Second Chance Blog

 

The Gift of a Second Chance, More Than a Decade Later

February 12th, 2016

When Philadelphia native, Laverne Clark, was in elementary school she started having tightness in her chest, shortness of breath and leg cramping.  She was examined by doctors, but they didn’t find anything wrong with her.  It wasn’t until nearly a decade later at the age of 19 that she was diagnosed with an enlarged heart.  She was advised to see a cardiologist, but waited six months because she was in shock and denial.

At 20, a cardiologist confirmed that she had a serious heart condition, and that a virus had destroyed her heart.  Laverne never let her condition slow her down.  She suffered from fatigue throughout her life due to her weakened heart, but continued to work as a hairdresser and a seamstress, where she hand-sewed beading on bridal dresses.  She married and adopted a daughter because her heart condition prevented her from being able to carry a child.  Her daughter, Tiffany, is now 34.

Laverne contLaVerne ad portraitinued to have health challenges.  She took medication for her heart since she was 20. She developed an arrhythmia in her 30s, and got a pacemaker, which doctors told her would last 5 years.  She went through two pacemakers in that amount of time, and her heart progressively deteriorated over the next several years.  At 40 years old, doctors told her that her only option was to be added to the organ transplant waitlist.

“I tried to get by.  I tried to keep pushing myself, but it got harder and harder.” said Laverne.  “I couldn’t work anymore, and I was so tired.  I had a lot of swelling – in my stomach and legs.  I couldn’t even walk the steps in my house to go to the bathroom.” she said.

Laverne was making dinner when she received the call that there was a heart available for her.  She had been waiting for over a year for a second chance at life.  “I don’t think that I ever really thought I would get a heart.  I didn’t have much hope at that point.  My goal had been to live until my daughter was out of high school, and to make sure that she was grown.  After that, I think I didn’t want to fight anymore.  My husband and mother pushed me though.  They told me that I had to do this – so I went to the hospital.  My Aunt and her kids prayed for me and said the transplant was a gift I had to accept.” said Laverne.

When she woke up post-transplant, her mother and husband were by her bedside.  She was scared.  She wasn’t used to hearing her heart beat so loud and strong, and felt like it was pounding out of her chest.  It took her by surprise.  Doctors told her family that she would not have survived much longer, because her aorta was ready tIMG_3736o rupture in her old heart.  She received the gift of life just in time.

It took some time before Laverne healed.  Slowly, her energy increased.  She started doing cardiac rehabilitation in the hospital and tried to walk to build strength.  Since receiving her heart transplant over a decade ago, Laverne has gone on to participate and medal in the Donate Life Transplant Games of America, an Olympic style event where transplant recipients compete to show that transplantation works.  She has participated in the 100 meter run and the long jump, and has been to the Games six times to compete.

“I’ve been able to do a lot since my transplant.  I saw my daughter get married and have children.  I’ve been able to travel.  I volunteer for Gift of Life and do a lot of public speaking, which I never really felt comfortable doing before.  Words cannot express how grateful I am for my donor.  I wrote to the donor family and made them a promise that I would educate others about my gift and how my life has been changed.” said Laverne.

In the United States, 22 people die each day while waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. In Gift of Life’s region – eastern PA, southern NJ and DE – there are more than 5,800 people waiting, and nationally more than 121,000 men, women and children are on the waitlist – 30 percent of whom are African American. The chances for a successful transplant increase significantly when people of the same ethnicity are matched, so it is crucial that donors of all ethnic backgrounds register as organ and tissue donors.  During Black History Month, Laverne Clark heartGift of Life is promoting the stories of African Americans in the region who are waiting for organ transplants, who were donors or are donor family members, and those whose lives have been saved by organ donation. Through increasing awareness and education about donation and transplantation, more lives can be saved.

Since 1974, Gift of Life has coordinated more than 40,000 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. You can help!  For more information about organ and tissue donation or to register today, visit donors1.org.  It only takes 30 seconds to register.

Harrisburg Father of Three Waits for Kidney Transplant

February 9th, 2016

After more than a year of living with chronic kidney disease and waiting for a transplant, Harrisburg father of three, Lukeman Harvey, is ready to get his life back.

Lukeman began experiencing issues in June 2014 when he woke up in the middle of the night and was unable to breath.  At first, doctors believed that he had respiratory issues and heart failure.  But after numerous tests, they discovered that he was in kidney failure, which was putting significant stress on his other organs.  After being released from the hospital, Lukeman was faced with the grim prospect of undergoing dialysis for nearly 15 hours a week to keep him alive.Harvey Family

Over a year ago, Lukeman was a healthy 37 year old man.  He’s married with three young boys – Jackson, Gabriel and Elias. Before he got sick, he played basketball and softball, and loved to wrestle and play outside with his children.  He was a branch manager at a local bank, and life was good.

“My boys play kickball and baseball and I havealways played with them.  Now, after 20 minutes, I have no energy for the rest of the day.” Lukeman said.  “I just can’t keep up anymore.  We used to wrestle all the time and have fun as a family.  It’s tough to hear them laughing in the next room when I am too weak to participate.”

Currently, Lukeman is doing dialysis in his home and is facing many of the challenges that come along with the life-sustaining treatment.  He has cramping, swelling, pressure and often sleeps all day, due to exhaustion.  Despite his illness, Lukeman is optimistic.  His wife and another person have both been tested, and are potential candidates to donate a kidney.  His life-saving gift may arrive soon.

“I feel like I’ve missed so much of my boys’ lives this past year.  I’ve missed their games, going to amusement parks and just being able to spend time with them.” he said.  “My oldest son understands that I’m sick and has really stepped up around the house by helping his mother.”  Lukeman’s pride as a father is evident when hearing him talk about the struggles that his family has faced and how supportive they have been.    

Lukeman is one of more than 5,800 people waiting for a second chance at life in Gift of Life’s region. More than 121,000 people wait nationally – 30 percent of whom are African American.  The chances for a successful transplant increase significantly when people of the same ethnicity are matched, so it is crucial that donors of all ethnic backgrounds register as organ and tissue donors.  During Black History Month, Gift of Life is promoting the stories of African Americans in the region who are waiting for organ transplants, who were donors or are donor family members, and those whose lives have been saved by organ donation. Through increasing awareness and education, more lives can be saved.

Lukeman said, “Those who are waiting for a transplant are suffering quietly.  If others understood the pain and exhaustion of this disease, I believe that they would register to be donors.  I know people who have been waiting years for a kidney transplant.  It’s a really tough place to be.  I hope that everyone understands the positive impact that they can have by registering as a donor.”

Since 1974, Gift of Life has coordinated more than 40,000 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. You can help!  For more information about organ and tissue donation or to register today, visit donors1.org.  It only takes 30 seconds to register.

Philadelphia Woman Awaits Life-Saving Kidney Transplant

February 4th, 2016

Waiting is never an easy thing to do, especially when it comes to waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. Patience is a virtue that 28-year-old Philadelphia native, Aniysha Trice, has a great understanding of.  She’s been waiting for a kidney transplant since she became ill four years ago when she was diagnosed with Lupus Nephritis, a disease that attacks the kidneys.

Aniysha was added to the organ transplant waitlist and began dialysis.  Although she was facing significant health challenges, she was optimistic.  That is, until she was diagnosed with Lymphoma Brain Cancer several years ago.  Because of her diagnosis, she had to be removed from the organ transplant waitlist to focus on her cancer treatment.  At just 25 years old, Aniysha had been through a lifetime worth of health issues.  Today she is cancer free, and begins the wait for a life-saving kidney transplant again.

Gift of Life Donor Program's National Minority Donor Awareness Week Gospel Program at Mt. Airy Church of God in Christ in Philadelphia Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015. (©2015 Mark Stehle Photography)

Gift of Life Donor Program’s National Minority Donor Awareness Week Gospel Program at Mt. Airy Church of God in Christ in Philadelphia Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015. (©2015 Mark Stehle Photography)

“I’m often overwhelmed both emotionally and physically.  It’s difficult to have a life and be on dialysis.  I try to manage it all – work, family, friends, life.  When I found out that I had cancer and would have to wait another five years to be listed for a kidney, it was terrible.  I would cry every night.  I didn’t want to give up my life.” she said.

Aniysha suffers from excessive cramping, a rapid heartbeat and chest pain from dialysis, even though it is a life-sustaining treatment.  She is ready to get back on the transplant waitlist and prays for a life-saving kidney.  She said, “I’m looking forward to living a healthy life, to traveling and to living more.  I want to experience all that life has to offer.”  She wants to see the world and enjoy the simple pleasures in life without worrying.  “My favorite food is mac and cheese, which I can’t really have now.” she said.

Before Aniysha became ill, she had a fun, normal life.  She was active and was a cheerleader and dancer in school.  She was always a dedicated student, earning not only a Bachelor’s Degree, but also a Master’s Degree in Human Services.  Currently, she works with men and women who have substance abuse issues, and helps to give them the tools so that they can live successful lives.

Even for individuals listed on the organ transplant waitlist, they face the frightening prospect every day that they may never receive the transplant that they desperately need.  In the U.S., 22 people die each day while waiting. In Gift of Life’s region – eastern PA, southern NJ and DE – there are more than 5,800 people waiting, and nationally more than 121,000 men, women and children are on the waitlist – 30 percent of whom are African American. The chances for a successful transplant increase significantly when people of the same ethnicity are matched, so it is crucial that donors of all ethnic backgrounds register as organ and tissue donors.  During Black History Month, Gift of Life is promoting the stories of African Americans in the region who are waiting for organ transplants, who were donors or are donor family members, and those whose lives have been saved by organ donation. Through increasing awareness and education, more lives can be saved.

“People need to educate themselves about how important it is to register as an organ and tissue donor.  You can save someone’s life and be a hero to someone like me.  For me, receiving a new kidney would mean everything.  It really is a gift of life.  I could live my life again.” Aniysha said.

Since 1974, Gift of Life has coordinated more than 40,000 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. You can help!  For more information about organ and tissue donation or to register today, visit donors1.org.  It only takes 30 seconds to register.

New Jersey Woman Remembers Loving Husband this Christmas

December 22nd, 2015

This holiday season, many people will gather around the dinner table for Christmas celebrations – eating, drinking, opening gifts and feeling grateful for the loved ones in their life.  Sadly, not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to enjoy the holidays with the people that they love.  For Atlantic City, NJ resident, Dominique Transue, this is a fact that she has been faced with since 2012, when her husband passed away suddenly from an undetected heart problem.

domeniqueDominique’s husband, Dave, was a man who got along with everyone.  He was a great father to his two sons and a loving husband.  He loved the outdoors and enjoyed going fishing in many of South Jersey’s lakes and streams.  He had many friends and had a talent for karaoke, excelling at both rock and country hits.

Just three days before Christmas, Dave’s heart failed while he was working. He did heating and air conditioning work, and was trying to fix a family’s heating system so they could get back into their home before the holidays.  “That’s how he was.” said Dominique.  “He always had such a big heart and would help anyone.”

“When we were approached by Gift of Life about donation, it was a no brainer for me.  Dave was able to help a lot of people through being a tissue and cornea donor.  I’ve received letters from people who said that their lives have been helped and changed because of him.  The letters are so special to me.  I know that this is what Dave would have wanted – to keep helping people.” she said.

Dave and Dominique’s son, Logan, 7, and Dominique’s stepson, Ryan, 14, have so many amazing memories that they shared together.  The family took annual trips to Busch Gardens, Sesame Place and New York during Christmas to see the tree.  “Eight months before Dave died, we were able to go to Disney as a family.  We were determined to always make the most out of every moment.” saidomenique transued Dominique.  “Every place that we visited, we would buy an ornament.  It’s difficult to put up the Christmas tree now and see all of the ornaments.” she said.

“We also remember Dave every year on December 22nd with a balloon release in Galloway, NJ with friends and family.  He was everyone’s person and was a friend to everybody.  Usually about 30 people release balloons and share memories with us.” Dominique said.

Dominique proudly wears her green organ and tissue donation bracelet every day, and openly shares her story about Dave and about how donation has brought comfort to her and her family’s life.  “Donation brings a sense of healing that I didn’t know was possible.” she said.  “Through it, we are able to keep going – and Dave is able to live on through others.

Today in Gift of Life’s region, there are nearly 5,900 men, women and children who are awaiting a life-saving organ transplant.  In the U.S., 22 people die each day while waiting.  Unfortunately, there are not enough registered organ and tissue donors, resulting in a shortage of transplantable organs for those who Dominique Transue Dash Teamneed them.  By registering today at donors1.org, you can help make a difference.  It only takes 30 seconds to register.

Gift of Life Donor Program has worked tirelessly for the past 41 years to coordinate donors’ generosity with those in need.   Since 1974, Gift of Life – the organ procurement organization for eastern PA, southern NJ and DE – has helped save nearly 40,000 lives through organ donation, and enhanced over half a million lives through tissue donation.

DE Man Grateful for First Healthy Christmas with Family Since Receiving Transplant

December 21st, 2015

After a hernia operation in 2013, Dover, DE resident, Bob Simpers, discovered that he had Hepatitis C.  Soon after the surgery, Bob began to retain a significant amount of fluid and noticed that he was developing a yellowish hue to his skin.  He went to the hospital to address this frightening problem and was told that his liver levels were extremely low, and that his lower intestine Bob Simpers 2was no longer functioning.  He knew that the issue was a serious one, but never imagined what doctors would tell him next – that he would need a liver transplant.

After a challenging wait last year, Bob and his family’s wish came true at the end of November, when he received a call that a liver was available for him.  Bob was told that he would be in the hospital for 3 months after his transplant and then would be in rehab for several weeks.  Bob refused to accept that time frame because it didn’t fall in line with his goal of being home for Christmas. He just wanted to spend Christmas at home with his wife and 14-year-old son.  Because of Bob’s belief in himself, strong spirit and commitment to being home for the holidays, his hospital stay lasted only two weeks and he was in and out of rehab in eight days.

“Last year was tough – we went through a difficult time.” Bob said.  “I’m blessed to have my wife and my son.  It’s now starting to sink in all that happened.  I am so fortunate to be able to be here and that someone was a donor, which allowed me to get a new liver.”

Every Christmas, Bob, his wife and son welcome family members into their home for a big holiday breakfast celebration.  They make french toast and open their presents, and then spend the rest of the day together enjoying family time and relaxing in their pajamas.  Bob said that it’s a fun tradition e donation.Bob Simpers (left) at DE DMV

This Christmas, Bob will have an opportunity to fully enjoy the holiday for the first time since receiving the gift of life. He has recovered and feels great now, so he is ready to celebrate! “I’m so grateful – and so is my family.” said Bob, when talking about his donor.  “I feel like I could dance in the streets.  It means so much to me.  I look at the world differently now that I have my transplant.  I feel like people I don’t even know care about me.  I don’t let anything get me upset anymore.  I have a totally new perspective on life.” he said.

Bob has volunteered with Gift of Life Donor Program throughout the past year, promoting organ and tissue donation and sharing his touching story in hopes of inspiring others to register.  “I want to encourage people to become donors.  I’ll talk to anyone about my story.  I feel like it’s a way for me to help others.” he said.

Bob’s life is better post-transplant and he feels energetic to do the things he loves.  He lives on a two-acre property and spends a lot ofBob Simpers 3 his free time hiking, fishing and visiting Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Smyrna, DE with his family, friends and neighbors.

Today in Gift of Life’s region, there are nearly 5,900 men, women and children who are awaiting a life-saving organ transplant.  In the U.S., 22 people die each day while waiting. Unfortunately, there are not enough registered organ and tissue donors, resulting in a shortage of transplantable organs for those who need them.  By registering today at donors1.org, you can help make a difference.  It only takes 30 seconds to register.

Gift of Life Donor Program has worked tirelessly for the past 41 years to coordinate donors’ generosity with those in need.   Since 1974, Gift of Life – the organ procurement organization for eastern PA, southern NJ and DE – has helped save nearly 40,000 lives through organ donation, and enhanced over half a million lives through tissue donation.

Local Woman Receives the Greatest Gift of All – the Gift of Life

December 18th, 2015

This year, Reading, PA resident, Marleny Jimenez is celebrating receiving the greatest gift of all – the gift of life.  Just a few months ago, Marleny’s life was vastly differently than it is today, thanks to the selflessness of her fiancé, Fernando Malpica, who generously donated a kidney to her in October, 2015.

Two years ago, Marleny went to the hospital with flu-like symptoms.  She was told that her kidneys weren’t functioning and that she was iMarleny and Ferando Living donation  Radio InterviewBerks CHCn kidney failure.  Because doctors believed that her condition was not acute, they gave her medication in hopes of reversing some of the damage to her kidneys and returning her to good health.  Unfortunately after just a short period of time, it was apparent that the damage to her kidneys was irreversible, and she would need to go on dialysis.

Marleny chose to do overnight, at home dialysis.  After a year of being listed on the organ transplant waitlist and doing dialysis, she was suffering.  Her muscles were constantly cramping, she had pain at the source of the dialysis port and would have extreme swelling.  She knew that people who are waiting for a life-saving kidney transplant can wait up to five years or more.  In the U.S., some people never receive a second chance at life, with statistics now showing that 22 people die each day while waiting.

Doctors asked Marleny if she knew anyone who could be a potential living donor for her.  Living donors needed to be in good health, and many of her family members had diabetes and high blood pressure, so they were unable to donate even if they wanted to.  Fernando, who was her boyfriend at the time, stepped up and wanted to donate, but Marleny was hesitant.  She was scared for him and didn’t want him to regret the decision later.  But Fernando persisted.  In his life, he had watched his grandfather pass away from cancer and felt helpless, which was very difficult for him.  This was his opportunity to do something, and he was determined to help.

Marleny and Fernando hMarleny and Fernandoave been together for six years, and they are not only a good match in life, but they were a perfect match for living donation.  On October 23, 2015, the surgery successfully took place.

“A few days after surgery I was still in pain, but shortly after I did start to notice major changes.  My appetite improved and so did my mood and emotional state.” said Marleny. “I started getting all of these intense food cravings in the hospital.  I was so skinny before.  In the past few months, I’ve gained 15 pounds.  I had to give up so much before because I was so run down – school, sports, drawing and painting.  Now, I feel like I’m ready to get back on track.  I have energy and am thinking about a career and drawing again.  I know that I need time to fully recuperate, but I’m happy because I feel like doing things again.” Fernando is also doing well since the surgery.

Originally from the Dominican Republic, Marleny moved to the U.S. six years ago.  This Christmas, she is looking forward to spending it with Fernando and his family, who cared for her after the transplant.  She is also hoping to be able to travel back to the Dominican Republic to see her grandparents by next year.  She’s excited to introduce Fernando to her grandparents, and to share her culture with him.  Fernando is originally from Peru, and she would also like to visit his country together.

This Christmas, she’s looking forward to finally being able to enjoy the foods that were restricted before her transplant.  “Last year, everyone stayed up all night to celebrate the holiday and I had to go to bed earlyMarleny and Fernando 3.  It was hard to want to be with Fernando’s family and have fun, eat and drink, and instead to have to go to bed and do dialysis.  I’m really looking forward to enjoying myself this year.” she said.

“Now Fernando is a part of me.” Marleny said.  “He was my partner before, but this is different.  He has made my life better – he saved my life.  It’s just this big, beautiful gesture and I’m so grateful.”

Today in Gift of Life’s region, there are nearly 5,900 men, women and children who are awaiting a life-saving organ transplant. Unfortunately, there are not enough registered organ and tissue donors, resulting in a shortage of transplantable organs for those who need them.  By registering today at donors1.org, you can help make a difference.  It only takes 30 seconds to register.

Gift of Life Donor Program has worked tirelessly for the past 41 years to coordinate donors’ generosity with those in need.   Since 1974, Gift of Life – the organ procurement organization for eastern PA, southern NJ and DE – has helped save nearly 40,000 lives through organ donation, and enhanced over half a million lives through tissue donation.

 
 

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

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