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Sound Health is a recurring series that airs twice each month on WGLT's Sound Ideas program.Support for Sound Health comes from Carle Health, bringing care, coverage, support, healthcare research and education to central Illinois and beyond.

Bloomington man gets a new life with a new kidney and encourages others to sign up for organ donation

Adam Lovell said he was on a waiting list for four years before he received a new kidney and pancreas that enabled him to stop dialysis treatments.
Eric Stock
/
WGLT
Adam Lovell said he was on a waiting list for four years before he received a new kidney and pancreas that enabled him to stop dialysis treatments.

Signing up for organ donation has never been easier, but there are still not enough donors to keep up with demand.

April is National Donate Life Month. In this edition of WGLT's Sound Health, health care administrators say they hope personal stories will encourage more people to give the gift of life.

“In your love and mercy, you turn the sadness of death into the dawn of new life,” Mollie Ward, director of spiritual care at Carle BroMenn Medical Center, said in prayer during an event outside the hospital in Normal on Tuesday.

Adam Lovell of Bloomington had his prayers answered.

Lovell needed a new kidney and pancreas because of his diabetes and complications from a foot injury. His foot got infected and he was hospitalized for weeks. He said the lengthy antibiotic IV treatment left him and his kidneys weak.

“What should have been the prime of my life, my early 30s, when my friends are going out doing fun events, they are camping, they are hiking, they are running, they are exercising,” Lovell recalled. “I couldn’t even make it up a single flight of stairs. If just became no way to live your life.”

Lovell also had a condition in which his blood sugar would fall dangerously low.

“When you never know when you are going to spontaneously black out and need to be rushed to the emergency, that’s a very scary way to live your life,” Lovell said, adding he got a service dog that was trained to detect low blood sugar.

An experimental drug he received at the Mayo Clinic bought him three years, but his kidneys were starting to fail. He needed dialysis three times a week. It takes hours each time. He thought he might need dialysis permanently.

Lovell was on a waiting list for a kidney and pancreas for four years. In 2009 he got a call that he was eligible to receive organs from a teenager who had died.

“That 18-year-old boy who suddenly passed away still lives on. His cells still live on inside me. What could have been the end of his story, isn’t,” Lovell said.

Lovell's story is one of many in which donated organs save lives. Carle BroMenn chief medical officer John Wieland said it's sad there are not many more.

“Nationwide over 100,000 people are waiting for lifesaving organ transplants and each day 17 people die because the organ they need is not available,” Wieland said.

Surveys show 95% of the public supports organ donation, but Gift of Hope president and CEO Harry Wilkins noted just 60% sign up.

“We’ve always said please don’t take your organs to heaven because heaven know we need them here,” Wilkins said.

Corey Briggs stand with nephew Kendrick Dawson, 13, and a Carle BroMenn Medical Center nurse during an event to promote organ donation.
Eric Stock
/
WGLT
Corey Briggs stand with nephew Kendrick Dawson, 13, and a Carle BroMenn Medical Center nurse during an event to promote organ donation.

Wilkins calls those donors heroes. The brother of Bloomington resident Corey Briggs' is an example.

Briggs, who works in food service at Carle BroMenn, lost his brother Theodore two years ago. Briggs said Theodore's legacy lives in 18 people who received his organs.

“I feel really great about that because that means a piece of him is still on this earth, still walking around even though I can’t see him, feel him or know what part of him is in whom,” Briggs said.

Lovell, the grants coordinator at Richland Community College in Decatur, said he has not talked with the family of the 18-year-old whose kidney and pancreas changed his life. He said he feels it's up to the donor family to reach out, if they want to.

Before getting the new organs, Lovell said he barely had the energy to walk. Four days after the surgery he pushed aside his wheelchair and walked out of the hospital. Lovell is now in his 40s and said he's as active as ever. He bikes and hikes and likes to fish and kayak. He refuses to take elevators. He said he takes the stairs because he can.

Lovell is also the president of Transplant Life Illinois, a group of organ recipient athletes who compete in the Transplant Games of America every two years.

Still, Lovell knows his new organs have left him immuno-compromised because of anti-rejection drugs he has to take. That became a worry especially during the height of COVID.

“Thankfully they were able to come through, a lot of us were able to get vaccination boosters long before many others and that really helped us out because it would have wiped out nearly all of the transplant community,” Lovell said.

Now Lovell is focused on helping the transplant community grow.

In Illinois, anyone who wishes to donate their organs can sign up at www.LifeGoesOn.org or have it added to your driver's license.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.