In a moving presentation at the Thursday Noon Rotary Club meeting, Jim Shoemaker talked about the January 2011 death of his daughter and the need for people to become involved in organ donations.
With Shoemaker at the meeting was Tom Fuller of New Brighton, Minn., who received a lung from Anna after she was killed in the 2011 car accident. Anna is the daughter of Jim and Hudson High School Principal Peg Shoemaker.
“There are 120,000 people in the country on a waiting list for organs,” Shoemaker said. “Someone is added to the list every 10 minutes – that’s 84 per day. The sad part is, 18 people who are waiting die each day.”
He said St. Croix County actually has one of the highest donor rates in the nation, currently at 65 percent.
“My question is, what are the other 35 percent thinking?”
He said many people think there are enough donors when you add the numbers, but many don’t realize that it takes unique circumstances surrounding the death. The victim has to die a certain way – usually brain death.”
He said out of 100,000 deaths of potential donors, there may be only 10 in which organs can be used.
”Anna was our daughter and a friend to many,” Shoemaker said. “She was a very determined young woman and touched many lives.
“She was born a week early and hit the ground running. She loved to travel; she loved to meet people; and loved to help people.”
Anna was a 2008 Hudson High School graduate and a junior at UW-Madison at the time of the accident.
“She was scheduled to go to Venezuela when she returned to school for the second semester,” Shoemaker said. “She did a good job in her studies at the School of Global Studies and was awarded a degree posthumously.”
Anna Shoemaker, 20, died a day after an early morning crash in northern Wisconsin on Jan. 12, 2011, near Ashland. She was the passenger in a vehicle, driven by her friend, that collided with a truck.
She was air-lifted to Essentia Health St. Mary’s in Duluth, Minn.
“When we got the call we were told she was in an accident and airlifted to Duluth – we had no more information at the time.”
Jim and Peg scrambled to drive to Duluth as quickly as possible.
“At the hospital they took us into a little room and told us horrible news – ‘Anna has catastrophic brain damage.’”
She was taken off life support about 24 hours after the car accident.
“The good news is that Anna was an organ donor,” Jim said. “She saved at least six lives and has impact up to 60 lives.”
Immediate life-saving organs included heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas and lung. Tissue and bone donations continue to this day.
“The day Anna died, we faced many “no’s,” Shoemaker said. “Now we try to embrace the ‘yes’s.’ Good will come from bad. Anna has helped recipients and families.”
In a powerful part of the Rotary presentation, Jim introduced Tom Fuller of New Brighton, Minn.
“Tom has Anna’s lung,” Shoemaker said. “Tom would not be here today without that lung.”
Fuller said he was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) in 2008. The doctor told him he had two to five years to live. IPF is a fatal lung disease, with no known cause and no known cure. In 2010 he was added to the transplant list to receive a lung donation and in 2011 he received Anna’s lung.
“I am so thankful for this gift,” Fuller said. “I have had the opportunity see my granddaughter, to see my son get married this summer – there are numerous things I have been able to do. I will be forever grateful.”
Shoemaker said he is still trying to create “yes’s.”
“There are three ‘yes’s’ I want everyone to look at,” he said. “Yes, consider being a donor; yes, discuss it with your family and let them know your intentions; and yes, ask others if they have considered being determined to save the lives of others.”
The easiest way to become a donor is to check the box on a driver’s license. For anyone over the age of 18 it is a binding agreement. For drivers 16-18 the family must still give approval.
There are two organizations that can provide information. Lifesource serves Minnesota and the Dakotas; UW Health Organ Procurement serves Wisconsin.
“I’m so proud of my daughter,” Shoemaker said. “She has saved at least six lives and she lives on.”