Archive for Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Organ donations ease grieving process

John Schmidt holds his two favorite photos of him and his best friend, Carl Arentson. Arentson, who died in October, donated five of his organs to help save the lives of others. It’s an act that Schmidt says he “feels tremendously good about.”

John Schmidt holds his two favorite photos of him and his best friend, Carl Arentson. Arentson, who died in October, donated five of his organs to help save the lives of others. It’s an act that Schmidt says he “feels tremendously good about.”

December 23, 2009


How to donate

The holidays are a perfect time to think about becoming an organ donor, said Jan Finn, chief operations officer for Midwest Transplant Network.

You can become a donor by going to the Midwest Transplant Network’s Web site,, and downloading a Kansas Donor Registry form and sending it to the organization.

If you are unsure of your donor registry status, take a look at your driver’s license. If the words “organ donor” and an image of a heart are on the front, you are.

If not, you can sign the back of your driver’s license to notify others that you would like to donate your organs.

Carl Arentson, who died in October, had five of his organs donated to help save the lives of others. He is pictured with his sisters, clockwise from left, Ingrid Pearson, Christine Arentson and Karen Arentson.

Carl Arentson, who died in October, had five of his organs donated to help save the lives of others. He is pictured with his sisters, clockwise from left, Ingrid Pearson, Christine Arentson and Karen Arentson.

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In death, Carl Arentson passed on the gift of life to four men he never met.

Carl died Oct. 2. That weekend, a 49-year-old musician from the Southeast received his heart. A 61-year-old truck driver from the Midwest received Carl’s liver. And Carl’s kidneys went to a 16-year-old boy and a 53-year-old mail carrier.

“He would be incredibly proud of how many people he reached out and helped that weekend,” said Ingrid Pearson, Carl’s oldest sister. “He didn’t have the opportunity to do that in his own life.”

Mental illness, a developmental disability and a series of physical ailments made Carl’s 45 years difficult ones.

“He had such a hard time through life that you had to start questioning — what was that all about? Why put someone on Earth if they have such a tough time their entire life?” Pearson said.

For Pearson, it’s been rewarding to see her brother’s life help so many.

Until moving to an assisted-living facility in Eskridge about five years ago, Carl was a lifelong resident of Lawrence and a fixture at the Lawrence Public Library.

He was a Beatles fanatic who also knew every episode of “The Andy Griffith Show” and would give the caregivers at the nursing facility tips on whom to pick in their college basketball tournament brackets, said his other sisters, Christine and Karen Arentson.

Carl was John Schmidt’s “very best friend” for 32 years. The two met in junior high school and both graduated from Lawrence High School in 1983.

On the top of Schmidt’s refrigerator are pictures of the two on their way to a Royals baseball game, at Worlds of Fun and celebrating Carl’s 40th birthday.

“He was a very decent fellow and had a lot of great, super-neat interests,” Schmidt said.

Carl also had a “scary edge” to him, Pearson said. He had trouble in social situations, could be volatile and had been arrested a time or two.

“He never fit in with this life. It was always very difficult for him,” Pearson said.

At the Golden Living Center in Eskridge, Carl found stability.

“It didn’t take much more than a couple of months before he realized he liked being there,” said Christine Arentson, the only sister who lives in Lawrence. “He liked having his meals prepared for him and being told when to take his medicine.”

As a heavy smoker, Carl developed chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder. Toward the end of his life, he used a wheelchair, needed oxygen and had about one-third the lung capacity of an average person.

This fall, Carl had a breathing attack, passed out and hit his head in the bathroom. He was without oxygen for about 20 minutes and went into cardiac arrest. While Carl was on a ventilator at the hospital, the family was approached about the possibility of organ donation.

Family members were surprised that Carl was eligible. They assumed that years of smoking and prescription drugs would have made his organs unfit. But while his lungs had failed, his heart, liver and kidneys were in great shape.

“Selfishly, I wanted some good to come out of losing Carl,” his youngest sister, Karen, wrote in an e-mail. “As Carl slipped away from us, hope came rushing into the lives of other families knowing that their loved ones got another chance at living a full life.”

Each year, the Midwest Transplant Network has about 200 organ donors in Kansas and the western two-thirds of Missouri. In all, they provided about 600 organs, said Jan Finn, Midwest Transplant Network’s chief operations officer .

Organ donations occur when a brain has died but the rest of a person’s body is still functioning, something that occurs in about 5 percent of all deaths in the country.

For many families, having a loved one’s organs donated helps in finding closure, Finn said.

The Arentson family agrees.

Carl’s presence will be missed during the holidays, his favorite time of year, Pearson said. Schmidt and Carl had a tradition of spending New Year’s Eve together, watching the ball drop and blowing noise makers. Christine Arentson said it has been hard not to shop for him.

But there is comfort in the thought that others will be celebrating Christmas because of Carl.

“Although he can’t be with you in one piece, parts of him are in other people, who are getting a better life,” Christine said. “That has made the whole process easier to bear.”


mr_right_wing 8 years, 4 months ago

One of the best gifts one person can give another.

Good intentions aren't enough though; you may have signed your organ donor card, but you're surviving family members can ultimately have the final let all your family know (so there is NO question) you want to be a donor upon death.

That is about as close to immortality as a human being can get!

onehotmomma 8 years, 4 months ago

What a heart warming story!

My first husband passed away suddenly 12 years ago and was a donor. His heart, liver and kidneys could not be donated but his skin, bone, cornea's, and heart valves could be used. It did help me knowing that his death brought some joy to others and their families.

Talk to your family about donating organs and sign your organ donor card!

LIFESHARERS 8 years, 4 months ago

If more people were as generous as Carl Arentson, we wouldn’t have over 9,000 Americans dying every year waiting for organ transplants. Most of these deaths are needless. Americans bury or cremate 20,000 transplantable organs every year.

There is a simple way to put a big dent in the organ shortage – give donated organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die.

Giving organs first to organ donors will convince more people to register as organ donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. People who aren’t willing to share the gift of life should go to the back of the waiting list as long as there is a shortage of organs.

Anyone who wants to donate their organs to others who have agreed to donate theirs can join LifeSharers. LifeSharers is a non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other organ donors when they die. Membership is free at or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88. There is no age limit, parents can enroll their minor children, and no one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition. LifeSharers has over 13,400 members, including 105 members in Kansas.

Please contact Dave Undis, Executive Director of LifeSharers, if your readers/viewers would like to learn more about our innovative approach to increasing the number of organ donors. He can arrange interviews with some of our local members if you’re interested. His email address is His phone number is 615-351-8622.


emptymind 8 years, 4 months ago

Thank you Lifeshares. I am not only a member, but also a transplant recipient. Without some wonderful family making the ultimate sacfifice, I would not be here today.

Ron Holzwarth 8 years, 4 months ago

One of the dumbest things I ever heard said was after my brother died. His wife was approached, making an inquiry as to whether she would be willing to donate his corneas. All his other organs were considered to be unusable.

Her answer? "No, I'd rather have him buried whole."

So, his perfectly good usable corneas were destroyed by the embalming fluid, and then smashed by the eye cups. Read up on the embalming process if you want to know more about how all human organs are completely destroyed in the process.

It is my opinion that if you are NOT willing to be a donor, then you should also NOT be eligible for any organ transplant AT ALL!

Ron Holzwarth 8 years, 4 months ago

I forgot to point out that my brother's ONLY hope to live much longer was a heart transplant.

But as for HIS corneas? "No, I want him to be buried whole."

Maddy Griffin 8 years, 4 months ago

I'm glad everyone isn't like that. I know of the sweetest little 3 year old girl who would not be here if someone hadn't donated their deceased child's liver. We are all very thankful they did. Midwest Transplant Network ROCKS!!!

Tammy Copp-Barta 8 years, 4 months ago

I too went to school with both Johnny and Carl.

May the Arentson family find peace in this holiday season knowing that Carl lives on through the unselfish act of organ donation.

God bless your family ...

nbnozzy 8 years, 4 months ago

I have the organ donor insignia on my drivers license. I say if anything can be salvaged, then strip me for parts.

Bruce Liddel 8 years, 4 months ago

You should all know how corrupt the Kansas Tissue Bank (state regulated monopoly) really is.

These slimebags refused donations for absurd and arbitrary reasons that are not acknowledged by either NIH or the Mayo Clinic. They don't care, because they have no accountability. They should be shut down!

If I die with donatable organs, I want them all to go OUT OF STATE!

Clare Galloway 8 years, 4 months ago

i remember Carl from SJHS also he was actually a nice guy, and he didnt take too much crap from kids either, but kids used to give him s--t all the time he wanted to fit in badly that he would take a dare up at any time i am happy that he has helped out people i know thats what he would have wanted to .

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