‘It’s like you get a second chance’
By Rachel Kytonen
As a diabetic for 19 years and insulin dependent throughout, Joanie Videen’s life revolved around checking her glucose.
Videen, of Cambridge, has spent the past 10 years dealing with hypoglycemic unaware, meaning she couldn’t tell when she needed to eat because she wouldn’t have any signs, and would have to check her glucose every three hours.
In 2005 she became aware of a study at the University of Minnesota, and learned she could benefit from a new pancreas. After a five year process, she got put on a waiting list for a new pancreas. In July 2010, after waiting for five and half months, Videen got the call she had been hoping for.
“I was very happy but extremely sad for the family that had lost a loved one,” Videen said. “I was extremely grateful that their 20-year-old had decided to be an organ donor.”
With a successful pancreas transplant, Videen feels she has a new lease on life.
“I’ve been insulin free from the time of the transplant,” Videen explained. “I can finally sleep all night, and I can get in a car and drive as long as I want. I feel safer now because I’m not constantly worrying about my blood sugar, and not afraid of what I might say. Before the transplant I wouldn’t be sure if someone disagreed with me because they had a difference of opinion or they couldn’t understand what I was saying. It was hard to maintain my self-esteem when I always had to question myself.”
Life Source launches new program
Videen agreed to share her story as a way to promote a new educational program through Life Source, a non-profit organization dedicated to saving lives through organ and tissue donation in the Upper Midwest.
Becky Ousley, senior public relations coordinator for Life Source, explained the organization serves more than 6 million people in communities across Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and portions of western Wisconsin.
As the federally-designated organization that manages organ and tissue donation in our region, Life Source is dedicated to working with their hospital and community partners to support donor families, facilitate the donation of organs and tissues to transplant recipients and encourage the people in the communities to register as donors.
Ousley explained the new program called “You and $2” is a partnership with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety and was made possible by passage of a bipartisan bill during the 2011 legislative session.
Minnesotans applying for or renewing their driver’s licenses or state ID cards have long had the opportunity to check a box to designate themselves organ, tissue and eye donors.
Now, the “You and $2” program allows Minnesotans to use the same form to contribute $2 to education about organ, tissue and eye donation. Money raised will be used to fund programs that educate the public on the need for life-saving organ donations, with the goal of increasing the number of registered donors in the state.
The “You and $2” program was modeled after similar programs in other states that saw an increased number of registered donors.
Ousley explained the percentage of persons who are registered donors in Minnesota continues to rise, yet growth has significantly slowed—a critical concern, as the need for organ donors is rising and expected to increase.
More than 2.4 million Minnesotans are registered organ and tissue donors, equaling about 60 percent of adults in the state. Although Minnesota ranks higher than the national average (42 percent of adults registered as donors) states with programs similar to “You and $2” boast much higher rates of registered donors, including Washington at 74 percent.
“Organ and tissue donations are a gift,” Ousley said. “It is really one of the gifts you can give someone to provide life and hope to someone who has none right now.
“I hear people tell me that organ and tissue donation is a gift to the family, as well as the person receiving the donation. It really helps the family in time of grieving to know they have helped to provide a new life to someone,” she added.
Statewide, more than 2,700 people are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. In 2010, 167 people died while on the transplant list because an organ was not available — nearly one person every other day.
Videen enjoys new life
Videen said since her transplant, things have been going very well and added the doctors at the U of M have been wonderful to work with.
After recovering from her surgeries, Videen decided she wanted to give something back and got involved with Life Source. She now gives educational presentations to high school driver’s education classes, as well as other groups and organizations about the importance of being an organ and tissue donor.
“The educational presentations are really a wonderful experience and after I share my own story, the kids usually have a lot of questions and it’s such a good experience,” Videen said. “In every class I speak at, I ask if someone knows someone who is a diabetic, and every time at least one hand goes up. With my presentations, I hope I at least get the kids thinking about appreciating what they have and help them to help others in a positive life-changing way.”
Videen now only has to check her blood glucose once a day, and makes only monthly trips to the U of M.
“I feel grateful and appreciative for the pancreas transplant and I want people to know what they could do to help save the lives of others and be informed,” Videen said. “By being an organ and tissue donor, you can help someone. You could help your neighbor, or your neighbor’s child. You can really make a difference.”
Videen has been a Cambridge resident for 21 years and is married to Dr. Brad Videen. They have two children. She encourages everyone to become informed about being an organ and tissue donor and make the decision that feels right to them.
“People should appreciate what they have and when they don’t need what they have anymore, they can share what they have,” Videen said. “Being an organ and tissue donor is really about giving the gift of life. It’s like you get a second chance.”
For more information about Life Source and becoming an organ and tissue donor, visit www.life-source.org.