CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago’s most high-profile person waiting for a new kidney is encouraging people to become organ donors.
Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson was literally preaching to the choir with his message on Sunday. He was speaking at the mega-church House of Hope in Chicago’s Pullman neighborhood, where 4,100 members signed up as organ donors 11 years ago. WBBM’s Nancy Harty reports.
Superintendent Johnson and the Gift of Hope donor network hope to get 1,000 new donors this month, which is Donate Life Month.
In the months since Johnson’s plight became public after he nearly fainted at a press conference, he’s had several people – including strangers – offer him one of their kidneys.
“That day after having that press conference, it occurred to me why this happened,” Johnson said. “It happened because God knew 31 years ago that I would be the superintendent of police. I would have a platform to highlight this.”
He said those have not panned out for one reason or another, but he’s not worried because he knows his chance is coming.
“This isn’t about Eddie Johnson, this is about the thousands of people out there that actually need a transplant and have been waiting for years,” Johnson said. “My wait has only been a couple of years at this point.”
Johnson lamented all the healthy organs that are buried each year because people have not elected to be donors.
Gift of Hope said there are an estimated 5,000 people waiting for organ donations in Illinois – 4,000 of them are awaiting kidneys.
The group said last year African-Americans made up 30 percent of those on the waiting list (33 percent for kidneys).
Johnson has lost 32 pounds in his preparation for an eventual transplant and even thanked the doctor he expects to perform that surgery, Rush University Medical Center’s Dr. Ed Hollinger.
Dr. Hollinger said the vetting process for living donors is thorough because they want to make sure the donor will be healthy after the operation.