Local double-lung transplant recipient shares story to encourage organ donation

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TOLEDO (WTVG) - More than one hundred Americans die every week waiting for an organ donation. But there are a lot of people in our community working hard to lower that devastating number.

This is National Donate Life Month. Every ten minutes another person is added to the organ transplant waiting list. Just one donor can provide up to 8 life-saving organs. And while the vast majority of adults support organ donation, only 58% are actually signed up.

Kara Steele is the Director of Community Services at Life Connection of Ohio. She says about 20 people die every single day here in the United States waiting for a life-saving transplant, "We have over 113,000 people in the U.S. waiting for an organ transplant. About 3,100 of them are in Ohio."

Chris May spent about three and a half years on that waiting list.
Scenes like this weren't possible for him until he received a double- lung transplant 10 years ago, "It basically began when I was 13 years old. I was diagnosed with sarcoidosis which made my spleen the size of a volleyball."

After treatment, the disease was dormant for 20 years, but Chris says it came back with a vengeance, "At that point my lung capacity dropped from 100% to 36%."

The transplant allows him to be active again. He's even won multiple medals at the Transplant Games, which are like the Olympics for transplant recipients. And for all the extra days he's been given, Chris says he is forever grateful, "My oldest daughter gets married in 2021, and I'll be there. That and all the other important things I have been here for, would not be possible without my donor"

Kara Steele works at Life Connection of Ohio because of the gift her father was given. Her dad Harvey J. Steele was diagnosed with liver disease in 1997. He received a new liver that same year. Harvey was an icon in country radio, working as a DJ at K-100 for decades.

Harvey died in 2017, but Kara says he spent his life helping spread the word about the importance of organ donation, "I would have lost my dad at age 13 if someone had not said yes to organ donation. I am so grateful for the extra 20 years we had together. He was able to do so much good in those years."

Becoming a donor is simple. You can register through Life Connection of Ohio or when you get a driver's license. Kara says the message is getting through to a lot of people here,"Over 60% of people in northwest Ohio say yes to organ donation when they get their license at the BMV. That's much higher than the national average."

Chris May says the importance of organ donation has truly come full circle for him, "When I am done with life they can use whatever they need to help somebody else."

We've posted a link if you'd like to learn more about becoming a donor.