Second Chance Blog

 

30 Stories in 30 Days, “INKED: The Permanence of Love”

April 24th, 2014

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Day 24: Sascha Fink

Today’s story absolutely tugs at the heart strings. Sascha Fink shares the story of her brother, Sean.  Her story is unique in that she got her tattoo before Sean passed away, but it was not until after he died that she understood the true meaning of the word tattooed to her wrist.  Read more below…

Sascha Tattoo
So… I had this tattoo done before my brother died, perhaps for about a year. It was a reminder for me to seek peace after I had struggled with depression and survived a suicide attempt.  My brother was a drug addict and alcoholic.  He and I had a lot of issues and tattoos seemed to be an outlet for both of us. My brother had an entire sleeve of Celtic knot work with “si vis pacem para bellum” in the center. It means if you want peace, you must be prepared for war. He was desperate for peace of mind and tried to fight his demons hoping it would bring him peace. Unfortunately, he was unsuccessful in finding peace in this life.

On December 13, 2013, my brother collapsed on the sidewalk in Philly.  It took 21 minutes to bring him back, and when they did, it was pretty clear he was brain dead.  Toxicology showed that he had overdosed on drugs.  My mother and I spent a week in the ICU with him hoping for things to improve, but knowing things probably wouldn’t.  It was then that we decided to approach Gift of Life.  I sought them out at the hospital and we talked about the donation process. We wanted his death to mean something other than a life ended because of emotional pain.  Aside from time for personal care, and talking with Gift of Life and doctors, my mother and I never left his side.  I held his hand for the entire time I was there, sleeping in a chair at the side of the bed, with my head down on the bed.  This picture was snapped one evening when I was asleep and I will always think of it as a beautiful moment.  In a way, I think he found the serenity he was desperate for, though it was through death.

I see my tattoo every day.  It’s on my wrist, of course. But now it no longer means serenity for me. In fact, it holds no meaning as “my” tattoo any more.  It means serenity for my brother. While this tattoo was not created with him in mind when it was done, it now only reminds me of him and of the troubles he had in life as well as the peace I hope he found in death and his ability to help save someone’s life when he could not save his own.

I intend to get another tattoo.  I’ve spoken to my artist and have pictures of my brother’s knot work. I am planning on having it reproduced into a bracelet on my other wrist with my brother’s name in the center.

I can honestly say that not many people ask about my tattoo. I actually think it’s only because of the placement.  It’s on the bottom of my wrist which really isn’t something people look at.  All of my friends know the prior meaning and the new meaning.  However, since my next tattoo for my brother will be a full bracelet with his name on it, I suspect people will ask who Sean is.

While I didn’t get the tattoo after he died, or because he donated, it became about him in every way. My constant reminder of my brother and the gift he gave to others.

Thank you, Sascha, for sharing your story with us!

30 Stories in 30 Days, “INKED: The Permanence of Love”

April 23rd, 2014

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Day 23: Kathryn Hughes

Today’s tattoo story comes from a slightly different perspective.  Kathryn Hughes is a Transplant Coordinator with Gift of Life.  Inspired by the trials and tribulations, sorrow and joy, and daily inspirations she found through her position, she decided to express her devotion to the cause of organ donor awareness through the art of tattooing.  She believes every one is capable of making a difference in the lives of others through that one simple decision to become an organ and tissue donor.

Kathryn Tattoo

Here are Kathy’s responses to our Q&A session:

When did you get this tattoo?

I had this tattoo done in the summer of 2008.

What is the meaning of this specific tattoo?

The main meaning of this tattoo is inspiration. Specifically, the tattoo is about “making a difference, even if in just one person” through donation.

At what point in your donation/transplantation journey did you know you wanted to get a tattoo?

I always knew how passionately I felt about donation, so it was after becoming a Transplant Coordinator at Gift of Life that I wanted this to display to others how I felt through a tattoo.

Who does the tattoo represent?

The tattoo doesn’t actually represent anyone individual.  It is just a display of how we can all make a difference with just one simple decision.

What is the story behind the tattoo?

I was at a Gift of Life staff meeting and a speaker (Dianne Bottino, now a friend) told the story of the “starfish story.”  I was inspired by her story to do what I was looking for in my life, making a difference.

How do you feel when you look at your tattoo?

I feel very honored and blessed to be in a position where I can support and help others in so many ways thru one simple decision.

Are you asked about your tattoo a lot?

I always have people state how much they love my tattoo, but when I tell them the story behind it, I’m hoping to leave the same feelings, emotions and inspiration in them that was given to me.

Do you plan on getting any other tattoos related to your donation/transplantation journey?

No other plans for additional tattoos, I believe this one speaks volumes to me and to others. Although this one needs new coloring, I plan on completing it this summer.

 

Thanks Kathy for submitting the photo of your tattoo and sharing your story with us!

30 Stories in 30 Days, “INKED: The Permanence of Love”

April 22nd, 2014

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Day 22: Andi Church

Thank you so much, Andi for sharing your tattoo with us.  Below is a photo of Andi’s tattoo and her answers to our Q&A session.

Andi Tattoo 1Andi Tattoo 2
When did you get this tattoo?

I got this tattoo last summer (2013).

What is the meaning of this specific tattoo?

This tattoo represents my journey from deciding to donate my sons organs (no one in my family had ever been an organ donors), to working with LCNW and speaking on organ donation/ being an organ donation advocate, and finally to becoming a registered organ donor myself.

At what point in your donation/transplantation journey did you know you wanted to get a tattoo?

About 1.5 yrs.

Who does the tattoo represent?

My 25-year-old son, Travis Dally.

What is the story behind the tattoo?

My friend Lori Christmas made stickers after my son passed away to bring awareness to organ donation.  She put his given name Travis and his nickname, Froto on them… my tattoo is of that sticker.

How do you feel when you look at your tattoo?

When I see my tattoo, I feel empowered. I am able to share a message that most people don’t. I love my tattoo and what it stands for.

Are you asked about your tattoo often?

I am asked frequently about my tattoo. Last summer at the Donor Celebration, they even took photos of it.  I love spreading the word!

Do you plan on getting any other tattoos related to your donation/transplantation journey?

At this time I don’t anticipate getting another tattoo, but who knows what will inspire me?  It could happen!!!  I am certain my journey is not over yet!

30 Stories in 30 Days, “INKED: The Permanence of Love”

April 17th, 2014

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Day 19: Cindy

Shortly after we put out the call looking for people touched by organ donation to share their tattoo story, I heard form a woman named Cindy.  Cindy shared the story of her son with me and sent a photo of her tattoo that represents her baby boy’s gift of life through death. Here is Cindy’s story…

“Our son tragically lost his life at the young age of 22 in June, 2012. Kirk Michael Schoonover was on an International Tractor with another farm hand when a selfish semi driver was texting while driving. This selfish act caused two innocent people their lives. Our son left behind his precious little girl, who speaks fondly of her Daddy daily. Our son donated the Gift of Life and helped several people to have a second chance at life. This tattoo is in Loving Memory of our Donor and all of the brave Donors nationwide.. Together the gift of giving can save lives♥”

Cindy Tattoo

Cindy’s Q&A responses are as follows:

When did you get your tattoo?

I got this tattoo on December 2,2013.

What is the meaning of this specific tattoo?

This ribbon is designed with butterflies and flowers. The blue butterfly is a symbol for organ donation and the color green is a symbol for organ donation as well.

At what point in your donation/transplantation journey did you know you wanted to get a tattoo?

I knew I wanted a tattoo supporting donation of life soon after our son became a donor.

What does the tattoo represent?

My tattoo represents our son Kirk Michael Schoonover.

How do you feel when you look at your tattoo?

I am reminded of our son and the generous gift he has passed on to many others question.

Are you asked about your tattoo often?

I am asked about my tattoo and what it represents very often and I continue to encourage everyone to be a donor.

Do you plan on getting any other tattoos related to your donation/transplantation journey?

I plan on getting another tattoo in the next couple weeks which will also be in support of donation of life.

 

Thank you so much for your story, Cindy and your selfless choice to donate your son’s organs in such a tragic loss.

30 Stories in 30 Days, “INKED: The Permanence of Love”

April 17th, 2014

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Day 18: Melissa

After seeing the “30 Stories in 30 Days” blog series on our Facebook page, Melissa reached out to share the story of her tattoo, dedicated to her niece, Hannah.  We did not have the chance to do a Q&A with Melissa, but her original message was so touching, I thought I would include it here with the photo of her tattoo.

Melissa Tattoo

Hannah was a smart, beautiful, 8-year-old girl full of life.  Our story began when Hannah was feeling a little ill for a couple of days. It was a Monday when her mom sent me the text Hannah was having some tests done in the hospital. By that evening, we found out that Hannah was fighting for her life. She had been diagnosed with the flu. As a complication of that, she contracted Myocarditis which is an infection in her heart.  Hannah fought for three days with an amazing crew of loving staff members at CHOP and surrounded by her entire family. On Valentine’s Day, 2013, Hannah passed away, leaving our family completely devastated. Her parents then made a selfless decision to allow their daughter the opportunity to save another family from our painful fate. Hannah became an organ donor.

Her gift was the miracle three families prayed for. She is now living on in not only the efforts of our loved ones, friends and community, but in the lives of those she gave a second chance. I felt it was necessary to have Hannah walk with me through this journey of spreading awareness and being a voice for her.  The purple broken heart is for the piece of all of our hearts she has taken with her, the rosary wrapped on itself in the infinity symbol represents Hannah forever being my God Child, and her name is written in green to represent the gifts of life she gave. I want to thank you for allowing me to share Hannah with you and possibly so many others. The world is missing a true hero!

Thank You,
Aunt Melissa

Aunt Melissa and Hannah’s friends and family recently won “Best Dressed Team” at the 2014 Donor Dash.  Below is a photo of their t-shirt design, made by Hannah’s sister.

Hannah Shirt 2014
Thank you so much, Melissa, for being an advocate for donation, and for sharing Hannah’s story with us.

30 Stories in 30 Days, “INKED: The Permanence of Love”

April 17th, 2014

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Day 17: Leticia Perez

Today’s story features Leticia Perez and her tattoo dedicated to her mother’s second chance at life that she received from her kidney donor in 2009.  Below, Leticia answers our Q&A questions to tell us more about her story and where she got the idea for her tattoo.

 Leticia Tattoo
When did you get this tattoo?

I got my tattoo 8 months ago, on my birthday in July, 2013.

What is the meaning of this specific tattoo?

My Mom received a life-saving kidney transplant in May, 2009. Her donor was a 9-year-old little boy, so my tattoo is a representation of both my mom & her donor, whom we all call her “Angel.” The green ribbons represent the organ & tissue donor awareness ribbons/ the body of the butterfly. The pink butterfly represents my Mom.  Her butterfly is facing forward because she is now able to continue life thanks to her donor and his family. The blue butterfly represents her 9-year-old donor who is now an angel at rest (his head is tilted down to resemble someone resting), with a halo.  I wanted 9 blue stars to represent his age.  Finally, below my two butterflies I added, “Walk by Faith.”  I chose those specific words because my Mom & our family had to walk by faith throughout her bittersweet transplant journey.

At what point in your donation/ transplant journey did you know you wanted to get a tattoo?

I knew I wanted to get a tattoo immediately following my Mom’s surgery.  As we sat with her in the hospital room, I couldn’t stop thinking about her donor and his family and the pain that they were probably going through.  I asked myself, “What can I ever do to repay someone who has just given my mother a second chance at life?”  This is when I knew that nothing I said or did would ever ease the hurt and pain of losing a loved one, so instead I thought of two ways to honor her donor…

1. I promised myself and my family to participate in the Gift of Life Donor Dash each year.
2. I wanted a tattoo that would help me share my Mom’s story as well as the importance of becoming a donor.

Who does the tattoo represent?

1-My Mother
2-Her “Angel” (Donor)
3-The Gift of Life Program

How do you feel when you look at you tattoo?

When I look at my tattoo, I feel thankful to the family of my Mom’s “Angel.”  It’s a constant reminder that organ donation can give many people a second chance at life and that we have to continue to come together to educate our families, friends, and those around us.

Are you asked about your tattoo often?

Yes!  Especially in spring and summer when I wear sandals or flip flops.  I am extremely happy to share my Mom and her donor’s story.

Do you plan on getting any other tattoos related to your donation/transplantation journey?

Yes, I would love to add his name, if I knew it.

Thank you very much, Leticia, for sharing the story of your mother’s transplant journey and the courageous family who made the decision to donate her donor’s organs.

 
 

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

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