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New Richmond man states the value of organ donation

New Richmond native Chris Feneis’ goal is to spread the word about organ and tissue donation. (Photo by Jason Schulte)

It’s been stated one person can save and heal up to 60 lives through organ and tissue donation. With approximately 3,500 people on the waiting list to receive donations between Minnesota, Wisconsin, North and South Dakota, donation officials are all about awareness.

Chris Feneis knows the impact it can have on a life.  

Twenty-six years ago, the New Richmond native donated a kidney to his sister Lori.

Two years ago, he was on the giving end as he was the recipient of deceased donor bones from three individuals.

Today, Feneis’ goal is to spread the value and importance of donation as April is National Donate Life month.

“I think a lot of people aren’t aware about donating,” he said. “I believe a lot more people would do it if they knew.”

Feneis is willing to do his part as he is an ambassador for Life Source, a nonprofit organization tasked with saving lives through organ and tissue donation in the Upper Midwest.

Being a donor is a requirement for being an ambassador.

“We are the ones that have gone through it,” he said. “We can empathize versus sympathize. … We can help with the fears.”

Headquartered in the Twin Cities, Life Source also has offices in Rochester, Minn., and Sioux Falls, S.D., with additional members in Duluth, Grand Forks, Fargo and Bismarck in North Dakota; and Rapid City in South Dakota.

Thanks to Lori, Feneis knew about organ donation at an early age.  

“She was born with a kidney disease and her first kidney removed when she was 3,” Feneis said. “At the time it was medically impossible to donate a kidney.”

That changed in 1989 when Feneis donated his kidney, which turned out to be a perfect match, about a 20 percent possibility. The kidney lasted for 21 years until she died in 2010 from complications unrelated to her kidney.

A few years ago, Feneis was in constant pain, thinking at one time the matter was circulatory. After multiple tests, the result was he had to undergo laminoplasty, an orthopaedic surgical procedure for treating spinal stenosis by relieving pressure on the spinal cord. From that surgery, he needed three different donor bones.

Besides being a Life Source member, Feneis also belongs to the Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation, the nation’s leading tissue bank which connects donors with surgeons and transplant recipients. He added he’ll be going to their headquarters, located in New Jersey, this June, to share his story with medical personnel and officials there.     

To donate

Feneis says the steps to donate are easier than you think. One of the easiest steps is by checking the box to register to be a donor when one applies for or renews your driver’s license, state identification card or learner’s permit. Another option is by visiting donorregistry.wisconsin.gov.

Feneis said the numbers out of neighboring states are encouraging. About 58 percent of South Dakotans who have a driver’s license or state are registered as donors; about 64 percent of Minnesotans are registered and about 70 percent of North Dakotans are registered (Feneis was unable to get Wisconsin’s numbers before the News went to print).  

If religious beliefs are of a concern, Feneis said research has shown all major religions in the United States support organ and tissue donation and consider it a generous act of caring. Money isn’t a factor, as the donor’s family will not have to pay for any medical expenses associated with the donation.

For additional information about donating or further questions, one can call Feneis at 612-968-6789.

Jason Schulte

Jason Schulte is a reporter for the New Richmond News since February 2015. Prior to that he spent eight years at the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth. His duties with the News will include covering news out of Hammond and Roberts along with action from St. Croix County court system. He lives in Roberts. 

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