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National Donor Sabbath Profile: Local Woman Relies on Religion While Waiting for Kidney Transplant

At 27, Manchester, PA resident, Sheila Beichner, started having recurring urinary tract infections and went to the doctor to find out what was going on.  She was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, but was told by her doctor that she had one of the least aggressive forms of the disease. She didn’t have any major symptoms for nearly a decade.

lisa-l-and-sheila-r

Then at age 37, her kidney function decreased and she started to experience muscle spasms, cramping and excessive water retention in her legs, ankles, hands and feet.  Her issues progressed quickly, until she reached stage four kidney failure and had to be listed for a life-saving kidney transplant.

She knew that the wait for a new kidney could be a long and painful road.  Many people wait years for a kidney transplant, and currently an average of 21 people die each day in the U.S. while waiting.  She relied on her faith and church for support, and found a group for individuals who were dealing with severe illness. The support group, led by Lisa Little, RN, gave Sheila hope during her challenging struggles.   

At one point, Sheila and her son spoke to their church congregation about her need for a kidney transplant.  As she desperately waited, she shared her story in hopes that a living donor would come forward.  Twelve people were tested in an effort to save Sheila’s life through living donation.  Even the head of her church support group, Lisa, was tested.  Then something amazing happened.

“I found out that Lisa was a match and wanted to be my donor. I was in awe.” said Sheila. “It’s such a selfless and heroic act. I am filled with gratitude for her. I still can’t believe it.”  Sheila received the gift of life in May, 2016, and both her and Lisa are healthy and doing well!

Sheila’s strong reliance on her Christian faith and her belief in God pulled her through her wait and transplant surgery. “I have so much energy since my transplant.  My concentration has even improved.  When I was sick and waiting, it felt like forever.  I turned to scripture to try to stay positive while I waited, and it gave me a lot of comfort.” said Sheila.

Today, Sheila is enjoying life and has a much lower stress level.  She tries to take care of herself and goes to the gym to lift weights regularly.  “I’m so in awe of what God has done for me.  My faith has really increased since my transplant.  I look at life differently now.  When I put my faith in God, it taught me so much.” she said.

She said, “I’m so grateful for Lisa and that I never had to go on dialysis.  Now that my mind isn’t always consumed with my health, I have so much more focus and energy to spend time with my son and my family.”

From November 11 – November 13, Sheila will celebrate National Donor Sabbath, along with Gift of Life Donor Program and other transplant recipients, living donors and donor family members across the country.  The weekend is an opportunity to bring together organ and tissue donation education and faith-based houses of worship.  Sheila has shared her story with her congregation, and continues to encourage others to register as organ and tissue donors.

She said, “I think if more people hear stories – like mine – they would come forward in support of donation.  It’s a strong message that you can save the lives of others.  I believe that with increased awareness and knowledge, people understand and want to help.”

One of the most common misconceptions about registering as an organ donor is that one’s religion does not support it.  In fact, all major religions support organ donation. Observed annually, National Donor Sabbath seeks to educate faith-based communities about the more than 119,000 men, women and children in the U.S. who are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. This national initiative partners with faith leaders, houses of worship and faith-based organizations to educate its congregations about the critical need for donors.

No final act is more heartfelt or caring than donating ones’ organs.  It shows an individual’s compassion for others, and can change lives forever.   The decision to donate – often made at a grief-stricken and terrible moment in life – is one that is far-reaching and greatly beneficial.  One organ donor can save and enhance the lives of up to 50 others – a gift that is impactful to the recipients, their family members and the community on a whole.

About Gift of Life Donor Program: Since 1974, Gift of Life Donor Program has coordinated more than 42,000 organ transplants, along with an estimated 600,000 tissue transplants. It only takes 30 seconds to register as an organ and tissue donor at donors1.org.  Just one organ and tissue donor can save or enhance the lives of up to 50 people.  For more information on organ and tissue donation, please call Gift of Life at 1-800-DONORS-1 (1-800-366-6771) or visit donors1.org.

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    800-DONORS-1 / 800-KIDNEY-1

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