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Saving lives: ‘Bee a Donor’ event sparks conversation about organ donation

Published: Apr. 9, 2022 at 9:13 PM CDT
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FOND DU LAC, Wis. (WBAY) - Inspiring stories from kidney donors, recipients and a young man in need of a life-saving donation filled the Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts Saturday.

“If we can share that love and help promote Donate Life, and help educate... it provides hope,” event organizer and kidney donor Paul Osterholm said.

In honor of April being National Donate Life Month, the “Bee a Donor” event raised awareness of the hundreds of thousands of people currently waiting for an organ transplant in the United States.

“Please if you’re willing to donate, even if you’ve never met them, you could save their life,” Eric Warnke said.

22-year-old Warnke received a life changing phone call last November... when doctors told him his kidneys were failing.

“Within a week of my diagnosis, they were calling me on a Thursday to tell me I needed to start dialysis.”

Warnke said he was in complete shock... even denial... going from living a healthy life to learning that without a transplant, he could die.

“My doctors are confident that I’ll probably, hopefully, get a match within a year or two.”

He has been on dialysis ever since, but hasn’t let that stop him. He’s set to graduate from Marian University.

“I’m hoping to graduate in May,” he explained. “...and just live my life the way I intended on, even before this. I’m trying not to let it affect me, as much as that’s possible.”

While Warnke waits for his donor match, Nicole Braatz shared her story.

Braatz matched with her donor, Osterholm, a few years ago.

“I thank Paul because he did save my life,” Braatz expressed. “That’s why I was just amazed at somebody like Paul and all donors. You get asked a lot when we speak, why did you do it? And he says, well, why not?”

The two now consider each other family after their life-saving kidney swap in 2018.

“Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. If you can make a difference today with being kind, sharing a smile, opening the door for a stranger, sharing an organ, why not?” said Osterholm.

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