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'Celebration of Life’ honors organ donation

Apr 6, 2009

Ceremony recognizes donors, recipients and efforts of Aspirus

WAUSAU, Wis. – On June 23, 2007, Jill Jagler lost her husband Mike to a brain aneurysm, but his death saved the lives of five other people and initiated a friendship that continues to grow today because he was an organ donor.

According to Donate Life Wisconsin, there are nearly 1,600 people on the state’s organ transplant waiting list. Kathi Pottinger had end-stage liver disease and was on that list for six months in 2007 before she was given the gift of life from Mike Jagler.

“I’ve always had an appreciation for organ donation, but I have even more now,” said Pottinger, a Madison resident. “I never thought I’d be on the receiving end of a transplant.”

The need for organ donation continues to rise:

  • In the U.S. in 2008, more than 26,000 organ transplants were performed.

  • One new person is added to the wait list every 13
    minutes in the U.S.

  • 18 people die every day in the U.S. because not enough organs are available.

Monday, Pottinger and Jill Jagler shared their story during Donate Life America’s Celebration of Life. The ceremony recognized April as Organ Donation Month at Aspirus Wausau Hospital, which was awarded the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Medal of Honor for Organ Donation for the fourth consecutive year.

Pottinger and Jagler met for the first time just four months after the transplant. At the initial meeting, Jagler shared stories and memories about her husband with Pottinger, and the two discussed the circumstances that brought them together.

“Mike was adamant about being a donor and we discussed it several times, so there was no hesitation once I knew there was nothing the doctors could do for him,” said Jagler, a Wausau native. “It helped me get through the whole situation knowing there were other people going to the hospital getting ready to live. That gave me goose bumps.”

Jagler was pleasantly surprised by how soon Pottinger reached out to her, and their friendship has continued to blossom ever since.      

“The quickness of Kathi’s response was a little faster than usual, because it typically takes 18 months to two years before organ recipients will reach out to the donor’s family,” Jagler said. “We talk regularly and see her often. She’s family now.”

The HHS Medal of Honor recognizes hospitals that achieve at least a 75 percent organ donation rate from eligible donor families in a consecutive 12-month period. Former HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson created the award as part of a national organ donation initiative launched in April 2001. Aspirus Wausau Hospital has had 26 organ donors and transplanted 77 organs during the past four years.

“I am very grateful for his (Mike’s) gift of life and I hope others will think about the rewards that come from donating,” Pottinger said.

Donate Life America is a non-profit alliance of national organizations and local coalitions across the United States dedicated to inspiring all people to save and enhance lives through organ, eye and tissue donation.

Contact: Greg Aune, 715.847.0479