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Johnson & Advocates Promote Organ Donor Registration
APRIL 20, 2011
Advocates Applaud Secretary of State's New Policy, Say Lives Will Be Saved
Secretary of State Ruth Johnson promoted organ donor registration today at a West Michigan press conference, one day after she announced a new policy that directs employees, time permitting, to ask Secretary of State branch customers if they want to join the Michigan Organ Donor Registry.
Previously, there was no consistent policy from branch to branch or even employee to employee. Johnson made the announcement earlier this week during her State of the Secretary of State Address.
"Secretary Johnson's single decision to ask the question definitely will increase donor registration," said Rich Pietroski, CEO of Gift of Life Michigan. "It will definitely save lives."
Michigan ranks sixth from the bottom nationally in organ donation registration.
"With 3,000 people on the waiting list for organs, this is a matter of life and death," Johnson said. "This demands a new approach, a new way of thinking. We can and will do better."
April is recognized nationally as Donate Life Month.
Johnson was joined during Wednesday's press conference by leaders from Gift of Life Michigan and the Michigan Eye-Bank as well as families whose loved ones became organ donors and organ recipients and their families. Each urged Michigan residents to give the "gift of life."
Wednesday's press conference was held at Spectrum Health's Fred & Lena Meijer Heart Center in Grand Rapids. Spectrum Health heart transplant program which began six months ago, has completed eight heart transplants.
"The Heart Center offers many options to West Michigan residents, allowing them to be closer to home in the event of life-saving heart surgery," Johnson said.
Also on Wednesday, Johnson presented Don Korten and the Life & Sight Savers with her Shining Star Award for their work spreading the word about organ donation at the Calhoun County PLUS Secretary of State branch office since 2005, when Korten first heard about Buddy Day.
Rahn Bentley also shared his story. Bentley, of Grand Rapids, who was born with a congenital heart defect, was the first heart recipient at the Fred & Lena Meijer Heart Center at Spectrum Health. The donation inspired him to create the OFF TO SEE THE WIZARD Foundation. The foundation's goals are to double the number of people on the Michigan Organ Donor Registry and to financially aid families of donors and transplant patients.
"Many people are involved in this critical work, starting with individuals who decide to help others by joining the donor registry," Pietroski said. "The links in the chain leading from donation to transplant involve educators, volunteers, healthcare professionals, Secretary of State staff, and all are united in a common goal to save and improve lives. It's an honor to be part of this great mission."
Lisa Langley, executive director for the Michigan Eye-Bank, said that since Jan. 1, 257 Michigan residents have had their sight restored thanks to the compassion of eye donors and their families.
"That includes 16 living in Kent County alone," Langley said. "And all it takes to give someone the gift of sight is to sign up on the Michigan Organ Donor Registry."
Johnson created the "Restart the Heart" campaign to bring new energy and enthusiasm to promote organ donor registration. Those initiatives include:
For more information about Gift of Life Michigan call (800) 482-4881 or www.giftoflifemichigan.org. For more information about the Michigan Eye-Bank, call (800) 247-7250 or visit the organization's website at www.michiganeyebank.org.
For more information about organ donation and the Secretary of State's Office, visit its website (www.Michigan.gov/sos), and sign up for the official Twitter feed (www.twitter.com/Michsos) and Facebook updates (www.facebook.com/Michigansos).
For media questions, please call Randall Thompson at (517) 373-2520.
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