Second Chance Blog

 

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.

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

April 16th, 2014

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Day 16: Allie

Today, we feature the story of Allie, whose sister Brooke passed away while waiting for a life-saving transplant.  Allie’s story is one that will inspire you to live every day to the fullest, as she and her sister Brooke both did.

Brooke and Allie Tattoo

Here is our Q&A session with Allie:

When did you get this tattoo?

I got my tattoo on January 5, 2014

What is the meaning of this specific tattoo?

The meaning of this tattoo is to remind me who my sister was and that she is still with me every single day, wherever I go.

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

I knew for a long time that I wanted a tattoo with the words “never a victim, forever a fighter” for my sister after seeing her battle Pulmonary Hypertension for the last five years. It was later in her transplantation journey that the lungs made of flowers were implemented.

Who does this tattoo represent?

This tattoo represents my sister and best friend of 19 years, Brooke Golden and her strength, grace, and beauty.

What is the story behind the tattoo?

From the day my sister came into this world until the day she left it, Brooke was a fighter. When Brooke came into this world she was diagnosed with a diaphragmatic hernia and only had one developed, functioning lung. Due to this, medical professionals gave Brooke a one-in-a-million chance to live. But, Brooke had something to say about these odds. Brooke grew up and lived a normal life for 19 years until she was diagnosed with Pulmonary Hypertension about five years ago. Despite the severity of her illness, Brooke continued to live her life to the fullest and never let it get her down. I watched my sister suffer for years and she never once said “why me?” nor did she play the role of a helpless victim. Brooke fought this disease until it became so severe that she needed a heart and double lung transplant. Brooke died on November 28, 2013 awaiting her transplant, one that she would never receive. The lungs made of flowers represent how badly my sister wanted to receive her lungs and how badly she wanted to get better. The flowers represent her love for flowers and nature. And the quote represents Brooke’s refusal to be a victim throughout her illness and the unbelievable fighter that she was, even until the moment that she drew her last breathe.

How do you feel when you look at your tattoo?

When I look at my tattoo, I am reminded of the remarkable individual my sister was. I remember her strength, love, and the way she could light up a room like my own personal ray of sunshine. Above all, when I look at my tattoo, I miss my best friend.

Are you asked about your tattoo often?

I am often asked about my tattoo and the uniqueness of the lungs made of flowers.

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

Brooke and I had always planned on getting matching tattoos but never got the chance. One of the last things Brooke was able to say to me was her asking to get matching lung tattoos after she got out of the hospital. I promised her we would have matching ones. One of Brooke’s tattoos that she had said “don’t die wondering” and I hope to one day get that tattoo in the same place as Brooke so I can keep one of the last promises I made to her.

Allie, thank you so much for sharing your beautiful tattoo with us, and especially the story behind it.

30 Stories in 30 Days: “INKED: The Permanence of Love” Day 13

April 14th, 2014

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Day 13: Sandra J. Maicher

We’re moving right along with our “30 Stories in 30 Days” blog series! To help us celebrate National Donate Life Month and spread awareness for organ and tissue donation, Sandy was kind enough to share her story with us.  Learn about Sandy’s story and the artwork she and her son designed together.

Sandy Tattoo

 

Sandy’s answers to our Q&A session are below:

When did you get this tattoo?

I got this tattoo in 2008, which was 2 years after my son, John, received a liver transplant.

What is the meaning of this specific tattoo?

Butterflies are a sign of being free and after waiting for so long for his transplant, it symbolized his freedom from waiting.  Also the colors of the butterfly are made up of his favorite colors.

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

I knew that I wanted to do this for John when he received his transplant.

What is the story behind your tattoo?

My son, John, is my only child. When I was told that he needed a liver transplant, I was devastated. He was just getting ready to finish high school, looking forward to going to college.  John, however, said from the very beginning, “I am going to be fine mom.  I won’t let this get me down, I am a fighter.”  Three years later we received the call that would change our lives. John did receive his liver transplant, he had to fight very hard, but he did survive.  We designed the tattoo together using the organ donor awareness ribbon as the body of the butterfly, and the wings the favorite colors of John.

How do you feel when you look at your tattoo?

The tattoo represents freedom to enjoy the beauty of life… Looking at my tattoo makes me feel thankful every day that John is still with me, thankful to the family of his donor for donating the liver that saved him.

Are you asked about your tattoo a lot?

Yes, when I am out and people see the tattoo they will ask me about it. I tell them about our gift of life story and what the tattoo means to me.

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

I already have! Two years ago, due to complications from the liver transplant, John was placed on the transplant list again needing a multi-organ transplant. Because of John’s strength and belief, I got a second tattoo that I can look at every day that reminds me of organ donation and you have to believe.

Thanks, Sandy! Here is a photo of Sandy’s second tattoo for her son, John:

Sandy Tattoo 2

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

April 12th, 2014

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Day 12: Maureen

Maureen was our first reply when we started looking for stories to tell through the month of April.  Maureen lost her twin sister more than 12 years ago and has found great healing in her ability to share her sister’s story every time she is asked about her tattoo.  She says, in her interview with us, that it can be hard for some people to talk about the death of a loved one, but for her, it is the best medicine she could ask for.

Maureen Tattoo

Below are Maureen’s answers to our Q&A session. 

When did you get this tattoo?

I got my tattoo on June 3, 2010. June 3rd is the day that my twin sister passed away. Every year on that day, I do something fun with friends/family to celebrate my sister’s life and to celebrate those that are closest to me. My sister wouldn’t want it any other way.  So far on June 3rd we have gone to Great Adventure (several times), the beach, and then one year I got a tattoo…

What is the meaning of this specific tattoo?  

Simple, Donate Life. I wanted to symbolize that I am an organ donor, I believe in this cause greatly and I am proud of my family for all being registered donors. At the time of this tattoo, I had only lost my twin.  Since then I have lost my father and cousin, both were also organ donors. I plan on getting another tattoo to memorialize my dad.

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

This was a last minute thing.  A friend and I weren’t sure how to spend the day celebrating my sister’s anniversary and then it came to me; get a tattoo in honor of her!

Who does the tattoo represent?

Donate Life and the green ribbon, awareness. Most people wear a green bracelet, I wear the green ribbon/donate life tattoo as my bracelet.  I must add that I have several other pieces of actual jewelry that I wear to promote Donate Life, but my tattoo is my favorite. Promoting Organ Donation is my purpose in life, it is what makes me the happiest, gives me the feeling of self-worth, makes me feel inspirational and allows me to share my knowledge about donation with others.

How do you feel when you look at your tattoo?

I just love it. I love having it on my wrist so people will ask me about it. It gives me a reason to share my story. For some people, if they lose a loved one tragically, it is hard to talk about it (all deaths are tragic, but usually organ donors pass in some sudden event).  I find comfort in telling my story. It has helped me through my grief tremendously over the years. This tattoo has been a great opener to many conversations and as a result, I have met some wonderful people. There have been times where others have showed me their donate life/memorial tattoos and/or shared their story with me. Seeing the effect I have on people when they hear my story means a lot. Most people are very touched, some say that they never really thought about donation and that I have helped to open their eyes, or that donation itself can truly be amazing, especially how life comes back around full circle. Every time I talk about it, I feel like my loved ones are right there with me. It is an amazing feeling.

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

Yes.  I am still trying to come up with a design and will definitely be getting another one.

 

Thanks again, Maureen!

 
 

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

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