Forreston man receives the 'gift of life' from wife - – Rockford’s News Leader

Forreston man receives the 'gift of life' from wife

FORRESTON (WREX) - In sickness and in health, that's the vow a Forreston man and his wife took years ago.

Little did he know how serious his wife would take those words, sacrificing a piece of herself to ensure his survival.

About 6 years ago, Gary Bronkema got a grim diagnosis. His kidneys were failing and functioning at 38 percent. He had to wait until he was at 20 percent kidney function before he could get on a donor list.

"My wife Lisa had said several times, 'If you need a kidney I wanted to be tested'," he said. 

Gary had mixed emotions about his wife potentially becoming his donor. He knew if she was a match, the pair, who has two sons, would both undergo surgery at the same time. But Lisa had bigger concerns.

"He was looking very sick," said Lisa Bronkema. "Gray colored, and he was tired all the time."

So, Lisa decided to get tested.

Once the results were in, the nurse came back with the news.

Gary said the nurse told him, "Not only is she a match, she's a very good match for you, Gary."

Even if Lisa wasn't Gary's match, she says she would have donated her kidney to someone else.

According to Donate Life Illinois, statewide, there are more than 5,000 people waiting for a lifesaving organ.

"The more that people are aware of the need, the more people would sign up to be organ donors," says Donate Life Illinois advocate Karen Ludwig. 

Advocates say every 10 minutes, another name is added to the national transplant waiting list.

Gary was at 6 percent function in his kidneys when he was finally able to receive the organ from his wife.

"He's the love of my life," Lisa said. "I wouldn't want him to be sick and not function around our family."

"My wife gave me the gift of life," Gary said. "There are people out there in need. To help somebody give them the gift of life, it's a wonderful thing."

April is National Donate Awareness month. To learn more about becoming a donor CLICK HERE 
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