This was almost a forty year long wish. It started back in the early 70’s, when I was a Patient Aide at a hospital on the Urology and General Surgery floor. I took care of men having prostate surgery, gallbladder and hernia patients, ‘open and close’ surgeries, which meant they were full of cancer. Back then, before CAT and PET scans, and MRI’s were not around, things were harder on people. Gallbladder surgery involved a minimum two-week hospital stay. Poor prostate guys were there about the same time. The cancer people? We had to check charts VERY carefully, because more often than not, the patient was not told the diagnosis. That’s a whole ‘nother story. But the patients who got to me were the kidney patients. I discovered that kidney disease affected a wide range of people; and had nothing to do with lifestyle choices. They became friends, because of frequent hospitalizations. The goal was always to get their function up to 13%, because then, no dialysis. They were mostly limited to drinking less than 12 ounces of liquid daily. Salt? Potassium? HA! So, they ate bland food, were always thirsty, had to protect the arm that the dialysis port was in, and spend a lot of time in the hospital. I remember one of my favorite patients, a fourteen-year-old girl tell me that since she only had to pee once every two or three days, that she never worried about lines for the bathroom. I ached at the unfairness of it all. That was when I decided to give up a kidney. Now, my life went on, I married, had kids, gained weight, got divorced, gained more weight…and still thought about people imprisoned by their feckless disease. In March of 2009, I was utterly ashamed that I gave up my own health by my poor eating habits, so underwent weight loss surgery. And one year and over 100 pounds later, I celebrated my ‘new’ self. I was healthy again! Normal blood levels, no sleep apnea, so much more energy! A miracle of modern science. And yet… I was healthy thanks to admittedly a severe and radical surgical procedure. I started to research donating a kidney. The process was a lot easier, and more successful than back in the 70’s. I would only be in the hospital overnight. It wouldn’t cost me a penny. I would save someone. Oh, there were hurdles, and processes, and tests, and more tests, and visiting more types of professionals that I ever had. They wanted to make sure that I: 1) Wasn’t coerced 2) Wasn’t crazy. I remember the day at the NYC hospital going from test to test, pretty much the same time as a tall Hasidic Jewish man accompanied by his Rabbi. I wanted so badly to talk to him, compare notes- who was he wanting to donate to? Why did he decide? But here I was with my painted toenails and flip flops, tan from the Arizona sun, baggy shorts and [...]
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."
November is a month of giving THANKS! It is a time that many take the time to enjoy family and friends and to remember all the “Good Things” in their life! Every November begins a new season of “giving,” and it is also a time that many around the world recognize as the “Donor Sabbath” month. During the National Donor Sabbath, faith leaders, donor families, transplant recipients, and donation and transplantation professionals participate in services and programs to increase awareness. This month we remember the need for the lifesaving, enhanced gifts passed to others through transplantation. It is time we continue to encourage people to say “yes” to the organ donation registry. Those who donate organs, tissues, and blood stem cells restore hope and share gifts beyond measure. The recipients are full of Thanks! Why is this important to me? On February 3, 2016, I had a heart attack while driving home from the gym. I thought I was having muscle spasms; I pulled over on the side of the road hoping that the pain would pass. It did not pass, in fact, EMS had to pick me up in the parking lot of a corner store. Two days later I was in the hospital waiting for my discharge paperwork when I had my second heart attack. I died with this one! In the words of my youngest son, “the doctors had to put the jumper cables on me.” This was an attempt at his humor as he struggled with what his mom was enduring. That episode caused me to go into heart failure. Fast forward five months and I find myself in Lexington, KY at the UK Healthcare Heart Transplant Center awaiting a lifesaving heart. I remember asking myself “how did I get here; how did this happen to me?” am I needing a new heart, and if I don’t get one, am I going to die sooner rather than later? It was during this time I remembered that I was registered as an organ donor! It was at that moment that I truly understood the importance of that question asked by the staff of the Kentucky Circuit Clerks’ offices around the state, “Would you like to register as an organ donor?” “Would you like to donate to the organ donor awareness program?” I thought I would be the one giving not the one in need. On July 27, 2016, I received a new heart! They told me it was a perfect match! I invite you to join me in honoring those who, at the end of their life, gave life! You too can save lives by registering as an organ donor at RegisterMe.org. You never know you or someone you love might need a “perfect match!” Forever Thankful, Monica Brown
In 2010, at the age of 38, William Powell, Jr., the husband of DuPont Circle Director of Admissions, Charmaine Powell, was hospitalized and told his kidneys had failed. With no known health issues that would have led to this diagnosis, this was a shock to William and his family. Immediately, he began dialysis treatments that would last 4-5 hours, 3 days a week. William always kept a positive attitude and did his best to remain active and healthy despite the pain and exhaustion of dialysis treatments. He was eventually added to the transplant list. Several family members and friends tested to be living donors, but no one was a match. On November 4th, William and Charmaine put their 3 year old son to bed and sat down to watch a movie. Just a short while into the movie, William's phone rang and it was the transplant center saying that there was a kidney for William. He received his gift of life on November 5th, 2017...almost 7 years to the date of his original diagnosis. William and Charmaine became support systems for others on dialysis prior to his transplant and this year have also become Ambassadors for Donate Life through the Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates. "Life can change at the blink of an eye. There are so many myths about organ and tissue donation out there and we want to "Be the Change" and create awareness for this cause. Without someone making the decision to donate life, William would still be battling everyday to keep his."
My son was 2 years, 9 months and 23 days old when he passed away from smoke inhalation. If someone could have given me a brain to keep my baby alive, I would have done anything but that isn't possible. So since my baby was gone, why wouldn't I help another family in a similar situation as I was. So I donated my baby's heart valve and both corneas. He had the most beautiful, baby, ice blue eyes and to know my little man help other kids his age makes me so very proud to be his mom mom.
My sister, Laurie, was diagnosed with a lupus-like condition which caused her kidneys to deteriorate. She was 31 years old. Laurie's doctors mentioned that sometime in her life, sooner than later, she would need a kidney transplant. I eagerly volunteered to donate my kidney. Not only was Laurie my sister, she was my best friend. The decision was an easy one for me. Whatever pain or inconvenience I would experience from donation would be temporary. Laurie's situation, however, was permanent and eventually fatal without a kidney transplant. When I went through the donor testing process, I was found to be a perfect match. I was certain from the minute we were told Laurie needed a transplant, that I would be the one to donate to her. Organ donation was something I knew about since I was in grade school. There was a gentlemen in my community who received a heart after waiting several years. Through him, I saw firsthand the positive effects of donation. I was so happy to be able to help my sister in the same way. I honestly had no fear. We marched forward with the transplant and everything turned out beautifully. Our advisers and surgeons were wonderful, as was the entire process. Within minutes of Laurie receiving her new kidney, her health started to improve. What an amazing gift to be able to give another human being. I like to share my experience with others and raise awareness of organ donation. There are so many people waiting on organs. Donors can extend the life of a loved one or a complete stranger in need. If I had another kidney to spare, I would do it all again. I urge everyone to join the Kentucky Organ Donor Registry and give the gift of life.
Tom at Mobius Arch After my 50th birthday, my wife, Ann, urged me to get a physical check-up. I felt there was no need because I was seemingly in such good health; it had been years since my last physical, I took no prescription medicine and other than the random cold, I rarely got sick. My blood work told a different story. There were anomalies in my liver numbers, and we soon discovered that I had Hepatitis C and stage four cirrhosis. This started a 10 year ordeal of weekly trips to the doctor, several vain attempts at a cure, and a steady decline in health. On one of my many check-ups, an MRI revealed three small lesions on my liver, hepatocellular carcinoma, the all too often result of long-term liver disease. Treatment of those tumors became another part of my medical regimen. As I continued to get weaker and sicker, a transplant increasingly became the only option for treatment. Because of the tumors my MELD score was high, so I was near the top of the transplant list. We waited about a year and a half before we got the call that a liver was available. We thanked our lucky stars and jumped at the chance, Ann and were at the hospital within the hour. It was not lost on me that as Ann and I were preparing for the surgery that could possibly save my life, another family was saying goodbye to a loved one. Our thrill, excitement and joy at the prospect of regaining my health was tempered by the thought of the sorrow and pain of another family. I do not know my donor family, but I am grateful beyond words that they chose organ donation when their loved one passed away. Without them I would not be here now, and I think of that every day. The surgery went well. Almost immediately I felt better than I had in years, the surgical pain notwithstanding. My color was better, I felt stronger and more vital. I went into the hospital on a Monday morning and left the following Sunday afternoon. I spent the next 12 weeks at home, followed doctors' orders to the letter, took all my meds at the right time, showed up for all of my appointments, and continued to recover. I was taking care of myself, sure, but I was also cognizant of giving my new liver the best treatment possible. I returned to my art studio, and surrounded by my paints and brushes I felt was at last home. I was overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude at how incredibly fortunate I was to have passed this ordeal and come out the other side unscathed. I now make art nearly every day and my work has been included in shows in New York, Nashville, Missouri, Los Angeles, Florida and Las Vegas, as well as here in Louisville. I just found a gallery that is going to begin representing my work in [...]
THE MIRACLE OF RECEIVING A LUNG TRANSPLANT In 2012 I was diagnosed with IPF (Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis). As the months went on, my health declined and I was on oxygen 24/7, not able to leave the house and missing important activities of my grandchildren. Then came a MIRACLE - 11/21/2015 - a single lung became available and there began the next stage of my full life. I was so blessed to have been able to receive my transplant here in Louisville at Jewish Hospital. Recovery and therapy made it so much easier on my family. Even though I could not recall the three days after the transplant - my family, friends and neighbors were all there comforting each other, praying and I'm sure telling past stories of Grandma Connie. Please consider joining the Confidential Organ Donor Registry. You or a family member might someday give another person the ability to continue living.
In Feb. of 2003 I was diagnosed with severe cardiomyopathy & an ICD was implanted. I did improve until had a heart attack in Jan. of 2014. At that time a stint was placed. In June of 2015 I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure & was in & out of hospitals 8 times for the congestive heart failure. Jan. 2016 was sent to UK hospital for testing to see if candidate for the LVad but instead of an LVad was placed on the transplant list. June of 2016 was admitted to UK until a donor heart became available. While sill in UK hospital on Aug. 23,2016 I received the call that a match had become available. I felt relieved when The Call came. So did my wife & family. My wife & I both had complete faith in my transplant team. Recovery has taken longer than I thought it would but my life is very improved over what it was prior the transplant.
My name is Laura Bowling. In 2010, at age 46, I was told I have congestive heart failure. A year later I had surgery for a defibrillator. After 5 years of being on medication I started having symptoms again. I went to Jewish hospital ER. I ended up staying for 2 weeks. It was at this time that i was told by an awesome group of doctors that I needed a heart transplant. I went through many test in preparation for the procedure. Although it was devastating news for myself and my family, we try to remain positive. I could not get through this without the love support and prayers from family and friends. For my family, this type of news is all too familiar, as my Dad had a Heart transplant in 1984. He was the 7th recipient to receive a heart transplant at Jewish. (He lived 9 years!). I have only been on the list since May 2017. I remain very positive and up beat about this situation. I've got an amazing group of doctors and an awesome support group of family and friends. I would love to see more people become organ donors. Life is so precious and giving the gift of life is truly the best gift of all.