Second Chance Blog

 

Hispanic Heritage Month Profile: Jorge Arroyo Gives Back after Receiving the Gift of Life

September 27th, 2016

South Philadelphia resident, Jorge Arroyo, was blessed with good health when he was young.  He stayed active, playing basketball and baseball, and he was always up to have fun in his neighborhood. His family was plagued with diabetes, and Jorge spent his life diligently getting his blood work checked to make sure that he was healthygeorge-arroyo-2.  He was fortunate and was the only member of his family who escaped the disease.

Jorge is an outgoing man, always caring for others and wanting to offer a helping hand.  He got married young, at 21 years old, and was close with his parents and older brother and sister.  His natural tendency towards supporting others was a perfect fit for his career as a Pharmacy Technician at Hahnemann Hospital in Philadelphia, PA, where he worked with chemotherapy patients. “I loved my job.” Jorge said.  “It made me happy to be around people and make them feel better.  I looked for patients who didn’t have visitors and would try to cheer them up and talk with them.”

At 31, life was good for Jorge.  He had a happy family life with his wife and stepson, Chuck.  He took pride in his work and enjoyed his day-to-day routine.  Then, his life began to change.  He went in for routine blood work and his doctor told him that his creatinine levels were off.  Jorge was tested again, but the results were the same.  He was showing signs of kidney failure.  Luckily, the doctor said that his kidney disease seemed to be moving slowly, so Jorge was put on medication and advised to eat a low protein, restricted diet.

“No matter what I did, my numbers kept creeping up and my kidney function was declining.  After several years of my kidneys suffering, I had to go on dialysis.  At 36 years old, I was really sick and was put on the organ transplant waitlist.  Over the next year that I was in dialysis, I lost nearly 50 pounds. It was horrendous.” said Jorge.  “He felt weak and his mood and mental state suffered.  He continued to work and would come home exhausted.  Several times, he had to be rushed to the emergency room because he collapsed.

After a wait that seemed like it would never end, Jorge received the call that he’d been waiting for.  Someone said “yes” to organ donation and there was a matching kidney available for him. He arrived at the hospital anxious and hopeful that he would receive the gift of life.  Another man, a pastor, had also been called that night.  “As soon as the pastor walked in, I felt calm.” said Jorge.  “I’m not sure why, but he had such a strong presence.  We introduced ourselves and realized that we were both there for the same purpose – to receive a kidney transplant. Unfortunately, the pastor wasn’t able to get a kidney that night, but he really helped me.  We prayed together – with my whole family.  He even came to visit me the next day to see how I was doing after my transplant.  We still stay in touch.”  he said.

george-arroyo-kidney-00-cornholeJorge’s kidney transplant was successful and he woke up surrounded by his family.  His mother was the first person who he saw when he opened his eyes.  His parents, originally from Cayey, Puerto Rico, kept their family close and stressed the importance of family to Jorge and his siblings. When he was young, Jorge’s parents moved their family back to Puerto Rico so the children could be with their grandparents and get to know them.

Since Jorge received a second chance at life in 2000, he has made giving back a priority.  He wants to pay forward the gift that he’s been given, and volunteers regularly with Gift of Life and Gift of Life Family House.  He shares his story in the community, volunteers at tabling events to encourage others to register as organ and tissue donors and devotes time weekly to working at the Family House.

“If it wasn’t for my donor, I wouldn’t have been able to celebrate my 33rd wedding anniversary with my wife.  My siblings also have children and I’ve been able to spend time with them too.” said Jorge.  “I feel really lucky and I love to volunteer – especially at the Family House.  That place is close to my heart. It makes me feel good to be able to bring some comfort to people staying there after they have a long day at the hospital.” he said.

Today, Jorge is healthy.  “To me, I feel so blessed that someone – at such a critical time – gave me another chance. I was able to return back to having a normal life because of their choice to donate.  I have so much energy since receiving my transplant and my life quickly changed for the better.  I think if more people knew the facts about organ and tissue donation, they would register.” said Jorge.

September 15th-October 15th is Hispanic Heritage Month. It’s a great opportunity to reach minority communities about the importance of registering as an organ donor, and to recognize Hispanics who have received the gift of life – like Jorge – and those who are currently waiting for a life-saving organ transplant.  It’s also an opportunity to honor the generosity of individuals and families who were able to give to others through donation.

Just one donor can save and enhance the lives of up to 50 people, making a huge impact that is far-reaching. Register today at www.donors1.org.  It only takes 30 seconds.

About Gift of Life Donor Program: Since 1974, Gift of Life has coordinated more than 42,000 organ transplants and an estimated 600,000 tissue transplants. Gift of Life’s service area includes nearly 11 million people, and in 2015 the organization coordinated over 44 organ donors-per-million-population – ranking it among the highest in the world. For more information about organ and tissue donation or to register today, visit donors1.org.  It only takes 30 seconds to register.

Manheim, PA High School Student Grateful for Gift of Life

September 8th, 2016

As August ends and September begins, many of the area’s students are heading back to school.  For most students, the start of a new school year is an exciting time.  It’s an opportunity for them to learn, to have fun with friends and to participate in extracurricular activities.  Jenna Valle, a Manheim Central High School student, is grateful for more than just the start of the new school year – she’s grateful to be healthy and alive.

jenna-2

Jenna, 16, is a junior this year and just received her driver’s permit.  When she passes her driver’s test and has her license, one thing is for certain – she will register to be an organ and tissue donor.  In 2001 when she was just a baby, her parents knew that something was wrong.  Jenna’s skin was yellow and she was failing to thrive. She began to require a feeding tube to eat, and her health was deteriorating.  After extensive testing, doctors gave her mother and father news that no parent wants to hear – Jenna would need a life-saving liver transplant to survive.

After just a few short days in the hospital, another parent made the decision to say “yes” to organ and tissue donation.  In their most difficult time – after losing their child – they courageously looked past their own sorrow and gave the gift of life.  Jenna received a new liver and her transplant was a success.

Being a liver recipient has never held her back in life.  She had to take anti-rejection medicine and had a scar, but she was a healthy and energetic child.  She led an active life in middle school and played soccer, softball and was on the swim team.  “My liver transplant is the reason that I’m alive.” said Jenna. “I won’t let it stop me!  When I was 13 to about 15 years old, I felt very self-conscious about my scar and I had a lot of self-doubt because of it.  Now, my whole outlook has changed.  My scar and my transplant are a part of who I am, and I’m proud of that.  I want to be open about it.” she said.

This past year, Jenna has broken out of her shell and has confidence in herself that she previously lacked.  She joined the color guard at school, and has made many new friends through it.  She is very outspoken about organ and tissue donation, and speaks frequently in the community – sharing her story and inspiring others to register as donors.

She has also participated in Gift of Life Donor Program’s Team Philadelphia five times. She has traveled the country with the team, competing in the Donate Life Transplant Games of America, an Olympic-style competition for organ transplant recipients and living donors.  In 2016, Jenna went for the gold and brought home medals in bowling, softball throw and long jump.  She said, “I think that being a part of Team Philly has given me a lot of self-acceptance.  It showed me that I’m not alone, and that there are many others who have gone through what I have.”

Jenna is excited to begin the new school year.  “My school is a great environment, people are friendly and I’ve bonded with many of my teachers.  I feel comfortable there.  I can’t believe that next year will be my last year.”

Education is power.  When people learn the truth about donation and are able to dispel the myths and misconceptions – they are often motivated to register – which is critically needed.  Due to the need for more donors in the U.S., an average of 21 people die each day while waiting for a life-saving organ and tissue transplant.  In Gift of Life’s region – the eastern half of PA, southern NJ and DE – more than 5,600 men, women and children are waiting for a transplant.  Nationally, over 119,000 are waiting.  Just one organ and tissue donor can save and enhance the lives of up to 50 others through organ and tissue donation, showing how impactful choosing to register as a donor can be.

“I always thought people knew about organ and tissue donation, but many don’t.” Jenna said.  “I want them to know that donation saves lives.  I think people should keep an open mind – and know that through being a donor – they can do a lot to help people.  Life is a gift that not everyone gets.  I have so much gratitude for my donor for saving my life.  Even though I never met my donor’s family, I feel thankful for them every day.”

You can help!  Register today to be an organ and tissue donor at donors1.org.  It only takes 30 seconds to register.

Back to School Feature: Local Educators Promote Organ and Tissue Donation

August 26th, 2016

For many students, the start of a new school year is an exciting time.  For teachers, it’s an opportunity to approach teaching with a new enthusiasm after a summer away from work and students. Lehigh Career and Technical Institute (LCTI) nurse, Liz Kennedy, believes that the beginning of the school year signifies a time to help students, and another opportunity to educate them about organ and tissue donation education.

Allentown, PA residents, Liz and Dave Kennedy, have personal insight into the life-saving and enhancing power of organ and tissue donation.  Their son, David Kennedy Jr., died in a car accident when he was just 19.  This tragedy hit the Kennedy family hard.  Little did they know at the time, saying “yes” to donation would have a lasting, positive effect on them.

Kennedy family June 12 1991_

David Jr. was a tissue donor and was able to enhance the lives of more than 45 others through the selfless act of being a donor. “If your child dies, you can’t bring them back.  But donation was something that we could do.  It has helped us heal.” said David’s mother, Liz.  “I wasn’t educated that much about tissue donation, and now knowing how many people it helped, I try to share this information and educate others.”

Since David Jr.’s death, Liz and Dave continue his legacy through educating the community about organ and tissue donation.  Liz has been a nurse for more than 40 years, and has worked as a nurse at LCTI for 15 years.  She has a strong connection with her students, and wants them to have all of the facts and information necessary to make an educated decision about registering as an organ and tissue donor.

“I see how interested students are in learning about donation and understanding the facts.  As they get ready to get their driver’s license, it’s an important time for them to learn about organ and tissue donation.  It’s their choice. I give them the information and then they can make an informed decision.” Liz said.

Dave also works in education.  He became President of the Parkland Board of School Directors in 2015, and has served on the Board for the past 19 years.  He has been a part of the Joint Operating Committee for LCTI for 19 years. Dave’s background is in printing sales, and he has been on LCTI’s Advisory Board for the Print Technology Lab since the 1970s.

Together Dave and Liz have shared their story many times throughout the community, including speaking at local high schools.  “I think that our personal experience has given us a perspective that is unique and others can really understand.  We’ve been through it and we have an insight that others can see and appreciate.  I think it may be difficult for many parents to discuss donation with their children because no one wants to think about the worst happening.  I think it’s easier for us to have these conversations with the kids.  The students see us as educators and feel comfortable to ask questions, which they may feel uncomfortable asking their parents.” said Liz.

Education is power.  When people learn the truth about donation, and are able to dispel the untrue myths and misconceptions – they are often motivated to register – which is critically needed.  Due to the need for more donors in the U.S., an average of 21 people die each day while waiting for a life-saving organ and tissue transplant.  In Gift of Life’s region – the eastern half of PA, southern NJ and DE – more than 5,600 men, women and children are waiting for a transplant.  Nationally, over 119,000 are waiting.  Just one organ and tissue donor can save and enhance the lives of up to 50 others through organ and tissue donation, showing how impactful choosing to register as a donor can be. You can help!  Register today to be an organ and tissue donor at donors1.org.  It only takes 30 seconds to register.

Young Liver Transplant Recipient to Participate in DE Donor Dash

August 2nd, 2016

Onyi Kenine, liver '05, gold medal darts

Wilmington, DE resident, Onyi Kenine, 12, is just like many other children her age.  She’s energetic, loves sports and has an outgoing personality.  What sets her apart from the others is that when she was a baby – she received a life-saving liver transplant.

At just six months old, Onyi’s mother and father moved from Nigeria to Delaware to have access to the expert medical care that would save their daughter’s life.  Onyi was diagnosed with Biliary Artesia, a rare disease that affects the liver and bile ducts and occurs in infants.  The disease is a life-threatening condition.  Onyi’s mother, Edith, said, “Onyi’s eyes were yellow, her stomach was swollen and she needed a feeding tube.  Our hope was really in God at that point – for Him to do his best.  Our transplant team was amazing.  They are our angels.”

Onyi was fortunate to only have to wait a few months for a new liver, because a family said yes to organ donation.  “After her liver transplant, it was the difference between life and death.  She was eating well. We never really knew what the outcome would be.  Since her transplant, she hasn’t had any setbacks with her development. She bounced back.”  said Edith.

Onyi Kenine, liver '05, gold medal in track

Not everyone has the same opportunity that Onyi did.  Currently, an average of 21 people die each day while waiting for an organ transplant in the United States.  In Gift of Life’s region – Delaware, the eastern half of PA and southern NJ – there are more than 5,600 men, women and children awaiting a life-saving transplant.  Unfortunately, there are not enough transplantable organs to meet this critical demand.

“Having a liver transplant never held me back.  I play basketball, tennis and run dashes and relay races in track and field.” said Onyi.  She has also participated in Gift of Life’s Team Philadelphia, earning gold medals in track and field and darts.

Her family is very grateful for Onyi’s gift of life.  “We send cards and write to our donor’s family.  We’re sad for their loss,but we appreciate what they’ve given us.  We remember them through every minute of life.  We always have them in our hearts.” said Edith.

Edith said, “People should be organ donors.  Onyi shows how well transplantation works.  Without it, she wouldn’t be here.  I think many people have a fear of the unknown and that’s why they don’t register.  They need to have more awareness and understand that they can save someone’s life.  I’ve gone through this and Onyi, and she is alive because of her donor and her transplant.  Her donor’s memory still lives on.”

Onyi Kenine, liver '05, trackOnyi is going to bring her running skills to Gift of Life’s next exciting event, the Delaware Donor Dash.  Happening on Saturday, August 6th, Gift of Life, along with Christiana Care Health System, Nemours Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children and the Delaware Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Board will host the 3rd Annual Delaware Donor Dash to raise funding for educational initiatives throughout Delaware. The 5K run/3K walk will take place at the Wilmington Waterfront at 8:30 AM (run) and 8:45 AM (walk). On-site registration opens at 7:30 AM.

Community education and events – like the Delaware Donor Dash – play an essential role in highlighting the importance of registering as an organ and tissue donor. Visit dedonordash.org for more information and to sign up.  Registration is $25.

Everyone has the power to make a change by registering as an organ and tissue donor at donors1.org and supporting local events like the DE Donor Dash. By saying yes to donation, you can help put an end to the shortage of registered organ and tissue donors – and ultimately help save lives.  It only takes 30 seconds to become a registered donor at donors1.org.

Wilkes Barre, PA Resident Gets His Life Back After Receiving the Gift of Life

July 28th, 2016

In 2007, Keith Chalmers began experiencing shortness of breath.  He knew that something was wrong.  His doctor sent him to a specialist and he was diagnosed with a number of lung issues, including COPD, bronchitis and emphysema.  He was put on inhalers, oral medications and oxygen.

“A few years later, it started to get even worse. The treatments weren’t helping anymore.” said Keith. “I could barely even take my daughter to school.  I would only have to walk maybe 10 to 15 steps to take her to her class, but it wore me out.  I would need to sit down and catch my breath.  Even being on oxygen didn’t help.”

Keith Chalmers

By 2014, Keith required oxygen 24/7 and his health was rapidly declining.  “I felt so weak and sick.  I called my sister and cried to her that I didn’t know what to do.  She rushed me to the hospital and doctors said that I needed to go to Philadelphia and get tested for a possible lung transplant.” he said.

“Before I got sick, I was active.” Keith said.  “I went to church and worked as a fork lift operator, which was a physical job.  I’m a deacon at my local church and I’ve always tried to help people.  Even when I was sick, I would shovel the snow for elderly neighbors and push myself to keep moving.”

Keith’s determination and faith in his religion helped pull him through this challenging period in his life.  He received the gift of life – a new set of lungs – shortly after being added to the organ transplant waitlist.  His recovery required him to devote much of his time and energy to respiratory rehabilitation, and to building his strength back up in the rest of his body.  He was off of oxygen and was able to ride a stationary bike without having to catch his breath.  For the first time, Keith began to feel like his life may be getting back to normal.

“After my lung transplant, I started to get my energy back and could do what I wanted to do without suffering.  It’s been so nice to be able to help others again.  Right now, I’m redoing the basement of my church.” said Keith.

Post-transplant, Keith can also run and play with his six-year-old daughter, Atia. She loves to play tag, and he can finally keep up with her.  “I feel blessed. Religion played a big part in my recovery.  Faith got me through it all.  I am grateful for my donor and their family.  I wrote to them to say thank you and to let them know that their generosity would be put to good use.” he said.

Keith shares his story openly with his church, family, friends and the community to show the positive impact that someone can have by being an organ and tissue donor.  Keith understands that he was lucky to receive a second chance at life.  Currently in the region, more than 5,600 men, women and children are waiting for an organ transplant.  In the U.S., an average of 21 people die while waiting because there aren’t enough organs available for transplant.

Keith said, “I tell people that they can live on and save the lives of others who are very sick.  I really believe that people aren’t educated about organ donation.  After my transplant, I decided that one of my goals in life would be to spread the message that organ donors save lives.”

In an effort to educate the community, Gift of Life is hosting its 20th Annual Gospel Competition and Program on Sunday, July 31st from 5:00 PM-7:30 PM at the First District Plaza (3801 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA.)  There will be performances from the top competitors of the Gospel Competition, along with gospel recording artist, Kenturah Duncan.  Praise 103.9 radio personality, Dezzie, will emcee this energetic and inspirational event.

Gift of Life’s Gospel Program has been held for the past two decades in honor of National Minority Donor Awareness Week, which takes place each year from August 1st-7th. The week honors the generosity of multicultural donors and their families – while underscoring the critical need for minority communities to register as potential organ and tissue donors.

Nationally, minority communities make up 25% of the population, but represent a startling 58% and more of those waiting for a life-saving transplant. In Gift of Life’s region, over 50% of those waiting for a kidney transplant are minorities.  Gift of Life believes this week is an important platform to build upon because the lack of education is crippling minority communities.

About Gift of Life Donor Program: Since 1974, Gift of Life has coordinated more than 42,000 organ transplants and an estimated 600,000 tissue transplants. Gift of Life’s service area includes nearly 11 million people, and in 2015 the organization coordinated over 44 organ donors-per-million-population – ranking it among the highest in the world. Just one organ and tissue donor can save and enhance the lives of up to 50 others.  Currently in the region, more than 5,600 men, women and children are waiting for a second chance at life.  For more information about organ and tissue donation or to register today, visit donors1.org.  It only takes 30 seconds to register.

Delaware Man Waiting on a Kidney Transplant for Three Years

July 15th, 2016

Delaware resident Bill Murray, 54, has been waiting for a kidney transplant for the past three years.  He is a father of three, and used to own his own plumbing business for more than 20 years.  Before his illness, he was physically active, refereeing softball and basketball regularly.  He used to love to travel and had energy to do what he loved most – spend time with his family.

Bill Murray 1

Since being diagnosed with kidney failure, his life has drastically changed.  He had to give up his business and now spends much of his time on home dialysis, 7 days a week, three and a half hours a day.  He is hopeful that he will receive the gift of life and is a passionate advocate for organ donation.  Although his energy level is very low, he still volunteers with Gift of Life Donor Program, speaking about donation and working at tabling events throughout DE, where he has an opportunity to make an impact and share his story.

“When I tell people my story, it makes a difference.” Bill said.  “There are a lot of misconceptions that keep people from registering, and when they see me and hear what I’ve been through, it changes their minds. So many people are waiting for a second chance.  They are really sick and struggling. It’s important for me to make sure others understand how much they can help. Educating people about donation is my life-long journey.” he said.

Currently, more than 120,000 people are waiting nationally – and over 500 of them are Delaware residents. Bill is a part of that group, and looks forward to getting his life back.  He said, “I can’t wait for the day when my life can get back to normal.  I want to receive a kidney transplant, build up my strength and get back to work.  I want to get off dialysis and not feel like a burden to people.”

Everyone has the power to make a change by registering as an organ and tissue donor at donors1.org and supporting local events like the DE Donor Dash.  On Saturday, August 6th, Gift of Life, along with Christiana Care Health System, Nemours Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children and the Delaware Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Board will host the 3rd Annual Delaware Donor Dash to raise funding for educational initiatives throughout Delaware. The 5K run/3K walk will take place at the Wilmington Waterfront at 8:30 AM (run) and 8:45 AM (walk). On-site registration opens at 7:30 AM. Community education and events – like the Delaware Donor Dash – play an essential role in highlighting the importance of registering as an organ and tissue donor. Visit dedonordash.org for more information and to sign up.  Registration is $25.

Bill Murray 2

Bill will be at the DE Donor Dash again this year, volunteering and walking in support of donation and in honor of his girlfriend, Lynda Snellings, who passed away this year.  Lynda had heart issues and was going through the process of being added to the organ transplant waitlist for a new heart.  “This year, the DE Dash has a new meaning for me.  I’m trying to form the biggest team and raise at least $1,000 in honor of Lynda.  She was a great support for me.  We were always there for each other and were together for four years.  It’s been a very tough year.” said Bill.

By saying “yes” to donation, you can help put an end to the critical shortage of registered organ and tissue donors – and ultimately save lives.  It only takes 30 seconds to become a registered donor at donors1.org.

Click here to register for the 2016 Delaware Donor Dash.

 
 

© Gift of Life Donor Program, 401 North 3rd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19123
    800-DONORS-1 / 800-KIDNEY-1

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