An Olympic coach’s selfless gift will live on well past the 2016 Summer Games. 35-year-old Stefan Henze, a 2004 silver medalist in canoe slalom who became a coach for the sport in which he excelled, was an organ donor. Following his death on August 15, the result of a car crash in Rio, his organs were donated, saving the lives of four individuals.
“Heart, liver and both kidneys have been successfully transplanted. Thus, he has saved four lives,” a Brazilian health ministry spokeswoman told the German newspaper Die Welt.
Dr. Deepak Mital, chair of the kidney transplant program at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., often sees the blessings that come from organ donations.
“Giving the gift of life to others when tragedy strikes is a way to turn something terrible into a blessing for other families,” says Dr. Mital. “While the decision to donate is a personal one, knowing that you helped others to live who may not have otherwise had the chance can provide comfort to your loved ones left behind.”
Most states make registering for organ donation easy. Registration for the Illinois Organ/Tissue Donor Registry is completed online through the state’s Donate Life Illinois website or through the Gift of Hope. You just need your Illinois driver’s license or state ID number, name, address, telephone and email address.
“Organ and tissue donation is something that almost any healthy individual of any age can do,” says Dr. Mital, adding that final determination for medical eligibility is determined after the donor’s death. “While it’s important to register to become an organ and tissue donor, it’s also important to share your decision to become an organ donor with your family to avoid confusion during an overwhelming time.”
Major organs that can be donated for transplant are the heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas and even the small intestine. You can also opt to donate tissue, which can include corneas, bone, major veins, heart valves and skin.
One donor can benefit as many as 25 lives, according to Gift of Hope, whose website provides the following statistics:
- Every 10 minutes, a new person joins the national transplant waiting list.
- An average of 22 people die each day while waiting for an organ donation.
- More than 300 people registered for transplants in Illinois will die in 2016 waiting for a lifesaving transplant, and nearly 8,000 will die nationwide while waiting.
Christ Medical Center has programs for heart, kidney and lung transplants.
Stefan Henze (right) in Athens with Canoe Slalom partner Marcus Becker