Organ recipient finds success recruiting donors in Ascension

Kimberly Fortner, Contributing Writer
Mike, Sheri, Levi and Chloe Greiner pose with their reliable Chrysler Mini-Van.

Illinois organ recipient Mike Greiner and his family visited Ascension Parish last week to spread the word about the importance of organ donation.

The Greiner family shared their story at a Donaldsonville Rotary Club Meeting, Ascension Catholic High School and several Benny's Car Wash locations throughout the week leading up to a Valentine's Day push for donors at the Baton Rouge Office of Motor Vehicles.

The goal, according to the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency, is “to have no loss of life because of the lack of organs.” Currently, there are 110,000 waiting for life-saving organs. In Louisiana, 1,800 people on the waiting list.

Mike Greiner had diabetes and his health was failing when he got the call he and his family had been waiting for. It was like, “waiting on a phone call determining whether you are going to live or not,” explains Greiner.

In 2003, he received a kidney and pancreas from a young hero named Annie, who was only 21 when she passed away because of a rare brain disorder. Last April, the Greiner family sold their home and used the proceeds to fund a road trip like no other.

They have been on the road more than 300 days and plan to stop in every state to raise organ donation awareness, putting their future in the hands of faith on a journey that could potentially save many lives.

Mike Greiner's wife, Sheri Greiner, said of Annie's legacy, “This is something we can do to give back in her honor.”

The Greiner family was invited to the Donaldsonville Rotary Club Meeting at Café Lafourche by the Peggy Guillot family on Feb. 10. The Guillot’s lost their daughter, Shawn, when she was 15.  Shawn’s legacy continues as her organs gave new life to five people, and Peggy Guillot believes that this, “gives meaning for her death.”

Lori Steele with the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency introduced the Greiner family saying, “We can save lives and we can prove it. Someone is here today because someone said ‘yes’ to donation.”

Donaldsonville Major Leroy Sullivan and Councilman Raymond Aucoin presented the Greiners with a key to the city. The Greiner family also stopped by Ascension Catholic High School, Shawn Guillot's alma mater, to share their story and to pay tribute to the school's beloved hero.

Between the Greiners and the Guillots, the lasting effects of organ donation in the lives of recipients and donors were evident.

“I'm glad someone decided to donate so that my dad can live,” Mike Greiner's 13 year-old son, Levi Greiner, said.

His 10 year-old daughter, Chloe said, “I feel very passionate about organ donation. My dad would not be here now without it.”

Benny's Car Wash also supported LOPA and the Greiners Feb. 12 at its Gonzales location. Those who signed up as an organ donors received a free car wash.

“It affects so many people and we're just happy to be able to help out,” Manager Dean Ducoing said.

The employees of Benny's Car Wash washed the Greiner's Chrysler Minivan, detailed, changed the oil, and even topped it off with gas. Their generosity continued throughout the weekend as they hosted events at their other locations.

Steele says of the cause, “It's not about raising money. It's about raising awareness and saving lives.”

LOPA, along with the Greiners, were at the Office of Motor Vehicles on Valentine’s Day to help bulk up the Louisiana's Organ and Tissue Donor Registry. All major religions support organ donations and some say it's an act of selflessness. Anyone can be a donor regardless of race, age, or medical history.

Becoming an organ donor is a simple procedure. The only required information at www.donatelifela.org is your name, address, date of birth, gender and email. When this is entered, you click the box that says “yes, I want to be an organ and tissue donor.” You can change the course of someone's life, in the future, with a few keystrokes.

If you would like to be an organ or tissue donor, go to http://donatelifela.org/signup/ .

For questions about LOPA, organ donation or if you would like to contribute, contact LOPA at 800-521-GIVE (4483). To find out more about the Greiner family, go to www.mystatecares.com and www.bestplacesintheusa.com . They can also be found on Facebook by searching “Best of the USA.”