Written by | Kara Patterson | Appleton Post Crescent
When Grand Chute Lions Club member Don Schleicher's brother-in-law died about 15 years ago after a hunting accident, Wisconsin hadn't yet launched its online organ, tissue and eye donor registry.
The man had a donor dot affixed to his driver's license, Schleicher said, but in the emergency room, he didn't have his wallet on him.
"It wasn't until the family got there that we said, hey, this is what he wanted, and there wasn't anything much to be harvested because it was just too late — too much time had passed," Schleicher said. "And I knew him a long, long time. He had been adamant, 'If something ever happened, I want to make sure to help others.'"
The club is spreading the word about the state's registry, which allows medical personnel to quickly access donors'wishes at the time of death, by holding an awareness and signup event Saturday at two McDonald's restaurants in the Fox Cities.
Volunteers at laptop stations will be available to assist people as they register and provide information about organ donation and the registry, managed by the state Department of Health Services in cooperation with the state Department of Transportation. McDonald's paper tray liners on Saturday also will offer related information.
More than 1,600 people are waiting for an organ transplant in Wisconsin, according to the registry's website, www.yesiwill wisconsin.com. In Wisconsin, the registry was the missing piece of the puzzle for donor sign-ups, said Martha Mallon, president of Donate Life Wisconsin, an organization that helped launch the registry.
About 55 percent of Wisconsin's 4.4 million licensed drivers and state ID card holders have registered, she said.
"We have in Wisconsin some of the highest donation rates in the country," said Mallon, who also is the program director for the Organ & Tissue Donation Program through the state Department of Health Services' Division of Public Health. "But there really wasn't a connection between what happens at the time of death and the driver's license.
"Often, the license is in somebody's wallet and not with them at the time of death, or a police officer might secure their belongings. The registry is a secure database that can be accessed with a secure sign-in and log-on 24 hours a day. So the people who are working to recover organs and tissue are authorized to sign into that site to find out if a potential donor is indeed listed in the registry."
An individual's registration is a legal record of anatomical gift and is accessible to donation professionals at the time of death, Mallon said. Only the individual may remove his or her name from the registry. The online aspect of the registry allows Wisconsin residents ages 15½ and older with a driver's license or state ID to sign up at their convenience, Mallon said.