Early in our married life, my husband Craig and I became organ donors by signing the back of our driver's license. We never questioned our decisions. We were fortunate to share 39 years of marriage. Craig was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer in 2008, We had many discussions about end of life wishes before surgeries and treatments and organ donation remained a constant. He suffered a cancer related stroke in 2015, but remained strong in his resolve to enjoy life as a cancer and stroke survivor. At 6'6" tall, it seemed this larger than life husband, father, and grandfather was invincible, but he suffered a massive pulmonary embolism in November 2016. Given his health history I had no idea whether he could still be an organ donor. I asked about this possibility with a compassionate KODA employee. That night in the ER I gave permission for his corneas to become a gift of sight, as well as other bone, skin or tissues. In the weeks following, one of the most meaningful gifts our family received was the medal and certificate from KODA. Even more precious was the letter from the Kentucky Eye Bank sharing the news that both corneas were successfully transplanted into 2 grandmothers in central Kentucky. While we were still reeling from the shock of his death and many dark days, this news became a bright spot. Eleven months later I was surprised to receive an invitation to the annual organ donor ceremony. What an incredible and emotional experience! With quilt square, photo, and memorabilia in hand, my youngest son and mother in law attended the ceremony. I will never forget the sight of the quilts, the courage and compassion of donor family members that welcomed us and shared a bit of their stories. Each activity and speaker wrapped us in love and gratitude for the decision Craig had made. Looking around the room of 200+ family members, I wondered what their donor story was. Every face represented courage, love, and selflessness. While Craig will always live on in the hearts of his family and friends, there is added comfort and joy knowing that he physically lives on in the cornea recipients. This quote says all that my family and I feel about organ donation: "Be someone's miracle. Check the box. Be a hero. Be an organ donor."
My 18 year old son, Tyson, was diagnosed in February 2018 with IgA Nephropathy. His blood pressure was elevated during and after a minor surgery in January. He’s doctor ran blood tests and we were sent to Norton Children’s in Louisville. There it was determined through a kidney biopsy that it was indeed IgA. His health progressively worsened, and by May he was starting home peritoneal dialysis nightly. In June he was hospitalized after having 2 seizures due to his high blood pressure. We were told he would need a kidney transplant. He was placed on the national registry and I was being vetted and tested as a potential donor. We received word September 5 I was eligible for donation, and on October 9, at Norton Children’s, I gave him his second chance at life. He’s a very athletic kid, who plays soccer for a traveling club as well as his high school. He missed the spring season with his club, and his senior season with his high school team. He’s been told he’ll be able to practice and play this coming spring with his club. He will graduate with honors May 2019 from McCracken County High School. He has applied to and has been accepted to five different Kentucky universities, and has chosen University of Kentucky. He will major in Biology with hopes of attending dental school and becoming and orthodontist. He has never once asked “why me?”. He’s never refused his medicine or a dialysis treatment. Even on his worst days prior to transplant, he went to school or work (yes, he even has a part time job) and tried his hardest to get through the day. Since he’s been home from the transplant, he’s starting to go back to the kid he was before he became sick-smiling, whistling and singing around the house, teasing his little sister, and hanging out with friends. Tyson on his first day back to school, post-transplant His first day back at school is today (11/26) and he even drove himself to school. I never imagined my family would be on the receiving end of an organ donation. We (myself, my husband, and our three children) are all registered donors, and I just felt that when my time was over, my organs and tissue would be recovered and life would go on for others. I never imagined us ever having to rely on another person’s selflessness to save one of my children. I carried my phone everywhere and we made plans and back up plans in case we got the call saying there was a kidney before all my testing was complete. I can’t imagine the pain and frustration of the ones who have been waiting for years on the registry. Tyson’s story has been on our local news and in the newspaper, as well as a couple social media outlets. I truly hope someone read or saw his story and it helped sway him/her into becoming a donor. I [...]
My Son, Brayden was born with Hypo-plastic Left Heart Syndrome. He has under gone 3 open heart surgeries-10 surgeries total, plus numerous heart caths and stress tests. He has lead a relatively "normal" life. He loves basketball. This year he turned 16 years old. 4 months later we learned he would need a new heart, as his was getting tired and worn out. In June of this year he suffered a stroke due to the pumping of his heart being so weak. He has recovered well from the stroke. However, we now realize his need for a new heart is becoming more urgent than we thought. He is now on a continuous IV at home. He has been on the waiting list for 6 months. Many of his friends at the Children's hospital have received their gift of life. Those kids are amazing and I am so happy for them. Brayden said it is his turn now. I can't wait to see what Brayden can do with a healthy heart! He wants to go to college and become a basketball coach. Heartfelt thanks to all those who choose to donate life
I have been fortunate enough to receive the gift of life three times, once from my father as a living donor, and twice from deceased organ donors. I have been blessed with 22 wonderful additional years of life and would very much enjoy sharing my story with others to assist in getting others to be willing participants in sharing life with others that are in great need of a gift to survive. My transplant anniversary is November 12, also my older sister's birthday. I feel like I have been called to share my experience to positively affect others. Please donate to assist others to live on and continue to do good works to help others.
I was diagnosed with Primary Sclerosis Cholecystitis over 20 Years ago. My initial diagnosis foretasted that I would require a transplant within 7 years. I luckily experienced many more years than the initial diagnosis and I am grateful for the time I had prior to my true need for the transplant. Approximately 3 years ago I began to experience esophageal varieties which led to cirrhosis of my liver. After many procedures to repair the varieties - I experienced hepatacellular carcinoma on my liver which was treated with chemo beads through a TACE process. After a 6 month watch period, my cancer was stable and even reduced enough so that i was able to be listed on the transplant list. Through the grace of God, I received a second chance at life through the selfless actions of a strangers family who donated the organ I now have within my body. I have had some difficulty in my recovery and I still have a way to go, but it's all worth it and it's time for me to give back and help others who may be in need of a lifesaving organ donation.
My name is Michelle Branham and I’m from Magoffin County, Kentucky. I am recipient of a Kidney Transplant and this is my donation story! My journey to donation started a few years ago when I was diagnosed with kidney disease. I experienced many challenges throughout the past few years, working hard to overcome the obstacles the disease caused me. Despite my fight, I had to start dialysis, which helped manage my disease, but could not resolve it. After many Doctor and Hospital visits, I was informed I would need a lifesaving transplant. Although I’d heard about organ donation, I wasn’t fully aware of all the things that went into the process. After lots of testing, visits and meetings, I was placed on a transplant waiting list at Jewish Transplant Center, in Louisville KY. On September 9, 2017 I received the call that me and my family had long been waiting for. They had a match! I would be getting a new kidney!! I will never forget that phone call; I was actually at the Dialysis Center when I was contacted. The excitement I felt was indescribable! Me and my family hurriedly gathered our things and made the trip to Louisville to meet my transplant team. Fast-forward to a little of a year later and I’m here sharing my story with you. All because someone made the choice to give life through organ donation! Since my transplant, I’ve worked hard to honor my donor and their gift. I’m so lucky to be able to spend time with my Daughter and loved ones, who so many times saw me sick and struggling, but were always there to help me in my time of need. I’m so grateful for my donor, because thanks to them I’m able to see my beautiful Daughter play, celebrate special times with loved ones and simply go to the store without struggling and needing assistance with daily things. My hope is to share my story as a way of honoring this gift and encourage people to be organ donors, because they truly save lives, just as they did mine!
I grew up with a sick father. He had heart disease and everyday was a struggle for him. He went through countless hospital visits, surgeries, and sicknesses, and there were a few times in his life that we didn’t know if he’d make it through. One such moment was the spring of 2009. He was on the heart transplant waiting list at the Cleveland Clinic and he only had a few short months left. I was only a young 8 year old girl but I was already very familiar with what was going on and what he had been through. Many times I had to say goodbye to my dad because the doctors didn’t think he’d make it through the night, and be it by a stroke of luck or some divine intervention, he always pulled through. When we got the call that he had a new heart waiting for him, a feeling of relief swept over me and my family like a raging river. My dad’s life was saved because of the selflessness of someone else. I am still so grateful for the donor who extended his life. My dad lived another 9 years with his new heart. He was able to see me graduate from high school, and for that I am forever grateful. After his transplant, he wore a small green bracelet that said “donate life” on it. He wore it everyday for 9 years until he died. I wear that bracelet now. It is a reminder of how precious life is and how one small check on a drivers license can change someone’s whole world. Join the organ donor registry. Be that person who extends a life.When he passed away earlier this year, he was able to donate his tissues and corneas, which is exactly what he wanted. That’s how much organ donation impacted not only him, but our whole family. I don’t like to think of his life as being cut short, but rather extended due to the doctors and especially the donor that saved his life.
It all began when I was three and I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. There were many scary times in my life growing up that a lot of children my age never had to experience. Low blood sugars, possibly going into a seizure. High blood sugars that have affected my eyes and lead to multiple surgeries. I am lucky to have such caring and loving parents who would do anything to make sure I made it through. Now, fast forward to 2013 when I started having a little trouble with my kidneys. I learned that I had developed Chronic Kidney Disease or CKD. The doctor told me that I was going to be fine that I needed to watch my blood pressure and if I see a rise in it to call him back and he would run more tests. Over the next four years my kidney disease kept getting worse and by early spring of 2017 I was in Stage 5 or End Stage Renal Failure. Being in Stage 5 meant that I had at least 10% function left in my kidneys. This also meant that I had no energy to do anything. I would go places with friends or family and I would always be thinking, is there a bench or seat near by so I can catch my breath. Sometimes there would be but when there wasn't it was hard for me to stand and I would get really light headed and feel faint. Those that I was with understood and they would try to calm me down because I would start to panic. I'm so thankful for them. The summer of 2016 I went to the University of Kentucky Transplant Clinic. They had me do a variety of tests to see if I would be a good candidate for a kidney transplant. After all of my tests I met with the doctor and he told me that it would be a week before we would know anything. After not even a week my Transplant Coordinator called me and said that the Board met and agreed that I would be a great candidate for a simultaneous kidney/pancreas transplant. I was so excited! In April 2017, I went to the doctor and I just knew that it was time for me to start dialysis. I was feeling so bad, swelling and just exhausted all the time. The doctor told me that my kidney function had dropped to 6% and that he thought it was time to start. I was on dialysis for 9 months. I had always heard of horror stories which doesn't help, you try to look for info on dialysis and all you get is the bad stuff. I had a great experience on dialysis, I have been trying to tell people not to get discouraged. I have put hope into some about it, I'm glad to help. I was on the transplant list for 13 months, then on January 21,2018 I got the [...]
When I was 27 I delivered my first child, a son, with a few complications, I lost a ton of blood. This put a major strain on my otherwise healthy heart. Less than 3 months later I was laying in CCU fighting for my life. I was transferred to Vanderbilt University Heart Center with the thought that if I didn't receive a heart, I would die. They were able to stabilize me for the next 8 years. Finally the day came where My heart had gotten bad enough that I had to have a heart pump put in. I had surgery to implant the heart pump on October 14, 2015 and then due to some complications I very quickly, 3 months and 12 days later, received my gift of life on January 26, 2016. My body fought hard. Recovering from 2 major open heart surgeries only 3 months apart was no easy feat. I'm very thankful for my donor and would not change a thing about my story. My son is now 11, he was 8 at the time of transplant. I'm grateful and thankful to be able to spend these 3 precious years with him. I hope to spend another 30 or more with him. I think everyone should be a donor. My son would be without a mom had I not received a heart. There are so many more stories like mine but they don't get the happy ending because they never receive an organ. Please donate. Sign up today.
Preshus and her sister Ashley My question to everyone has always been, "why not be a donor?” For as long as I can remember I’ve always said that if I’m a match I would donate and that if I were to die, please make sure that everything is donated because that would mean I’ve helped someone. As an older sister, I have always been protective of my sister Ashley and when she was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes I can remember becoming more protective of her. We had to learn how to administer a blood test and practice giving shots to an orange in order to be able to do this for her. Watching her go through daily blood sugar testing and administering shots to her having vision loss and enduring surgeries to repair it. She is a strong individual and one that always pushes forward with a smile on her face that is magnetic to everyone around her. When she was diagnosed in 2013 with Chronic Kidney Disease, our family was faced with another trial to hurdle and that we did. Ashley had to change her way of life by watching her fluid intake and what she ate even more now than before. She had more visits with Specialists to keep an eye on her levels to make sure her kidneys were still functioning where they should be. Then, the day came in May 2017 that she would begin dialysis, having to hook up to a machine each night for 7 hours. Being tied down and not being able to travel with family and friends was something new. She went through all the steps and precautions and was placed on the transplant list for a kidney and our family immediately jumped into action by contacting the Transplant Center to see if any of us would be a match. However, her transplant team wanted to place her on the list for not only a kidney but a pancreas too. Even though we were excited about this, we were also scared because we knew the next step while waiting was dialysis. We also knew that in order for her to gain a new pancreas was for someone and their family to suffer a loss. This was something my family discussed and I explained to them that it was a Catch 22 because in order for one family to celebrate another must lose a loved one and that can never be easy. I also said that as a living donor that I did not sign up on a whim and fully understood that if something were to happen to me that everything possible would be tried in order to save me and that if I was beyond saving that at least I would save other lives and to me that is why I signed up. Jennifer, Preshus, Ashley My sister Ashley began dialysis in May of 2017 and on January 21, 2018 she received the call that would [...]