By Bobbie Shepherd, transplant recipient

It was a mother’s intuition and strange symptoms that had me visiting various doctors’ offices as a child. No one could figure out what was wrong until I was referred to a renal specialist. In the summer of 1975 I was diagnosed with dysplastic kidney disease – I was eight years old and was going to need a kidney transplant to survive.

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Since I was so sick, the transplant happened pretty quickly. On September 17, 1975, right after my birthday, I was given the best present ever – the Gift of Life.

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I could not have known at that young age what a kidney transplant would mean for me. According to a newspaper article, it meant spending my birthday in the hospital waiting to see if my body would accept my new kidney. I learned having a kidney transplant also means taking anti-rejection medicine for the rest of my life. My live-saving transplant meant many things, but overall, it meant having a full life. For that, I am so thankful.

Because of the selfless gift my donor gave, I was able to grow up and do the things little girls dream of. I’m married and have raised a son and daughter. I now have three grandchildren that I love spending time with. When I see the two generations that were made possible by the Gift of Life, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for my hero and her family who chose to help others in their time of grief.

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In the past 40 years, all the members of my transplant team have retired – even down to the receptionist who checked me in for every appointment at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital! I’ve also been inducted into the United Network of Organ Sharing’s Quarter Century Club – a club for those of us who are 25 years or more out from transplant.

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The most precious gift someone can give is the Gift of Life. You never know if someone you love will need that gift or if you will have the opportunity to give. Life can go on. You have the choice to say “If I can give, I want to leave a legacy and help life go on.” Register to be an organ, eye and tissue donor at www.lifelineofohio.org.