Organ donation leads to lifelong friendship
By Olivia De Valk
CENTRAL WISCONSIN – When Jill Dillon donated her kidney to Sara Solinsky in 2011 she didn’t know the impact her donation would have on the community and her own life.
Dillon and Solinsky went on to found Central Wisconsin Gift of Life, a non-profit dedicated to bringing awareness to the need for organ donation in Central Wisconsin.
“Our first role is awareness,” Dillon said. “Making sure that people are aware of this vast, vast need for organ and tissue donors.”
The United States Health Resources and Services Administration reports that 20 people die every day waiting for an organ donation.
While Dillon and Solinsky work to increase the number of organ donors in the area they combat misinformation and fear surrounding the donation process.
Dillon said two of the biggest pieces of misinformation about organ donation are that hospitals will allow a donor to die in order to harvest their organs, and that a donor has to be in excellent health in order to donate.
“You’d be amazed at the number of people who think they can’t be a donor because of a health issue,” Dillon said. “I had an uncle who was 53, diabetic, terrible alcoholic, he died. He helped a lot of people through organ donation.”
Gift of Life also hosts fundraisers to raise money for University of Wisconsin Organ and Tissue Donation and the Restoring Hope Transplant House. Additionally, Gift of Life looks to act as a support for families and people who have been through the donation process.
In all of this work, story-telling is critical. “Telling your story, telling the story about a recipient is so important because it just encourages more and more people to become donors,” Dillon said.
No one knows the importance of sharing your story more than Solinsky.
Solinsky was born with only one kidney. Back in 2011, after 10 years of medication to keep her kidney functioning, it was failing and she was in need of a donor.
Solinsky’s family and friends went to get tested, but for the most part Solinsky tried to keep to herself.
“I didn’t want to have to rely on anybody to help me,” Solinsky said.
But by mid-May, exhausted from working full-time and taking care of her five-year old daughter, Solinsky put a post on Facebook. Dillon heard her story through a co-worker and knew immediately she would donate if she could.
Dillon and Solinsky connected on Facebook and had their antibody counts compared shortly after.
“We were the perfect match. Our numbers were phenomenal,” Dillon said.
They went ahead with the transplant in July of 2011.
“Once I got released from the hospital, it was amazing. It really gave me quality of life and extra time with [my daughter] that I wouldn’t have had otherwise,” Solinsky said. “We’ve both gotten more out of the transplant than just her helping me. . . . It’s a life-long friendship.”
To learn more about organ donation visit donatelifewisconsin.org; for updates from Central Wisconsin Gift of Life follow their page on Facebook.