Second Chance Blog

 

National Brother’s Day: Denny and Tom Adams

May 24th, 2017

This is a Guest Blog Post submitted by Denny Adams.

I’ve been diabetic for 27 years. In 2011, during routine blood work, it was discovered that my kidney function was 39%. As bad as that sounds, doctors don’t even look at your kidney function unless it’s below 60%, and many people live their whole lives with that reduced function and without incident. At that time my diet was adjusted to reduce the sodium amounts daily. My function remained at 39% until June of 2013 when it dropped to 24%. At this point planning began to prepare for future possibilities of dialysis and transplant options.  My girlfriend, Shannon Zutell-Machen and I attended classes and got crash courses on all things kidney related. Without her to ensure that I followed my diet restrictions and staying on top of all the appointments, I’m sure I wouldn’t be as positive or even as little healthy as I am. She has been a lifesaver.

Just 2 months later, my kidney function dropped to 14%, technically this is when dialysis begins. During this time, my body started to retain fluid as my kidneys couldn’t clear the waste materials properly. This caused my body to be sluggish and without much energy. My legs felt like they were full of mud. The whole idea is to avoid dialysis, so enduring these symptoms was vital to long term health.

September 2013, I started going to Hershey Medical Center to complete all my extensive testing to be put on the transplant list. Tom, my brother, graciously offered one of his kidneys if he was a match for me. He’s been a true hero in being so selfless to offer without a second of hesitation. Tom and I completed our testing and matching to clear us for transplant. Hershey Medical Center reported that the only way I could have a closer match is if I had an identical twin. This was wonderful news to say the least! Our transplant was scheduled for March 18th, 2014 barring any last minute illnesses.

It had been a tough seven months, learning a lot, completing testing, and feeling helpless as my body broke down. On January 18th, 2014, when I knew that transplant was probably two months away I opted to start dialysis before I got so bad that I couldn’t work anymore. Doctors and nurses praised the fact that I opted into dialysis myself before getting too sick where it would be harder for me to feel better. After starting dialysis I felt so much better. Going to work and going about my life as normal as possible allowed me to stay as positive as possible.

On March 18, 2014, a successful kidney transplant happened.  My hero brother, Tom Adams donated life to me.   It’s now 3 years later and everyone is doing great, so blessed to have so many doctors, nurses, hospital staff, family and friends support us throughout the process.

Guest Blog Post: Danielle Rosado

May 23rd, 2017

 

My dad Joseph suffered for many years with heart disease, diabetes, and spinal stenosis.  He had several ablations done in an attempt to correct issues with his heart all of which were unsuccessful. While down at U Penn, the transplant process started and we were hoping to get my dad a new heart. He was finally stable enough to be sent home in the beginning of July, 2014. He spent a couple weeks in rehab, but eventually transitioned home.

On July 26, 2014 my dad ‘walked’ me down the aisle. He was too weak to walk so he had the wheelchair with him that day. Months prior I would always tell him he needed to get better and stronger so I could dance with him at my wedding. When it was time, I figured we would somehow maneuver the wheelchair and dance to “Wind Beneath My Wings.” Much to my surprise, my Dad got out of his wheelchair, and although only briefly, danced with me. I will forever cherish that moment.

 

Just like the lyrics in that song he was very much my hero and everything I wish I could be. Just six short days after my wedding, I received a call that would forever change my entire family’s lives. My dad had coded again (he had a few times in the past…but they were always able to bring him back). This time was different… he was gone.

My dad was a registered organ donor, however he thought he didn’t have anything to give. He was wrong. He was able to donate his corneas. My mom was able to reach out to SightLife and found out one of my dad’s corneas went to help restore the vision of a man in Connecticut and another was placed internationally. My mom, sister, brother, and nephew then went and visited with the recipient in Connecticut last year. Prior to receiving my dad’s donation, this man was not an organ donor. Afterwards, he became one, saying it was his obligation to one day pay it forward.

My family and I are all registered organ donors, and although my dad was never able to get his second chance with a new heart, knowing he was able to help two people helps ease the pain of his absence. I strongly urge everyone to become an organ donor because lives truly can be saved!

 

Thankful for the gift: Carrie Dailey – Tendon Graft Recipient

May 16th, 2017

For as long as she could remember, Carrie would begin each morning by relocating her shoulder after a painful night’s sleep. She suffers from Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS)-a rare genetic disorder her doctor described as causing her ligaments and tendons to be more like Laffy Taffy than like rubber bands, as they should be. In fact, Carrie’s physical injuries were so debilitating that they prevented her from completing her nursing program, a lifelong dream to follow in her mother’s footsteps.

After three failed surgeries using her own tendons, Carrie’s physicians decided the only option remaining was to use donated tendon to repair her right shoulder. Although the surgery was successful, a few months later her left shoulder failed also. Using a second donated tendon, Carrie regained functionality in her left arm as well.  “The surgeries not only gave me back the full use of my arms, they gave me freedom from feeling defeated by my disorder. I am going to get to do the things that give me life again: playing my guitar, fishing with my Grandfather, walking my dog, and even hugging with both arms. Above all, I am gaining my independence back,” said Carrie.

When she lost her uncle a year ago, he also became a tissue donor. Carrie was so moved by the generous gift of renewed life she received through tissue donation that she vowed the following in a letter to one of her donor families: “I promise to always look for ways to give back to others, just as you did by making that decision, whether I do that in my career, personal life, or elsewhere. Your ability to see the potential in your loved one during your time of loss is so inspiring that I will find the potential in others and do my best to help them overcome their battles, just as your family helped me overcome mine.” Carrie was recently accepted into a graduate program in Psychological Art Therapy, where she will be helping others through their tough times. Daily, Carrie continually finds new ways to live her best life and keep the heartfelt promises she made to her donor family.

Mother Donated Kidney 40 Years Ago and Daughter Continues to Pay Gift Forward

May 12th, 2017

Lorraine Green, of Jenkintown, PA, had a can do spirit.  Her motto was always “get it done,” regardless of the situation.  She instilled this strong sense of self in her daughter, Cheryl, which helped her champion through health challenges in her life. Lorraine was a loving, selfless mother who always gave of herself – even donating one of her kidneys to Cheryl over 40 years ago.

Cheryl’s transplant journey began when she was 19 and a student at Penn State University.  She thought she was getting sick and went to the campus infirmary.  She wasn’t feeling any better and wanted to go home.  Her parents came to pick her up, and shortly after they arrived she went into cardiac arrest.  Cheryl was lucky to come back from this terrifying ordeal, and doctors helped her maintain her health for two years without significant issues.

Soon after, Cheryl’s kidneys failed and she needed to go on dialysis.  She continued to go to school and work part-time, but dialysis required a serious time commitment.  Many of her family members stepped up to see if they were a match to donate, but ultimately it was her mother who would go on to be the life-saving kidney donor that Cheryl needed.  Gift of Life Donor Program Co-Founder, Dr. Clyde F. Barker, performed the successful transplant surgery.

“My mom was in the hospital a short time and went right back to work.” said Cheryl.  “As soon as I woke up after my transplant, my head felt clear.  Before that, I felt hazy all the time and could never quite get my thoughts together. There was a big difference.”

Lorraine died five years ago at the age of 86.  “My mother and I were very close.  If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here.  We were buddies and went through a lot together.” said Cheryl.  “We always had fun.  Up until she was 85, we’d get Penn State football season tickets and go to the games.  We’d go to the shore and babysit my niece and nephew when they were young.  It’s funny because the older I get, the more I see her looking back at me in the mirror.”

Cheryl has been able to accomplish a lot over the past 40 years, including competing in the World Transplant Games in Amsterdam, an Olympic style competition for transplant recipients and living donors.  She also competed nationally in the Donate Life Transplant Games of America as part of Team Philadelphia, and brought home several medals.

Today, Cheryl loves her job as a Physician’s Assistant in Lancaster and Lebanon, PA, and is grateful to be able to help others every day.  She said, “My mom helped me and now I’m helping others.  Maybe my patients will go on to do something good for others, and my gift will continue to be paid forward.”   

Currently in Gift of Life’s region – the eastern half of PA, southern NJ and DE – there are more than 5,400 men, women and children awaiting a life-saving transplant.  With an average of 22 people dying each day while waiting, the statistics are frightening.  You can help!  Register today at donors1.org.  Just one organ donor can save up to eight lives, and one tissue donor can benefit numerous others.

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.  For more information or to register today, visit donors1.org.  It only takes 30 seconds to register.

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.

 
 

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

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