Some central Nebraskans are sharing their stories of organ and tissue donation in an effort to try and get more people to become donors.
Officials at Nebraska Organ Recovery say that around 500 Nebraskans are currently waiting on a life-saving organ transplant, but this year alone, more than 40 of them will die before they ever find a donor.
Linda Rosacker, a pharmacist at Saint Francis Medical Center in Grand Island, says that 25 years ago diabetes started destroying her sister's organs. When doctors put her on a transplant list, their family waited to find a kidney and pancreas donor.
Rosacker says they'll never know the person who decided to donate their organs after death, but their generosity has given their family more time, and set things in motion so they could help extend her sister's life as well.
"We are forever grateful for that because that's bought her this much more time that then my mother could donate a kidney when she needed to for my sister and then as that, the life expectancy of that kidney came to an end, then I was able to donate," says Rosacker, who says her donation surgery was not difficult, and she was able to get back to work and normal activities quickly.
Nebraska transplant officials and Saint Francis are encouraging Nebraskans to be organ and tissue donors as they get ready to take part in the Donate Life float at the Rose Bowl Parade, something they believe will keep spreading the message of donation even farther this January.
Tiff Varney of Arnold says his family became advocates for organ and tissue donation when their son died in 2006. He says it made a bad situation better when the 21 year old's organs helped save at least five people.
"This program is the greatest thing in the world. You know your family member lives on, and the people you meet from it and associations and everything that takes place from it is the most rewarding thing there is," says Varney.
The Varney's went to California in 2010 where they helped decorate Donate Life's float with a picture of their son's face.
As the director of Saint Francis signed a rose vial that will go on this year's float in honor of the hospital and the transplant lives changed there, Varney and others are reminded that there are around 500 Nebraskans waiting for their own life-saving organ transplants.
Kyle Herber, executive director of Nebraska Organ Recovery, says people can become donors by checking the box on a drivers license application, or by signing up online. But he says they also need to share that wish with others.
"Please let your family members know so that they are not taken aback, that if we do get notified by the hospital, and then we make contact with them and let them know that you, or if their loved one was registered, that they're not taken aback by that," says Herber.
Varney says they knew their son had registered to be a donor when he got his drivers license, and says he knows of other families that had a conversation just before a death.
"Convey the information, share it with your family members and let them know - most generally most families do follow your wishes," he says.
Donation advocates say that a single organ and tissue donor can help up to 100 people.