BY GABE LICHT
CHICAGO, IL What’s large, shiny, and shaped like a kidney?
The answer is the Cloud Gate, commonly referred to as The Bean, in AT&T Plaza at Millennium Park in Chicago.
Due to its shape and the wide-open space surrounding it, the well-known sculpture seemed like a fitting location for organ donors from throughout the world to gather April 21 to set a world record for the most donors in one place.
Delano Wine & Spirits manager Nancy Drumsta was one of 438 donors to participate in the event organized by Transplant Village to raise funds and awareness for Northwestern Medicine as part of National Donate Life Month after a Facebook friend notified her of the event.
“It was super cool because we met so many great people,” Drumsta said.
One of those people had advised Drumsta about the organ donation process before she donated a kidney to her friend Julie Kroupa in April of 2016.
“A friend of a friend gave me the name of her friend in Arizona who donated a year before me and told me what to expect,” Drumsta said. “I met her for the first time.”
Kroupa joined Drumsta at the event and served as her witness as she filled out paperwork that was also signed by her doctor that qualified her to participate in the world record. After receiving that information, organizers matched it to those in the photo to make sure everyone qualified as a donor. In total, about 1,200 people purchased tickets to be present at the event, including donors, recipients, those looking for a donor, and spectators.
An individual from India was recognized for traveling the farthest to participate in the event. A 72-year-old donor was the oldest at the event, while an 18-year-old who had donated a kidney to her brother five days earlier was the youngest at the event.
Media outlets covered the event, which helped organizers accomplish their goal.
“They used it as a way to get the word out to people who would consider being donors,” Drumsta said.
There are three different ways to donate an organ.
An individual can donate to an unknown person.
An individual can donate to someone he or she knows.
Or, an individual looking to secure an organ for a loved one can donate to someone they don’t know in exchange for someone else donating to their friend.
“There were a lot of people there who were altruistic donors who didn’t know their recipients,” Drumsta said.
In total, the donors far exceeded the threshold of 250 dictated by the Guiness Book of World Records.
“No one has ever done it before,” Drumsta said.
Organizers are already planning another event in Chicago for April of 2019, though they may not try to break the record at that event. Future events may be in different locations, Drumsta said.
She plans to attend every year.
She encourages others to become donors and, potentially, join her at future events.
“It’s easy and rewarding,” she said.