Organ donations at record levels locally and across the country

Posted: 5:45 PM, Jan 10, 2017
Updated: 2017-01-10 18:34:31-05

Karen Ciolek's decision to help her friend Mindy Craft turned out to be lifesaving.

The two women are friends in Olmsted Falls, but their bond goes much deeper than that.

When Mindy had a rare liver disease and liver cancer, she needed a transplant.

Karen stepped up and donated part of her liver to Mindy - a lifesaving gift.

"To be able to help somebody, in any way is a great feeling, but to be able to give somebody life, it's the best you know, it's the best," Ciolek said.

"She looked at me, and she told me I'm going to be your donor, and I think Karen can attest to this, I had such relief, not for myself, but I looked over at my children's faces, and the joy I saw in their faces was the moment I knew everything was going to be okay," Craft said.

Nationally, there were more than 33,000 organ transplants last year, a record according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.

There were 6,000 transplants from living donors like Karen.

LifeBanc of Northeast Ohio also set a record with 150 organ donors last year.

LifeBanc said the biggest reason for the increase is better testing for organs.

There's been more success using organs with certain medical criteria that weren't able to be used in the past.

For Karen and Mindy, the 18-hour surgery last year at the Cleveland Clinic was a success.

"She was so sick, we knew it and we saw it, and to see her actually smiling again, and she looked better immediately, it was really remarkable, medical science is phenomenal,” Ciolek said,

"Every day I wake up and can't believe someone would do that for me, and save my life, and I wake up, and I see my family and my friends, and it is a daily humbling experience." Craft said.