Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White talks about organ donation during a news conference Friday at Joliet Junior College. April is National Donate Life Month. | Frank Vaisvilas~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 14, 2014 6:46AM
Kimberly Koning said she might like to meet the family of the person who donated the liver that saved her life.
“I cannot explain enough about how life-changing this was,” Koning, 33, of Frankfort said. “I look at it as I’m just borrowing the liver.”
She spoke at a news conference Friday at Joliet Junior College, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White and college administrators were emphasizing the importance of organ donation. April is National Donate Life Month.
When Koning received her new liver in 2012, she did not want to know anything about the donor or how he or she died.
But she’s now considering reaching out to the family, if they’re willing, to show them how grateful she is.
Koning was born with severe digestive health issues and nearly died at age 23 after major surgery.
She was admitted to Rush University Medical Center in Chicago two years ago, again related to her digestive system, and would have died without the liver donation.
White said about 300 people in Illinois die every year while waiting for an organ transplant and more than 5,000 are on waiting lists.
He said the organ donation program previously required consent and signatures from two family members of the deceased before the organs could be harvested. But that system resulted in 20 percent of declared organ donors not actually making donations, White said.
“Now, we have first-person consent so when that moment arrives there will be a smooth transition,” he said.
Under the first-person consent law that took effect in 2006, family consent is not required if a person is over 18 and registered to be an organ donor.
Koning said she is relatively healthy and doing well. She’s a student at Joliet Junior College, studying for a career in health care.
White said he’s trying to dispel some myths about organ donation, with a major one being that there’s a black market where unscrupulous people obtain organs for sale.
“We don’t sell organs in this country,” he said.
Some people are concerned their body might not be fit for display in a casket if their organs have been donated, White said, but morticians today are able to make bodies appear natural after organ donation.