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Sanford Raises Flag Honoring Organ Donors and Recipients

More than 113,000 people were on the national organ transplant waiting list at the start of 2019. On Wednesday night, Sanford Health in Sioux Falls hosted a flag-raising ceremony to honor organ donors and recipients. 

Laurie Jensen is the director of five Sanford Clinics in the area. In 2017, she learned one of the nurses on her staff needed a kidney and was running out of options. Jensen—who was 60 years old at the time—decided to look into the donation process. She assumed she would be too old. 

“When I made the call, it was easy. I made the call to the transplant group here. Cherish, my transplant nurse, told me it isn’t about age. It’s about how healthy you are.”

Jensen calls it "miraculous" that she turned out to be a direct match. She and the nurse underwent the kidney transplant last July. Both are fully recovered and helped raise the Donate Life flag at the ceremony on Wednesday.

The event is a small gathering to commemorate all donors and recipients—and to raise awareness for organ donation options. Dr. Mohammad Qamar is a transplant nephrologist, meaning he specializes in kidney care. He says the annual ceremony is special for medical staff as well, because they may care for the same patients for years or decades at a time.

“So, there’s a deeper connection that you form, and there’s nothing more that a doctor would like than to see one of their patients succeed in life and get the care and the help that they need. So this is why it’s especially dear to our hearts.”

Dr. Qamar and Laurie Jensen shared remarks before the flag raising. Jensen says she’s sharing her story to clear up some misconceptions about organ donation.

“[Being a] Live donor isn’t for everyone, but it certainly is an option that people can consider if they have a family member or a friend or just want to have more information about it. So that’s really my role is to help people understand that.”

Hospitals around the country fly Donate Life flags to commemorate a transplant or Donate Life Month during April.

Regional Health supports Education and Healthcare reporting on SDPB.