Second Chance Blog

 

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!

From Donor to Dasher: Living Kidney Donor Michelle Arnold Gets Ready to Dash

March 16th, 2017

Would you save a life if you could?  Mansfield, NJ resident, Michelle Arnold, didn’t hesitate when faced with that question. When her brother-in-law, Russell Wells, was searching for a life-saving, living kidney donor – Michelle immediately stepped up to help.

Michelle, originally from Philadelphia, is one of 16 children.  Nearly two decades ago, Michelle’s sister and her husband, Rose and Russell Wells, welcomed Michelle and her son, Jack, into their home.  Michelle was a single mother and was grateful for their kindness and support.  Russell and Jack formed a close bond during that time that continues to this day, and Michelle credits Russell as being Jack’s first father figure.

Russell has faced multiple health issues in his life, including Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, a heart attack and kidney failure. Michelle said, “He has always been a strong guy who pushed himself to work.  He was really close to having to go on dialysis because of his kidney failure and wasn’t able to do a lot of physical activity.  He couldn’t walk steps and would get exhausted and out of breath.”

Russell and Rose didn’t want anyone in their family to feel pressure to be a living kidney donor, so they decided to send an email.  Russell was going to be added to the organ transplant waitlist if he didn’t receive a kidney from a living donor, and there was no guarantee that a kidney from a matching donor would become available. Most people wait years for a kidney transplant, and in the U.S. an average of 22 people die each day while waiting for a transplant.

“I knew I wanted to get tested.  I called the hospital and asked if I could get tested and start the process.  I got the lab work done a few days before Christmas, 2014.  When I got a call back, they told me I was a perfect match.  I told him on Christmas that I was going to do the work up to be a donor.  He was concerned at first because he didn’t want anything to happen to me, but then he agreed.” said Michelle.  Two months later, Michelle donated one of her kidney to Russell, and the kidney transplant was successful.

This February marks the two year anniversary of Michelle’s generous gift to Russell, and they are both doing well.  “When I share my story, people see the difference that donation makes.  There are so many people waiting it is staggering.” said Michelle.  “It’s amazing how great Russell is doing now.  He decided to retire at age 61, after being with the same company for 30 years.  Now he has energy to play with his grandkids.  He used to come to family events and not have the energy to be active. He would sit down most of the time and would fall asleep. Now it’s different.” she said.

Michelle has another family member, Chris McKissick, who was also affected by organ donation.  Chris received a liver transplant as a baby after being diagnosed with Biliary Atresia.  Michelle and her family decided in 2015 to form a team to celebrate both of these life-saving transplants at Gift of Life’s Donor Dash.  They named their team “A Tale of Two Transplants.”  The team will participate in the Donor Dash again this year on April 2nd in Philadelphia.  Most of the team’s members will walk in the Dash’s 3K, but Michelle is ready to give it her all and run the 10K.  The Dash also offers a 5K run that Michelle and her sister ran last year.

The 22nd Annual Donor Dash begins at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and continues along West River Drive, a USA Track and Field certified course. 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!

The Dash began with a group of only 800 people, as a result of Claire Braverman’s wish to honor her husband, Mickey, who passed away while waiting for a liver transplant.  Claire wanted to turn her grief into something positive, so she organized the first-ever Donor Dash in his memory.  Today, the Dash continues to honor Mickey, donors and donor families – and 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.

Visit www.donordash.org to register.  To register as an organ and tissue donor, visit donors1.org. It only takes 30 seconds 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.  For more information, visit donors1.org.

Remembering Gary on his “Transplant-iversary”

March 10th, 2017

For a recipient of a life-saving transplant, the anniversary of that day is a very special one. But what if your loved one who received a life-saving transplant has since passed away?

Gary and Karen are filmed live at the 6th Annual Donor Dash in 2001.

Long-time Gift of Life volunteer Karen Barnett recently told us, “I was talking to my preacher about how it’s important to remember the good times even though Gary isn’t with us anymore.”

Gary received the gift of a life-saving heart transplant on March 11, 1993.  We honor and celebrate the lives of all of our recipient volunteers who have passed away over the years. Gone, but never forgotten!

Donor Dash Feature: Team Cousin Strong

March 10th, 2017

On Sunday, April 2, 2017 we’re running for a cause special to us. Here’s our story:

Mike recently gave the ultimate life-saving gift to his 16-year-old cousin Kayleigh. Kayleigh had been suffering from kidney failure and was in need of a life-saving transplant. Doctors gave the family the bad news in August 2015. Kayleigh’s kidneys had only been functioning at 30 percent since she was a child and had dropped to 20 percent. She was diagnosed with a metabolic disorder called methylmalonic acidemia, or MMA, at 10 days old. Her body lacked an enzyme that breaks down certain proteins and fats, which can result in organ failure or death. For children with this disease, it could affect any of their organs. For Kayleigh, it was her kidneys. Kayleigh’s condition required her to be fed a special formula through a G-Tube three times a day to make sure she received the proper nutrients. She was often tired and nauseous and had no appetite, but she was always upbeat. When Kayleigh learned that she needed a kidney, it broke her emotionally, and she couldn’t help but think the worst.

Kayleigh’s parents decided to send out an email to close family and friends asking if anyone would consider being a donor. Their message acknowledged that it would be a huge decision and one which would save Kayleigh’s life. The response was overwhelming. That’s where Kayleigh’s 28-year-old cousin Mike comes in. Mike said that he wondered in the back of his head, “Am I going to be able to help out?” He immediately filled out the donor forms to see if he might possibly be a match. Six weeks later, Mike got the phone call, and the news: He was a match.

On Christmas Eve 2015, Mike gave Kayleigh a Christmas present she will never forget. Mike stated that he found a teddy bear that actually said, “It’s a kidney” on it, so he wrapped it up and wrote a little card. The card said, “Merry Christmas. I’m your match. Love, Mike.” Kayleigh said that she experienced a lot of different emotions and was overwhelmed and excited.

Mike comes from a big and supportive family. He’s the youngest of six, and his brothers and sister couldn’t be prouder.

“He truly is one of the nicest people, and I think what he has done is one of the nicest things you can do for someone else,” said Mike’s older brother Kevin. Kayleigh’s family couldn’t agree more.

Because of the kidney donation, Kayleigh will be able to live in a way she has never known. Kayleigh’s mom Kate said that there are no adequate words to te ll Mike how grateful she is and how much it means to her that Mike did this. Kayleigh loves Mike with all her heart. He’s not only her cousin — he is her angel and her hero. Mike said that he didn’t think too much of it and felt that if Kayleigh needed something to stay alive and he had that something, why not give it to her?

The gift of life will forever connect Kayleigh and Mike, her amazing cousin.

Kayleigh is very blessed. She’ll now have a part of him in her, not only his kidney but his goodness. After the transplant surgery this past August, Kayleigh’s kidney levels immediately improved, better than they had been her entire life. She has been able to return to school healthy and begin the path of living a healthy life, thanks to Mike. After a few weeks of recovery, Mike was back at work and is now feeling as good as he was before surgery.

 
 

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

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