HINSDALE — Lori Chana was ready with a stethoscope when she first met Nate Dyer in a restaurant. He opened his arms to her as she anxiously waited to hear the heartbeat she'd been missing for six months.
It wasn't his heart she was listening to, though — it was her son's.
"My hope was to hear Cam's heartbeat again because when you describe a person, you describe their heart,” Lori said to a crowd at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital last week. "Whenever I get to see Nate, I get to hear Cameron's heart."
Lori and her husband, Rob, of Clarendon Hills were just a few of the speakers during an organ donor remembrance ceremony in the Calandra Chapel on March 6. Adventist Midwest Health partnered with the Illinois Eye-Bank for the ceremony, which honored and remembered donors, donor families and recipients.
The Chanas became a donor family in 2009 when their 22-year-old son, Cameron, died in a bus accident while on a fraternity outing.
"I guess to start out, I'd like to say I'm glad to be here to talk to you, but to be real honest, I hate that we are here," Rob Chana said. "If you are a donor family, you know the exact second your life changes forever."
This was not the first time the couple spoke during a donor event, but Lori said it never gets any easier.
"It still feels like it was yesterday," she said. "I still wait for him to come through the door."
Mary Schlereth, professional education coordinator at Illinois Eye-Bank, also became a donor family when her boyfriend was killed in a motorcycle accident nine years ago.
"You think about all the people that have come into your life since the loss of your loved one, and you can't help but feel blessed because you know you've helped so many people," Schlereth said.
Lori and Rob Chana first met 59-year-old Dyer of Chicago six months after Cameron's donation. He now calls them "Mom" and "Dad."
From Cameron's total organ donations, he saved five lives, restored sight in two others and was able to give away 52 different tissues.
More and more people are now becoming donors, Schlereth said. In 2011, there were 11 cornea donors from Adventist Hinsdale, with that number growing to 33 last year.
"I think the most important thing is for people to be educated about what it means to be an eye, organ and tissue donor," Schlereth said. "Then you have to have that conversation with your family members and share your decision to be a donor so if something tragic were to happen, your family already knows what your wishes are."