Talk to raise awareness about organ donation

Jada Huddlestun, Contributing Writer

Many people say they would do anything for their friend, but how far would they really go to help them? Eastern alumnus Doug Overmyer decided that he was willing to give anything to help save his friend’s life.

Wednesday marks the six-month anniversary of when Overmyer donated his kidney to his childhood friend Malia Smith.

Smith was diagnosed with lupus her freshman year of high school and was suffering from kidney failure, with an outcome that did not look good.

She was on the transplant list, but knew she would not be able to wait the three to five years it typically takes to receive a kidney.

Overmyer said his friend posted on Facebook in September 2015 asking anyone who would consider being a living donor for Smith to go get tested.

After reading her request for life, where Smith reached out to others and asked if anyone was interested in donating, Overmyer said he knew immediately that he was going to be a match, and no matter what people had to say, he was going to get tested and donate his kidney.

After years of waiting, hours spent at the hospital for tests and preparation, surgery delays and rescheduling, the surgery was finally set for April 2017.

“I’d do it in a heartbeat, it’s what love does,” Overmyer said.

Though he remembers the pain and complications post-operation, Overmyer said it was all worth it.

“There is no greater honor or blessing than giving the gift of life to a friend you love,” Overmyer said.

He said his life has changed forever since donating his kidney.

“I was moved by the compassion so many in the community showed to my family and my recipient’s family,” Overmyer said. “Today, people in the community still ask how I’m doing.”

Exactly six months after surgery, Overmyer is still adjusting to his new body. He said since losing one kidney, his eating and drinking habits have changed, and he has even lost 20 pounds.

When it comes to working out or other physical activity, he said his incision still gets sore, but expects complete recovery in the next few months.

Overmyer said this experience helped the already strong bond between his and Smith’s family.

His best friend since high school is Smith’s older brother, Brad. The two played tennis together in high school, and their friendship began shortly after joining the team.

Overmyer said he has been connected to Smith and her family forever now, and since the operation, he and his wife feel as if they have gained new family members.

Before his donation, Overmyer said he had not thought much about organ and tissue donation, but now he knows how important it can be to help save lives.

For more information on becoming an organ donor, the need for organs and to hear more about Overmyer’s story, the Academy of LifeLong Learning will be hosting a talk at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Carle Clinic in Mattoon.

Liz Hager, the regional coordinator for the Organ and Tissue Donor Program, said there are currently 5,000 people in Illinois on the waiting list to receive organs.

Currently, there are over six million people registered to donate in Illinois, which became the first state nationwide to start a computerized donor registry in 1992.

Hager said community events can help with the donation process.

Many people are open to donating, but may need more information to join the registry, she said.

Hager said by spreading the word of the benefits of donating and transplantation, more people will become aware of how crucial organ donation is.

Jada Huddlestun can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].