requiring a transplant. Today, Chuck has returned to coaching and continues to be very active in the community.
* David Watkins, an African America resident of Homewood and the husband and father of three who is a kidney recipient. Prior to transplant his fondest wish was to see his children grow up and to one day walk his daughter down the aisle on her wedding day, which he fully expects to be able to do.
Each day, an average of 77 people receives organ transplants in the U.S. but thousands more never get the call from their transplant center, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. Loyola University Health System is one of the leading solid-organ transplant centers in the nation, offering heart, heart/lung, lung, bone marrow, corneal, kidney, intra-abdominal and liver transplant programs.