Ashley Friis has been searching for a kidney donor for nearly two years. It's the second time in her 31-year old life that she has needed a kidney transplant.
David Johnson is a bearer of good news.
He’s a surgery scheduler who coordinates organ transplant surgeries at University Hospital in Madison.
He’s one of the first people patients talk to when they are going to receive an organ.
That news is life-changing for many people, Johnson said.
After a year of giving people such positive news, Johnson donated a kidney to someone he didn’t know through a process called nondirected donation.
University Hospital had a record 28 people become nondirected donors in 2019, said Leza Warnke, transplant coordinator.
Two people have become nondirected donors in the first three weeks of 2020, which is a strong start to the new year, she said.
Johnson, who will turn 27 next month, has lived in Edgerton on and off since he was in fifth or sixth grade. He spent some time at Edgerton High School but graduated from Monona Grove High School.
Today, Johnson lives in Edgerton with family and hopes to move to Madison in the near future.
He describes himself as a “fairly physical person.” He likes running and working out and being outside.
After high school, Johnson spent four years in active duty in the Marines before being honorable discharged as a corporal.
Ask Johnson about his job at the hospital and he will tell you everything you need to know about the donation process. He said his job was a “huge influence” in his decision to become a donor.
Ashley Friis has been searching for a kidney donor for nearly two years. It's the second time in her 31-year old life that she has needed a kidney transplant.
Johnson began working at University Hospital on Dec. 17, 2018. Before he got the job, he said he didn’t know it was possible to donate an organ to a stranger.
Almost a year later on Dec. 4, he had one of his kidneys removed to be given to a person who needed it.
Johnson said it took time to reach that decision.
One of the most important things University Hospital staff members tell potential donors is to do what’s best for them. They should pursue donation only if they are physically, mentally and emotionally ready, Johnson said.
Johnson said his friends and family initially were hesitant about his plan to give a kidney to a stranger because they were concerned about potential risks.
They eventually came around and were proud and supportive, he said.
Since he returned to work, Johnson has found it a little easier to talk to patients about donation. He does not share his personal experience with patients, but he said he can use his story internally to anticipate what people might be nervous or curious about.
The only thing that surprised him about the surgery, he said, was how normal and unchanged he felt afterward.
Screening forms are reviewed by hospital staff, who then reach out to the potential donor to set up a meeting and provide educational resources.
Eligible donors spend a day at the hospital for physical testing and evaluations. Donors meet with a range of medical professionals, including surgeons, nutritionists and social workers, Warnke said.
Ashley Friis and her fiance, Josh Groetken, are recovering after Groetken donated his kidney to Friis last month.
People who are not eligible are told how to make changes so they can become eligible. If doctors find a donor will never be eligible, they give that person information on how to advocate for organ donation.
Some things that prevent people from donating include uncontrolled hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, active cancer and a lifestyle that indicates a person might not be psychologically ready to donate, Warnke said.
It takes about three to six months to go through the process, she said.
Since his surgery, Johnson has received anonymous letters from the woman who received his kidney. The woman is married, has three kids and is doing well, Johnson said.
He hopes to meet her one day.
The woman’s letter put the experience into perspective for Johnson. He knew the decision he made was the right one.
Ken Olander met his heart donor's family in January. The experience has helped Olander and the family heal.
Donors at University Hospital could have their organs sent anywhere in the country, with help from the National Kidney Registry, Warnke said.
Johnson does not know where the woman who got his kidney lives.
Nondirected donors do not have to pay for their surgeries, Johnson said. Hospitals do not want to prevent people from donating organs because of their inability to pay, he said.
Donor Shield, a national program, can assist financially eligible patients by reimbursing them for lost wages, travel and lodging, he said.
Warnke thinks the hospital’s dedication to improving organ donation processes and public education has encouraged more people to donate.
Many nondirected donors have “humanitarian mindsets” and volunteer in their communities, Warnke said.
Most of them are women.
“Now that people are more informed, numbers have been growing every year,” Warnke said. “And I think people are really desperate for something good to do for humanity, and people are finding ways to give back.”
This story has been updated to reflect what patients are responsible to pay for.
Vickie Lynn has made a name for herself as a brash and boisterous stand-up comedian.
But a lot of people appreciate her for something else.
Last year, Lynn organized the first business expo for black women in Beloit.
The modest event began with 12 vendors. At least 27 will be featured this year.
“Right now, there’s a waiting list,” Lynn said. “I’m trying to make space for more. Everyone is excited about it.”
Black Women in Business and the Beloit Historical Society will hold the expo Saturday, Feb. 8, at the historical society.
Lynn called the celebration a community event.
“We want everyone to come out,” Lynn said. “Young and old, black and white. Just come and enjoy the culture and the entertainment and support these beautiful women in business.”
The idea for the event grew out of Lynn’s grief when her mother died in 2018.
“I was completely numb and in a dark space,” Lynn said, “and I was not working.”
She was making natural skin-care products, including body scrubs and oils, for herself. A friend suggested she could sell them.
Lynn launched a home-based line of products known as Noni Lynn’s Naturals. Looking back, she said she didn’t know the first thing about business.
“I wanted to speak to women who have a better idea how to navigate this business thing,” Lynn said.
She also said that as a black woman she is up against “a history of being denied loans and things you need to run a business.”
“I realize things are different for me because of the color of my skin,” Lynn said. “I wanted to connect with women who look like me and who were in business so I could learn from them.”
The women not only share vital information, but they also revel in their camaraderie.
Lynn called last year’s event “a reaffirming sisterhood.”
“I wanted to bring us together in a way that was beneficial and uplifting for business, mental health and day-to-day advice,” she said. “Our struggles are unique to us. It was just beautiful to see all those smiling black women.”
Alexcia Payton, who promotes the expo, said the event also is positive for the city of Beloit.
“Sometimes Beloit can have a negative connotation for people who live in different parts of the county,” she said. “You’re always seeing the bad things coming out of Beloit. This is a way to improve Beloit’s image.”
Payton said the expo is held as part of Black History Month and honors and celebrates black women in Rock County and beyond who run their own businesses.
Paquita Purnell of Janesville looks forward to the expo as a place to share information and companionship.
“It is hard as a small-business owner if we don’t know the right people,” she said. “At the end of the day, we are trying to help each other. We want everyone to win.”
Purnell started her business, Blessed Devine Creations, almost a year ago. Included in the business are customized gift baskets, handmade fleece blankets, body oils and soaps. She also works with her mother, Paulette Reddish, to do event planning and decorations for baby showers, weddings and receptions.
Tanisha Harbert opened the first African American-owned cosmetology school in Madison, Chanell Ardor Schools of Beauty and Culture.
She is proud of the school for giving students instruction in multicultural hair care.
“You should feel comfortable with anyone sitting in your chair,” she said.
Harbert looks forward to attending the expo, which she heard about from one of her clients.
She called the expo important as a way to empower black women by letting them see the faces of other black women who are pursuing their dreams.
“It was a huge undertaking for me to achieve my goal,” Harbert said. “I did not allow my fears to limit where I wanted to go.”
She has one school now but plans to expand.
Lilada Gee will sell her original artwork.
She counsels African American girls who are survivors of sexual abuse.
“I had a lot of work I was doing with girls that was heavy,” Gee said. “I needed something to bring relief to myself. It is difficult to see kids go through so much pain.”
She found comfort in her art.
Gee said the expo puts a positive spotlight on black women entrepreneurs.
“Black women are often portrayed in the media in negative ways,” she said. “It elevates the image of black women as a whole to have an expo that showcases black women, their creativity and their camaraderie. You can come to this expo and see a room full of black women who are shining in their passion.”
Anna Marie Lux is a Sunday columnist for The Gazette. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264 or email email@example.com.
Gregory E. Anderson
Richard Allen Blakely
Dennis E. Fleming
Vernon C. Greenquist
Herbert R. Mandel
Allen R. Miller
Robert E. “Bob” Pakes
Barbara A. Peck
President Donald Trump’s legal team offered just two hours of defense arguments Saturday morning in the ongoing impeachment trial, delivering an emphatic, broad overview of their case for acquittal after three days of arguments from House Democrats advocating for his removal from office.
“You will find that the president did actually nothing wrong,” said Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, framing the Democratic case as driven by politics. “They’re asking you to remove President Trump from the ballot in an election that’s occurring in approximately nine months.”
Cipollone also sought to flip the crux of the impeachment case—Trump’s attempts to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations that would benefit him politically in 2020—back against those prosecuting it. Democrats, he claimed, by trying to oust the president from office, “are here to perpetrate the most massive interference in an election in American history.”
Just as the trial got underway, Trump tweeted urging people to tune in on television to watch as his attorneys began their case.
Democrats, who spent three days offering extensive arguments, buttressed by video clips of sworn testimony and PowerPoint slides, Cipollone said, had offered “no evidence” to support such an action.
“We can talk about the process, we will talk about the law, but today we are going to confront them on the merits of their argument, how they have the burden of proof and they have not come close to meeting it,” said Cipollone, who stated explicitly that his team did not intend to utilize the full 24 hours allotted, as Democrats had, to make its case.
Trump tweeted again when the session had wrapped up, stating: “Any fair minded person watching the Senate trial today would be able to see how unfairly I have been treated.”
Following the two-hour session, in comments to reporters, Democrats focused on Cipollone’s assertion that the House impeachment managers had not met their burden of proof as an argument to allow additional witnesses to be called, something the Republican Senate majority has thus far resisted.
“They made a really compelling case for why the Senate should call witnesses and documents,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., the minority leader.
Last Tuesday as the Senate debated and adopted rules for the trial, the GOP majority rebuffed a number of efforts by Democrats to ensure that witnesses could be called after both sides present their arguments. But Democrats, eager to hear from White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton, are likely to try again next week.
Although there has been nothing yet to indicate that they can pick off the four Republican votes they would need to demand witnesses, Democrats continued Saturday to make their case.
“For anyone to argue there’s a burden of proof but then say, ‘But, I’m sorry, we’re not going to let you call witnesses … that is called a rigged trial,” said Sen. Jeff Merkeley, D-Ore. “That is the kind of trial you would expect in Russia or China, but not here in the United States of America.”
Trump’s defenders’ sought to portray the fullness of the Democrats’ arguments as overcompensation, with several Republicans complaining about it having been “repetitive” and too long. They framed the relative brevity of the president’s defense as a positive.
“We all figured out that we were just sitting there so they could talk to whoever was watching television at the time and I think that was a bad strategy on their part,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, (R-Mo.) of the Democrats’ presentation. “Hopefully the president’s counsel won’t make the same mistake.”
Jay A. Sekulow, the president’s private counsel, along with several Republican lawmakers, also made it clear in the trial’s opening days that the president’s defense would, at least to some extent, amount to an offensive against former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter—the sort of public inquisition of a potential 2020 rival that he had been seeking from Ukraine.
That did not take place during Saturday’s truncated session, but it is expected to happen in the coming week.
Sekulow asserted that Trump had good reason to believe that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election on behalf of Democrat Hillary Clinton, repeating debunked Russian propaganda that FBI Director Christopher Wray has said is wholly without merit.
“They kept telling you it was Russia alone that interfered in the 2016 election, but there is evidence that Ukraine also interfered,” Sekulow said. Trump, he went on, was right not to “blindly” follow the U.S. intelligence community’s assessments.
When the trial resumes Monday, Trump’s lawyers plan to present a fuller case, one that will feature presentations from Alan Dershowitz, the veteran defense attorney and constitutional scholar, and Ken Starr, the prosecutor whose investigation led to the impeachment of President Clinton two decades ago.
The House voted along party lines in December to impeach Trump on a charge of abusing his office by withholding $391 million in military aid to Ukraine for months as part of a pressure campaign to force the country’s new president into announcing a corruption investigation of Biden.
Hunter Biden joined the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, in April 2014. At that time, Ukraine—and its fight against corruption—was in Vice President Joe Biden’s portfolio. In the nearly six years since, no evidence of criminal wrongdoing by the Bidens has emerged.
In November, U.S. intelligence officials told senators and their aides that Russia had engaged in a years-long campaign to frame Ukraine for their own interference in the 2016 election, warning that Moscow was intensifying its efforts as 2020 approached.
Mike Purpura, another lawyer on Trump’s team, focused attention on Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, claiming that the president, who asked for investigations as “a favor” after Zelenskiy brought up his desire to purchase additional military defenses, never explicitly tied the investigations to U.S. aid.
Moreover, he claimed the president’s request for investigations “was in line with the Trump administration’s legitimate concerns about corruption.”
“Most striking to me about the president’s presentation today is they don’t contest the basic architecture of the scheme,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., the lead impeachment manager, after Saturday’s proceedings. “They do not contest that the president solicited a foreign nation to interfere in our election … to help him cheat against Joe Biden. That is uncontested. Uncontested in our presentation and in theirs.”
Democrats approved a second article of impeachment for obstruction of Congress after the president blocked several witnesses from testifying during the House inquiry and refused to turn over documents that had been subpoenaed.
The president’s attorneys and Republicans have argued that Trump has the right to claim executive privilege in defying Congress’ requests.
Prior to Saturday morning’s opening gavel, House Democrats submitted a 25,578-page impeachment record, wheeling carts loaded down with containers of thick binders to the Senate. And one Democratic aide working on the trial told reporters that they expected a “masterclass … in distraction and distortion of truth” as Trump’s attorneys begin their case.
“You can expect a lot of lies,” the aide said.
In his closing argument Friday night, the lead impeachment manager from the House, Schiff sought to deflate a number of likely defense arguments in advance, given that the trial’s format allows both sides 24 hours to make their case but no opportunity for Democrats, who went first, to offer a rebuttal before next week’s question and answer sessions.
The Trump lawyers’ focus on the Bidens, Schiff argued, is a smokescreen, sending a message of “please do not consider what the president did.”
“If they couldn’t get Ukraine to do it,” he continued, referring to an investigation of the Bidens, “they want to use the trial to do it instead.”
Republicans left the chamber Friday night bristling over Schiff’s quotation of a news report that cited an anonymous source who suggested that the White House had informed GOP lawmakers that they’d get their “head on a pike” if they broke ranks and voted with Democrats during the impeachment trial.
Some lawmakers, including Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, audibly reacted on the Senate floor, telling Schiff that the report wasn’t true. After the Senate adjourned, several raced to the microphones near the Senate subway to grouse to reporters. Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., said that he was “visibly upset.”