DECATUR—Organ and tissue donations are said to give others a second chance at life, which is more than true for Kelly Schoonover as the generosity of others allowed her to thwart death not once but three times in the past 20 years.
Schoonover, an administrative assistant in the president's office at Richland Community College, first experienced kidney failure at age 12. Though the outlook was grim, she successfully received a kidney from her mother.
“My mom's decision to donate her organ to me changed my life to where I could go back to being a child and go back to school and do things that a normal child could do,” she said.
The kidney lasted 10 years before failing, and Schoonover went on to have two more transplants.
Schoonover was among several others Tuesday sharing stories of how organ and tissue donations have affected their lives.
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White recognized these individuals and commended the college for its campaigning to register new donors during a news conference Tuesday. Richland was the first of the 49 community colleges in the state to participate in an initiative to encourage students, faculty and staff in the college to become organ/tissue donors, White said.
The “Be A Hero” campaign promotes community colleges in Illinois to find innovative ways to spread donor awareness and was created to go along with April's National Donate Life Month.
Almost 22 years ago, organ donation allowed Decatur native Janice Earl to breath again. Toting around an oxygen tank and waiting 10 months and five days on the transplant list, Earl was fortunate to receive a new pair of lungs.
“I may be a success story, but there are still so many people waiting for transplants,” she said.
About 300 people in Illinois die each year waiting for a transplant, White said.
Organs and tissues are not the only life-saving donations others can benefit from, said Jessica Pickel, assistant to the health professions dean at the college. In 2010, about 10 days after her one-year wedding anniversary, Pickel was diagnosed with aplastic anemia and would have died without the bone marrow her younger brother donated to her.
Richland's “Be A Hero Campaign” will continue through Thursday. The college will host a costume contest today with the winner receiving a gift card to the coffee house, and a blood drive will be 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday at the Shilling Center Salons.