KOKOMO, Ind. — One Indiana University Kokomo faculty member hopes to inspire at least 50 people to register as organ donors — one step at a time.
For seven days in July, Karla Stouse raised awareness of the critical need for donors, walking 100 miles through sweltering 90-degree temperatures and humidity, along with pouring rain on the final day.
She also wanted to show that living donors like herself can lead healthy, active lives after donating.
I’m 60 years old, and I walked 100 miles,” she said. “I wanted people to see that once you donate an organ, your life is not over. I hope a lot of people will donate money, and register to be organ donors. I want there to be a big pool of potential donors out there, so people don’t spend years waiting on dialysis.”
By the time she completed her journey from downtown Logansport to St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, her steps not only added up to 100 miles — they fulfilled a promise made to the wife of a dying friend.
In April 2017, Stouse, senior lecturer in English, donated one of her kidneys to Julian Ridlen, a judge from Cass County. After he passed away just six months later, she pledged to his wife, Sue, that she would walk 100 miles in his memory to raise awareness of organ donation.
I wanted Julian to be remembered as a man who inspired positive action, and who continues to do so,” said Stouse, an Arcadia resident. “I can’t bring him back, but I can use his memory and his legacy to help other people. His presence blessed me throughout the 100 miles.”
According to the Indiana Donor Network, nearly 1,500 Hoosiers, and more than 115,000 people nationwide are waiting for lifesaving organ transplants — enough people to fill Lucas Oil Stadium twice. Twenty-two die each day on average because a donated organ wasn’t available in time. Most donations are made after death, but living donors can give a kidney or part of a liver.
Stouse’s goal is to inspire at least 50 new organ donor registrations, and to share those plans with family, so they are aware of the decision. Many people identify themselves as potential organ donors on their drivers’ licenses, but should also make their choice official on the Indiana donor registry at the Indiana Donor Network’s website.
In addition, she wants to raise $1,000 in Ridlen’s name for the Community Foundation of Cass County, the Indiana Donor Network and Donate Life Indiana, and St. Vincent’s Ascension Abdominal Transplant Department— all organizations he supported.
Within a week after her walk, the Indiana Donor Network reported 35 new donor registrations, and the three not-for-profit organizations received numerous monetary donations in his name.
Stouse hopes her example will inspire others to take action.
Anybody can take a small action and make a difference,” she said. “All of those small actions add up to something larger. You just put one foot in front of the other.”
Stouse kept a blog before and after her walk. To read more, or to access links to donate in Ridlen’s honor, go to https://kfstouse.wixsite.com/100milesforchange
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.