20 years after transplant, Syracuse woman urges others to become organ donors

20 years after transplant, Syracuse woman urges others to become organ donors

A Syracuse woman is sharing her story of the importance of organ donation.

It has been 20 years this month since Sue Sprague received a kidney and pancreas transplant. Now, during Donate Life Month, she's urging more people to become organ donors. Just 28 percent of New Yorkers are registered donors, well below the nationwide average of 54 percent.

More than 118,000 people are waiting for organ transplants nationwide, including more than 700 in Central New York. Every day 22 people die waiting for a transplant.


Sprague says her transplant gave her the gift of life. "I literally will lay in bed sometimes and just hold my belly where my new kidney and pancreas are and I call them my precious jewels because they are," Sprague says.

Starting when she was as young as four four Sue was a diabetic. With that came regular visits to the doctor, but eventually it became too much.

Insulin on top of two pregnancies weakened her kidneys and at the age of 35 she grew desperate for a new one. It was around the same time a man named Terry was killed in a car crash. "If I get up in the morning and I'm not feeling well or I'm having a bad day, I seriously sit and I talk to him and I say, 'Come on Terry. We can get through this,'" Sprague says.

"I think a lot of recipients go through the guilty stage knowing that someone has to die in order for me to live. I had a hard time with that," she recalls. Guilt wasn't the only thought in the back of her mind; her doctors gave her five to seven years max to live. "And then the 7th year came up and I kept thinking, 'Ah they said 5 to 7 so maybe I'm on the later end,'" Sprague says. "(The) 7th year came up - I passed the 7th. I passed the 8th, I passed the 10th, I passed the 15th and here I am."

Grateful for every moment, Sue now speaks to anyone who'll listen on the importance of organ donation. With the help of two donated precious jewels guiding her through.

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