Second Chance Blog

 

Donor Wife Meets Husband’s Kidney Recipient after Twenty Years

April 28th, 2017

Twenty years ago, Diane Milbourne, of Schwenksville, PA, got a phone call that no wife ever wants to receive.  Her husband, Ed, had been in a fatal car accident on the way to their house in the Poconos.  Ed suffered severe head trauma and the family knew that there was no returning from this heartbreaking tragedy.

Diane and Ed were married for 25 years, and even two decades after her husband’s passing, her love for him is strong.  “Ed was a great guy.  Everyone loved him – his friends and his family.  He loved nature and to be outside and hunt and fish.” Diane said.  His favorite past time was being with his grandson, Erick, who he called “Bud.”  They had a special bond and he spent a lot of time with him.”

Ed was the type of person who cared about everyone and was compassionate to the core.  His family knew that because of who Ed was, he’d want to be a donor and help others.  When there was no longer hope to save Ed’s life, the Milbourne family made the decision to say “yes” to organ and tissue donation – saving the lives of three others.

Diane said, “Ed being a donor brings our family comfort.  He didn’t just die, but he lives on in others and his beautiful spirit continues. Because of donation, I don’t feel like I have to mourn his death.  I feel like I can celebrate the life that he’s given to others.”

Diane wrote to Ed’s recipients and never expected to hear back, especially two decades later.  Then she made a connection that filled her with happiness.  Ed’s kidney recipient, Dave Swick, of Easton, PA, starting communicating with her, and they met for the first time this year.

Dave said, “I can’t thank Diane and Ed enough.  If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here.  I always wanted to meet Diane from day one, but I didn’t know what to say.  How do I thank someone for something so big?  Now, we call and text each other – and reach out during the holidays.”

Dave was born with kidney disease, but was able to live a healthy and full childhood.  It wasn’t until he got blood work done while in the military that his doctor became concerned with his kidney function.  At 25, he was faced with the grim prospect of dialysis.  He was listed for a kidney transplant and waited five, long years before Ed and his family gave him a second chance at life.

“During that time, I also suffered from congestive heart failure.  I got through it because of the support of my family, and my daughter, Chyra, who was like a nurse for me.  It got pretty bad at times.  I was down to 130 pounds, my skin was grey and I had to stop working.”  Dave said.  He also has a son, David Jr., with his wife Lisa.  Post-transplant, Dave felt an immediate difference.  His energy increased and his skin regained a healthy color.

He reached a huge milestone this year when he turned 50.  He is grateful every day for Ed’s gift, and has made the most of his restored health. “I have coached wrestling for 30 years.  Now, I coach my nephew, Dylan, and my grandson, Jonathan, in midget wrestling.  My wife and I have traveled the country over the past 20 years, and I haven’t had to worry about dialysis or not having energy. I have a new lease on life since my transplant, and I’ve celebrated my transplant day like a birthday.” said Dave.  “I want to thank all donor families who say “yes” to donation.  People don’t realize the quality of life that recipients can have.” he said.

“When we met, Dave reminded me so much of Ed.” said Diane.  “He likes to hunt and fish and is close to his grandchildren. I was stuck in a dark place for a long time after Ed died.  It’s comforting to see how healthy Dave is and to know that Ed lives on through him.  It’s never too late to connect.”

As April’s National Donate Life Month comes to a close, it’s important to stress the life-saving impact that donors, like Ed, can have on so many lives.  Gift of Life encourages everyone to register at donors1.org.  Organ and tissue donors can save the lives of up to eight others through organ donation, and countless others through tissue donation.

Currently, more than 5,400 people are awaiting a second chance at life in Gift of Life’s region – the eastern half of PA, southern NJ and DE.  Nationally, 118,000 are waiting.  Registering as an organ and tissue donor is a heroic and selfless decision.  It’s a choice that changes and saves lives, impacting not only the individual in need of a transplant, but their families and the community on a whole.

**As Diane said, “it’s never too late to connect.”  If you are a donor family member wishing to reach out to your loved one’s recipients, please click here.  If you are a transplant recipient and wish to write to your donor’s family, please click here.

About Gift of Life Donor Program: Since 1974, Gift of Life has coordinated more than 42,000 life-saving organ transplants, along with more than 600,000 life-enhancing tissue transplants.  Gift of Life’s service area includes nearly 11.2 million people, and in 2016 the organization coordinated over 49 organ donors-per-million-population – ranking it among the highest in the world.  For more information or to register today, visit donors1.org.  It only takes 30 seconds to register.

Palmyra, PA Woman Expresses Gratitude for Brother’s Selfless Decision to Save Her Life

April 25th, 2017

Twenty years is a lifetime of memories and experiences.  Palmyra, PA resident, Denise Neely, understands this all too well.  She received a life-saving kidney transplant two decades ago, and feels blessed that her younger brother, Thomas Webber, made the generous decision to say ‘yes’ to donation – giving her a chance to watch her three sons grow, become a grandmother of five and live a full, active life.

Denise’s transplant journey began at 34, when her middle son, Josh, was diagnosed with strep throat.  She began to feel sick too. Ten days later after a round of antibiotics, she starting experiencing excessive swelling and knew that something was wrong. She went through testing and her doctor told her that she had IgA nephropathy, a disease that hampers the kidneys’ ability to filter wastes from blood.  Her uphill battle to regain her health began.

After going into kidney failure, she went on dialysis and was added to the organ transplant waitlist.  She said, “It was a really rough part of my life.  I had to do at home dialysis four times a day, and it was draining.  I could barely make it to my car or walk up my steps, and my kids were young so I pushed myself to keep going.”  Denise gained 70 pounds of water weight due to her lack of kidney function, and she was swollen and suffocating from the excess fluid.  She was always out of breath and was unsure what tomorrow would bring.

Luckily, Denise had the support of her family.  She is one of nine siblings and they are a close- knit group.  Several of her siblings stepped up and were tested to be a living donor, and three of them were perfect matches!  “My brother, Thomas, just had a baby with his wife – but it didn’t stop him from donating one of his kidneys to me.  He is my hero.  Because of him I have my life back.” said Denise.

Today, 20 years post-transplant, Denise and her brother are both healthy.  She has proven how successful transplantation is, and that life with a new kidney can be an energetic one.  “Right after my surgery, I felt different.  I had so much energy.” she said.  “I love to share with people how healthy I am now.  I started riding my bike shortly after my transplant, and I try to eat well and follow my doctor’s orders.”  She is committed to taking care of her kidney and showing the world all that she can do.  In 2009, she traveled to Spain as a participant in the World Transplant Games, an Olympic-style competition where transplant recipients go for the gold!  She has also been a member of Team Philadelphia and competed in the national Donate Life Transplant Games of America, bringing home 16 medals, which included 5 gold!

“People don’t realize how much recipients can do after receiving a transplant.  I want to share my story and inspire others with all that I have been able to do.”  Denise said.

In Gift of Life Donor Program’s region, the eastern half of PA, southern NJ and DE, more than 5,400 people are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant.  On average, 22 people die each day in the U.S. while waiting.  You can help!  One donor can save up to eight lives through organ donation and countless others through tissue donation.  Register at donors1.org.  It only takes 30 seconds.

About Gift of Life Donor Program: Since 1974, Gift of Life has coordinated more than 42,000 life-saving organ transplants, along with more than 600,000 life-enhancing tissue transplants.  Gift of Life’s service area includes nearly 11.2 million people, and in 2016 the organization coordinated over 49 organ donors-per-million-population – ranking it among the highest in the world.  For more information or to register today, visit donors1.org.

NJ Family Celebrates Life of Son Who Saved Four Lives through Organ Donation

March 31st, 2017

Mason was Kellie Hess’ first child.  He was a sweet child who slept through the night, and what his mother refers to as a “godsend.”  Everywhere Mason went, people were drawn to him.  He would wave to everyone and say hello, letting his friendly nature shine.

Tragedy struck this loving family when Mason suffered fatal injuries in 2012 at 14 months old.  His parents were left with a decision that no one wants to make.  Should Mason become an organ donor?  In the midst of their grief, they said ‘yes’ to donation.  They were able to look beyond their own pain, so no other parent would have to feel the depth of loss that they were experiencing.  Through their selflessness, Mason was able to save the lives of four others.

“It’s important for us that Mason saved lives.  We want to keep his memory alive and are proud of his legacy.” said Kellie.  “My husband and I both had the same thought, even before Gift of Life spoke with us at the hospital.  We wanted Mason to be a donor.  Something in my heart told me that we had to do it.”

Today, the family keeps Mason’s memory alive through sharing his story and participating in the Donor Dash, an event that raises awareness and funding for organ and tissue donation.  “In Mason’s short time on earth, he was able to do more than many can achieve in a lifetime.  Because Mason was a donor, we are able to see the direct impact that he’s had on others.  So many people come up to my husband and I and say that they registered as an organ donor because of Mason.  He is still impacting people today, which makes our Dash team name so fitting, Mason’s Mission.”  Since 2013, Mason’s Mission has raised more than $20,000 in support of donation.

Kellie said, “We don’t want to focus on Mason being gone or how he died.  We want to focus on the positive, and that’s what donation has allowed us to do.  We went from darkness to light because of it.”  It was important for Kellie to know that Mason’s recipients were healthy and doing well, but they never dreamed of what would come next.

The recipient of Mason’s lungs, an eight-year-old boy, wanted to meet them to say thank you in person.  “It was emotionally packed.” said Kellie.  “We are so happy that this wonderful little boy is healthy.  I felt Mason’s lungs breathing in his chest.  It was raw emotion from both sides, and it showed me the major impact that donation has. We felt such a bond with him.”

They’ve heard back from three of Mason’s four recipients, and are so grateful to know that they are doing well.  Kellie credits her faith for allowing her to remain positive, and is grateful for the constant support of her family and friends.  She is also the mother of Faith, 3.

On April 2nd, Kellie, along with her family and friends, will celebrate Mason’s life and the gifts that he gave, at the 22nd Annual Donor Dash.  They will participate in the race’s 3K walk as Mason’s Mission.  The Dash is a great opportunity for Dashers to honor donors, like Mason, to celebrate the lives of recipients and to raise awareness about the more than 5,400 men, women and children in Gift of Life’s region (the eastern half of PA, southern NJ and DE) who are awaiting a life-saving organ transplant.

The Dash begins at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and continues along West River Drive. On-site registration opens at 6:00 AM, followed by a 10K run (7:10 AM), a 5K run (7:20 AM) and a 3K walk (8:30 AM).  The 2016 Donor Dash witnessed a record number of supporters, with 10,000 people in attendance. This year, Gift of Life is looking forward to an even greater turnout!  Visit www.donordash.org to register.

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 donation rate equates to 49 organ donors-per-million-population, ranking it among the highest in the world.  To register as an organ and tissue donor, visit donors1.org. It only takes 30 seconds to register.

Team Hive Five for Bee Celebrates Life of Three-Year-Old Transplant Recipient

March 27th, 2017

The Sanchez family decided to relocate to Phoenix, AZ from Philadelphia, PA in 2014 to enjoy the west coast’s warmer weather.  At the time, Kate and her husband, Daniel, had two children, Bernadette, three, and Adelaide, five, who made this exciting cross country journey with their parents.

Bernadette, or Bee as her parents call her, was a healthy baby, and was reaching all of her milestones.  In the midst of unpacking, and with a house full of boxes, Kate was alarmed when Bernadette picked up a packing peanut and ate it.  Because of the scare, Kate took her to the emergency room to ensure that everything was okay. The results were not what the family was expecting.  Doctors discovered a cancerous, solid tumor that was growing in Bernadette’s stomach.  She was diagnosed with Neoroblastoma, and went through four rounds of chemotherapy.  The family was told that this type of tumor was typically inoperable, but that there was a specialist on the east coast who may be able to help.

“We left Phoenix and went to New York.  Her tumor resection went well, but afterword, she had massive complications due to clotting that resulted in multiple bowel resections, a total pancreaectomy, splenectomy, a whipple procedure, and, ultimately, short gut syndrome.” said Kate.  “Since her gut was unable to digest food, she was put on IV nutrition (TPN).  As a result, she developed TPN related liver failure. We lived minute to minute and day to day.”

Three months later, the Sanchez family returned to Phoenix. Bernadette was on “gut rest,” which is why she needed to have IV nutrition.  In Phoenix, she was in and out of the hospital with fevers, and it was challenging for her weakened digestive system to handle her environment.  Kate said, “We heard about an amazing intestinal rehab in Philadelphia, so we went. The rehab was difficult because Bee couldn’t handle eating food.”

After determining that Bernadette needed a transplant, she was listed for a stomach, liver, small bowel and pancreas.  After months of waiting, her health was deteriorating.  “It was so difficult.  The spark in her eyes started to leave – and then she had a seizure, which caused her to be unresponsive for three weeks.” Kate said.  In June, 2016, Bernadette’s wait finally came to an end after a family selflessly said ‘yes’ to organ donation.  “I held Bernadette in my arms as she fell asleep from the anesthesia before her transplant. The medical team allowed me to dress and go into the operating room with her, hoping that she would feel calm and loved before her transplant. She smiled at me right before she went to sleep.” Kate said.   

Her transplant was a success, and her next challenge was to complete speech therapy and to learn to eat again.  Kate said, “Doctors told us she was a poster child for transplantation.  Post-transplant, her skin was less yellow, and in two days she didn’t need insulin anymore.  It was amazing to know that everything was working.”

Nearly a year post-transplant, Bernadette is doing great.  Before her transplant, she only said about five words.  Now, she uses nearly 500 words and is thriving.  She was accepted into a pre-school for the fall, and is making significant strides to reach the milestones for her age group.  “She’s very spunky.  She knows what she wants and has been stubborn throughout this journey. Her nickname with everyone is ‘The Bull.’ She also loves to help with everything, and to sing, dance and play with her siblings.” said Kate.  Bernadette is now a big sister to her brother, Lucas, who is one.

Her second chance at life would not have been possible without the generosity of Bernadette’s donor family.  “It’s so selfless to make that decision, and I’m really grateful to them.  I would love to personally thank them some day.” she said.

On April 2nd, the Sanchez family, along with their family and friends, will celebrate Bernadette’s health at the 22nd Annual Donor Dash.  They will participate in the race’s 3K walk as Team Hive Five for Bee.  The Dash is a great opportunity for Dashers to honor donors and donor families, to celebrate the lives of recipients and to raise awareness about the more than 5,400 men, women and children in Gift of Life’s region (the eastern half of PA, southern NJ and DE) who are awaiting a life-saving organ transplant.

The Dash begins at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and continues along West River Drive. On-site registration opens at 6:00 AM, followed by a 10K run (7:10 AM), a 5K run (7:20 AM) and a 3K walk (8:30 AM).  The 2016 Donor Dash witnessed a record number of supporters, with 10,000 people in attendance. This year, Gift of Life is looking forward to an even greater turnout!  Visit www.donordash.org to register.

In addition to supporting the Dash, the Sanchez family is paying their donor family’s kindness forward.  They formed an organization called Beds by Bee that provides children who are in the hospital with colorful bed sheets and blankets. “Hospitals are sterile. We saw how happy Bee was to have her character sheets, toys and books.  We want to help other children feel more at home, to help them heal and to make the hospital less scary.  It really can make a difference.” Kate said.

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 donation rate equates to 49 organ donors-per-million-population, ranking it among the highest in the world.  To register as an organ and tissue donor, visit donors1.org. It only takes 30 seconds to register.

Levittown, PA Woman Honors Brother’s Life-Saving Gifts at 22nd Annual Donor Dash

March 24th, 2017

In 2015, Michael Wallover, 24, had a fatal accident and passed away.  His family faced one of the darkest tragedies of their lives, but chose generosity and selflessness in spite of their grief.  They said ‘yes’ to organ donation.

That decision saved many lives, as Michael was able to donate five of his organs to those in need.  Michael’s sister, Krista Deguffroy, said, “So many people are able to get a second chance at life through donation.  After going through it, now our eyes are open to all that donors can do.  Donation is a chance to celebrate Michael’s life, and allows his legacy to be one of saving others. I’m so glad our family made the decision.  It has shown me how life can continue on, even after death.”

Krista describes Michael as a funny, honest man – who would have helped anyone.  She said that he always gave his shoulder, ear or money to help anyone who needed it.  “He loved the Flyers, fishing and motorcycles.  He was a kind soul.” she said.

For the second year, Krista and Michael’s family and friends, will join together to celebrate his life and the gifts that he gave to others by participating in the 22nd Annual Donor Dash on Sunday, April 2nd.  More than 55 people will walk and run as part of their Dash team “Miracles from Michael.” In 2016, the team raised over $6,000 through fundraising for the Dash, which will support organ and tissue donation educational initiatives.

“Last year at the Dash, we had no idea what to expect since it was our first time.” said Krista.  “It was really powerful.  There were so many donor families and recipients there.  People thanked us, and said what a hero Michael was.  We felt camaraderie with everyone there, and it made us realize that we aren’t alone.”

This year, Krista and her team are trying to recruit even more Dashers.  They are also hosting a Bowling Bash in Bensalem with family and friends to fundraise for their team.

The Donor Dash is a great opportunity to honor donors, like Michael, to celebrate the lives of recipients and to raise awareness about the more than 5,400 men, women and children in Gift of Life’s region (the eastern half of PA, southern NJ and DE) who are awaiting a life-saving organ transplant.

The Dash begins at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and continues along West River Drive. On-site registration opens at 6:00 AM, followed by a 10K run (7:10 AM), a 5K run (7:20 AM) and a 3K walk (8:30 AM).  The 2016 Donor Dash witnessed a record number of supporters, with 10,000 people in attendance. This year, Gift of Life is looking forward to an even greater turnout!  Visit www.donordash.org to register.

Krista said, “There is no greater gift or opportunity than organ donation, to continue the life of your loved one and help others.  I encourage people to register and to share their wishes with their family.”

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 donation rate equates to 49 organ donors-per-million-population, ranking it among the highest in the world.  To register as an organ and tissue donor, visit donors1.org. It only takes 30 seconds to reg

Donor Dash Feature: #urineluck

March 21st, 2017


#urineluck

A funny team name, yes. But also a totally honest name.

Lucky. Grateful. Blessed. These are just some of the adjectives that can be used to describe how our family feels about organ donation. Marty was given the ultimate gift on New Year’s Eve, a new kidney and pancreas. He was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes over 26 years ago. He learned to live his life with the disease and all of the trials it brought with it. The most trying of them all was end stage renal failure. Dialysis 3 times a week, and afterwards blood sugars that could swing crazy high, and then turn right around and swing crazy low. Marty started receiving care at Penn Transplant Institute a couple of years ago, and they efficiently and thoroughly took over all of his medical needs. They walked him (and us) through the transplant process and less than 2 months after being placed on the active list, Marty received the phone call that changed his life.

Marty apparently really knows how to celebrate the New Year. Our family spent New Year’s Eve together in a small waiting room at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Just 15 minutes after we welcomed 2017, we were given the amazing news that Marty was safely out of surgery, and that his new organs were “beautiful”.

Beautiful. Another perfect adjective to describe organ donation. Organ donation takes any normal person and turns them into a hero. It takes a person who is silently fighting their fight and gives them a brand new lease on life. Organ donation is a miracle, an answer to a prayer, it is the greatest and most humbling of gifts. Marty now has a new hero, our family has a new hero, and this is why we walk. We walk to honor the hero in our lives, and to all the heros that are out there. Please join us in honoring those heroes who are saving lives every day.

“If you save one life, it is as though you save the world.”- The Talmud

The 22nd Annual Donor Dash will be held on Sunday, April 2.  Join a team OR run or walk as an individual!  You can find more info at www.donordash.org!

 
 

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

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