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Two local heart transplant recipients talk about the importance of National Donor Day

Posted at 5:39 PM, Feb 14, 2022

Monday, February 14 is National Donor Day - a day dedicated to spreading awareness and education about organ, eye, and tissue donation.

It is estimated that every day, 22 people die waiting for an organ transplant. Meanwhile, the list of people waiting keeps growing without enough registered donors.

Valentine’s Day has a different meaning when you are waiting for a heart transplant. For Daniel Wickstrom, Monday marks seven years since he and his wife received some unexpected news.

“Seven years ago we were in the ER, and the on-call cardiologist looked at my chart and said to me I should consider a heart transplant. It was shocking to both of us because it was something that, as sick as I was, we wouldn’t have thought about in a million years," Wickstrom said.

In his early twenties, Wickstrom was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, which is a disease that affects the heart. Weekly hospital and ER visits were common for Wickstrom and his family.

It took one year of Wickstrom being in the hospital before he finally received the right match, giving him a second chance at life.

“To have a real heart again beating inside of me was amazing. To go from not being able to shower or sit up to being able to do whatever I want. I mean, I am living a normal life," Wickstrom said.

Wickstrom is just one example. Lisa Callaway received a heart and a new chance at life 15 years ago.

“To be able to live each day, to get up each morning and look at the sunshine and say 'wow, I am alive today because someone made the choice to,' yes, that’s the most important thing to me," Callaway said.

According to Donor Network West, there are 28,000 people waiting for organ transplants in California, including 500 on the Central Coast.

Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center has a new program that makes it the only hospital in San Luis Obispo that allows families to donate organs after circulatory death. This allows families to stay local for this type of donation when they previously had to travel to the Central Valley to do so.

If you would like to register to become an organ donor, the easiest way to sign up is at your local DMV or through this website.