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Students learn how to give the gift of life after death

Two weeks before Ronnie W. Brunner II died, he made his mother, Anita Ivers, aware of his wish to be an organ donor. Ronnie, a Corydon Central High School senior, died in October 1996, but his donation of seven organs to seven recipients has given many more years of life.
John Martin returned to Brunner’s alma mater Friday as one of three speakers addressing the importance of organ donation.
Brunner’s heart also returned to the halls he once walked. It has been beating in Martin’s chest for more than eight years, ever since the day it changed his prognosis ‘ a 50/50 chance of living two years ‘ and returned to him a life full of opportunity.
Martin’s transplant at Jewish Hospital in Louisville ended a 19-month wait. It allowed him to see four new grandchildren. And Martin was still going strong at CCHS Friday.
Martin was joined by Ivers, who now lives in Leavenworth. She was united with him through Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates after the two expressed an interest in meeting. They are close friends.
‘It seems like my grief eased a lot after I found out they had used Ronnie’s organs. It just seemed to help bring peace. It’s like it gave purpose to his life. He didn’t get to accomplish what he could have,’ Ivers said.
Another friend of Martin also spoke at CCHS.
Ben Neivers was expected to live two to five years on continuous oxygen when he received a heart transplant at Audubon Hospital 18 years ago. Afterward, he began volunteering for KODA. Now he’s a part-time employee who primarily speaks to high school students.
Every two years Martin and Neivers compete in the U.S. Transplant Games, something of an Olympics for transplant recipients.
KODA is the federally designated organ procurement organization that serves most of Kentucky, two counties in western West Virginia, and Harrison, Floyd, Clark and Washington counties in Indiana.
The nonprofit organization was founded in 1987 and provides the option of organ and tissue donation to families who have lost a loved one. KODA is the link between hospitals where donation may occur and all the transplant centers in the United States.
Every year an estimated 5,500 people die before a suitable organ is found for transplantation. In 2004 more than 24,000 lives were saved through successful transplantation. It is thought the number would double if more people said yes to donation, according to KODA.
Specific donor criteria vary depending on the organs and tissues donated. As a general rule, anyone under the age of 71 is a potential donor. All donors must be free of hepatitis, AIDS, or other communicable diseases, systemic sepsis and cancer.
Questions about the acceptability of specific donors are strongly encouraged by KODA and should be referred to the KODA coordinator on call at 1-800-525-3456.
Particularly stressed by Martin, Ivers and Neivers is the importance of making someone aware of the desire to donate.