Janell’s positive energy lives on

Janell's positive energy lives on
Funeral services were held Tuesday, June 19, for University of South Dakota student Janell Burbach, 20, of Hartington, NE, who died Wednesday, June 13, after contracting bacterial meningitis.

This Nebraska farm kid grew up to become a young woman who definitely appeared to have her priorities straight. We unfortunately didn't get to know her personally. Those who did say she had a constructive influence in everything she sought to do in life.

She graduated as valedictorian from Cedar Catholic High School in 2005, where she was active in numerous positive endeavors outside the classroom.


Janell had just completed her sophomore year at The University of South Dakota at Vermillion where she was majoring in music education. At USD, she served as a community advisor in the residence halls, including Richardson Hall last fall and Olson Hall this past spring, and she was actively involved in music and service trips.

Janell also helped co-found U Blanketeers – a campus group that makes and collects blankets for Project Linus, a national organization that provides hand-made security blankets to children in need.

All of this is just the tip of the iceberg, really. They are strong indicators of the type of person Janell was, and those who truly knew and loved her can best describe what she was like deep inside.

It's no doubt safe to say she was loving, ambitious, energetic and beautiful. And positively selfless.

She made sure that her passion for helping others wouldn't stop should she, for some reason, meet an untimely death. Janell made it known that if something unfortunate should happen to take her life, she wanted to donate her organs.

Janell's lungs were given to an individual with cystic fibrosis and her pancreas and one kidney were given to a diabetic who is on dialysis. Janell also donated the other kidney and her liver.

These gifts are priceless. People who were once seriously ill have a renewed chance of living a normal life. Their names can hopefully be permanently scratched from the country's long waiting list of patients waiting for transplants to replace diseased organs.

"The family wants to use this as a way to emphasize how generous their daughter was," Fr. Joe Forcelle, director of USD's Newman Center, said.

Janell knew that even in death she could still help provide life to others. When you're 20 and you've got the whole world in front of you, it's easy to not think about that.

According to the TransWeb.org, a nonprofit educational Internet resource devoted to transplantation and donation, it's important for all of us to not only consider donating organs after death, but to also share our wishes with others, as Janell did.

Although donor cards are legally binding, as a practical matter, your family will be asked for permission to donate your organs.

If you want to donate but don't tell anyone, your decision may be wasted.

Many families have said that knowing their loved one's wishes made it much easier for them to give permission for donation – they didn't have to guess what the person wanted, according to TransWeb.org – they just had to carry out the wishes they were already acquainted with.

Some families have not donated organs because they did not want to make the decision while not knowing their loved one's wishes. When they find out later on that the deceased person did indeed want to donate – but had never told them – they regret having not known and having not donated.

TransWeb.org admits there are some myths about organ donation that just won't go away. Families, for example, aren't charged extra to make sure a loved one's wish to donate his or her organs after death is carried out.

There are no religions that frown on organ donation. In fact, all organized religions support donation, typically considering it a generous act that is the individual's choice.

"That was her (Janell's) choice long before this ever happened," Fr. Forcelle said.

The Vermillion Plain Talk editorials reflect the opinion of Plain Talk editor David Lias. You may contact him at david.lias@plaintalk.net.

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