Donate Life Month: Sharon and Janelle’s story

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April marks Donate Life Month, and according to Donate Life, approximately 90,000 Americans are on the waiting list for a kidney transplant.

Organ donations can not only give life, but they improve the quality of life. Sharon Bitz is originally from Jamestown but moved to Mandan in 2017 due to kidney disease. She shares the story of her kidney transplant and the woman who helped give her a better quality of life.

She said, “I’m speechless, because of her, that my quality of life has improved.”

She had just been put on the waiting list to get her life-saving kidney.

She said,” It would be better to be here if they had a kidney for me, because sometimes they only have a limited amount of time,” referencing her move from Jamestown to Mandan.

In September of 2019, her doctor recommended that she go on dialysis.

Bitz said, “On Christmas Eve Day of 2019, I had the angiogram, and at that time they put my name on the list on hold until they got the results of the angiogram.” She says that the results were good and that 10 days later they had a kidney for her.

This kidney came from a woman originally from North Dakota, now living in Kansas, and her name is Janelle Johnson.

Johnson said, “My sister decided to donate a kidney to one of her coworkers 20 years ago, and that really opened up my eyes to living donors.”

Johnson also said that along with a friend also donating, and the influence from social media drove her to want to sign up for kidney donation. In March of 2020, Sharon and Janelle created a bond that they will forever share.

Johnson said, “[Sharon has] really become a part of my life, and I’ve probably been a part of hers.”

The two got to share a special moment post-operation.

Johnson said, “Before I left North Dakota to go back to Kansas, Sharon and I were able to meet, and so we exchanged phone calls, letters, small gifts.”

Bitz spoke about the encounter they had, and said, “They came down the hall and she walked in the room, and I just grabbed her and started hugging her, and I said, ‘How do I thank you?'”

Both women encourage those that are on the fence to sign up and be an organ donor.

To become an organ donor, visit the national donate life registry page. This can be found on donatelife.net and by clicking “register to be a donor.”

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