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Published November 04 2011

Eleni Wilson's mom: Talk to kids about organ donation

FARGO – When Maria and Geoff Wilson were first asked about donating the organs of their daughter Eleni, a 17-year-old West Fargo High School senior who died following a brain aneurism last week, they hesitated for a moment.

The idea had never crossed their minds before.

Then Maria turned to the crowd of students who had gathered outside in sup-port.

“I said, ‘Guys, what would you do if this was you?’” she said. “Every one of those kids lifted their hands."

That decided it for Maria.

She discussed the decision at a news conference Friday, thanking the com-munity for its support and urging parents to talk to their children about what they’d want in a similar situation.

“I think it's very important that we talk to our kids, because these things happen,” she said. “It happened to us.”

The process of coming to the decision, she said, was gut-wrenching. “It was hard, because she’s gone, and they’re keeping her body warm and you have to sit there and watch it,” she said.

But she said it’s comforting that Eleni’s organs were able to save at least three lives. Eleni’s pancreas, liver, kidneys, and heart valves went to patients in need of transplants.

“That is the only good feeling,” she said. “That and God – that's it.”

She said she hopes to be able to meet the recipients one day.

Deb Andvik, a hospital liaison for organ and tissue donation organization LifeSource, called the donation an “unbelievable gift” to transplant patients.

“Most of our recipients are giving back every day because they got a second chance at life,” she said.

She said the organization recently celebrated registering 100 million donors. In North Dakota, two-thirds of adults are registered, she said – one of the highest rates in the nation.

Nationally, more than 112,000 people are waiting for transplants, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing.

West Fargo High School Principal Cory Steiner was also on hand Friday to discuss plans for a memorial scholarship in Eleni Wilson’s honor.

The details are still in the works, but he said it would be aimed at students who exemplify the things to which Eleni was dedicated: academic excellence, extracurricular activities and holding a job.

He said the school hopes to make the scholarship “a significant amount” – perhaps $2,000 a semester or more.

“It's part of that healing process for our students and our staff and the community,” he said. “We're really going to keep Eleni's memory in our building.”

Maria Wilson said she knows her daughter is in a better place.

“We’ve had several people see dreams with her,” she said. “She's in white. She looks great.”