The St.Louis U. High Wellness Club hosted guest speaker Mandy Ratz, a kidney transplant recipient, nurse, and advocate for the National Kidney Foundation to speak to students about the importance of organ donation and to offer lasting life lessons. She talked to a group of students on Wednesday in room 215C during activity period.
After being introduced by history teacher and Wellness Club moderator Tom Zinselmeyer, Ratz told her story about how she came to be a kidney recipient.
“I used to run 9 miles a day. (One day,) I could barely run one,” said Ratz. She explained that her kidney’s failure was due to high blood pressure that had gone unnoticed. Ratz warned all in attendance about the importance of having blood pressure checked, labeling high blood pressure as “the silent killer.”
Ratz explained that her brother Matt, who was in college when Ratz’s kidney failed, volunteered to supply one of his own kidneys for transplant.
“Anyone, … if they treat their bodies well, can live a full, healthy life with only one kidney,” she explained. She supplied some startling statistics about the truth of organ donation, or lack thereof.
Ratz said that 107,000 people were waiting for organs to be donated, from either living or dead donors, and 84,000 of them were waiting for kidneys as of 2008. Nineteen people die needlessly every day, while their deaths might have been averted by a timely donation or two. There are about 31,000 organ transplants every year, from 13,000 donors. One kidney, a section of a liver, one lung, skin, and parts of the pancreas are among the organs that can be donated. Organs extracted from a dead body are still able to be transplanted up to 24 hours after the time of death. About 75% of all these organs go to children age 15 or younger, particularly newborn infants. The closer to death the possible recipient is, the sooner they will receive the organ that their body needs. Approximately 17,420 people died in 2008 from organ failures, and every 10 minutes another person is added to the organ waiting list.
Ratz explained that to the SLUH community as Catholics, the mission of organ donation is “a big sign of love and sacrifice.” She quoted Pope John Paul II’s official teachings on organ donation, wherein he stated that to donate on organ is “a challenge of faith and courage.”
To those skeptical few who are worried about the care that doctors take to the bodies of donors, or are nervous about being a living donor for various reasons, Ratz would simply ask in response, “What if you needed a transplant? Would you accept an organ? Then why not give one?”
Ratz said that she was lucky because her brother was willing to be her donor, but many people are not as fortunate.
Ratz also emphasized how it is crucial that we, as high school students, can make a difference. “To be an organ donor is not just having the back of your driver’s license signed,” she explained. “It’s about talking to your family about it.” She said that teenagers play a crucial role as donors as well because of the damages teenagers inflict upon themselves through acts like driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or simply driving recklessly. The website for the United Network of Organ Sharing, unos.org, gives further information about organ donation for teens.
She concluded with information about the 2012 Kidney walk, which last year raised more than $50,000 for organ donation, and this year hopes to raise even more.
Ratz said, “If you don’t remember anything else from this talk, remember this: Always wear a seatbelt, and never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Drink at least 8 full glasses of water every day, and go to the bathroom right when you need to.”
Zinselmeyer said he invited Ratz to speak to students because her message is in tune with the Wellness Club’s mission: mental, social, spiritual and physical health, all of which Ratz touched on. Zinselmeyer was impressed with the “tremendous turnout for a Wednesday activity period.” He was encouraged to see Assistant Principal for Student Life Brock Kesterson, Principal John Moran, the Wellness Club’s co-moderator, Scott Gilbert, and many students he did not recognize in attendance, although he did offer extra credit to sophomores in his Global History II class for attending.
“I would most definitely (invite guest speakers like Ratz) in the future,” Zinselmeyer said, “because our job is to keep kids informed about all kinds of health.”