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Local nurse raises awareness during April’s ‘Donate Life Month’

Undergoing major surgery for the sole benefit of someone else is a brave thing to do. One person who understands that process well is Charish Weeldreyer, RN, BSN, CCTC who serves as the Clinical Transplant Coordinator with Sanford Transplant.

April is recognized as Donate Life Month. Weeldreyer and her team work to educate the public during this month to promote organ, eye and tissue donation. One of these events was held Friday at Sanford, when Weeldreyer and her co-workers organized a photo booth to promote awareness. They took pictures of those who were interested and will submit the best pictures to the Donate Life America Facebook page. Weeldreyer said there is a prize for the best photo; within the hospital, departments compete amongst themselves.

Weeldreyer began her career in nursing at Sanford in 2001, she moved to the transplant department in 2010. Weeldreyer is a native of Lennox, and currently lives in rural Lennox with her husband Marc and three children, Elsie (11), Maxwell (8) and Sullivan (5).

She said, “The beauty of a career in nursing is the many different areas you can work in.”

Right now, her job is to work with people who are interested in donating a kidney to a loved one. She also is a coordinator if a deceased kidney becomes available and is a match for a patient. Sanford performs only kidney transplants. There are around 300 people in SD waiting for a kidney transplant. There are well over 300,000 people in the US waiting for a kidney.

Weeldreyer said, “My role is to work with people who might be a match, explain testing and appointments and donation risks.”

Not everyone is able to be a donor, Weeldreyer said, “Approximately 30% of the population can be a donor.”

She explained that tests determine if the donor is medically and mentally healthy. After that step the transplant surgery is scheduled. She said it’s a long process, usually months until the actual transplant occurs. For living donors, every center has different guidelines, she said for example they must be over 18 years of age. Weeldreyer is just one of a large team that makes a transplant possible.

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