By Tom Ioia, transplant recipient

Growing up, my dad was relatively healthy despite having an inherited condition, Familial Adenomatous Polyposis, which causes polyps to develop in the colon. He deal and dealt with, and managed, the syndrome for years.

In high school I was tested to see if I also carried the gene – I did. Although I had the same condition as dad, mine was different. My polyps were pre-cancerous and in 2005 a portion of my large intestine was removed to lessen of the risk of colon cancer.

For the next three years my life was semi-normal. I went to college and got married. I didn’t know my health would begin to take complete control over my life.

In 2008, large benign tumors were found growing in my abdomen, constricting my organs. I endured 13 months of chemotherapy to shrink the tumors. Then, from 2011-2014, I experienced eight bowel obstructions. My health was progressively getting worse, when finally in May 2014, my doctor suggested I may be a good candidate for an intestinal transplant.

I first thought, “why me?” I was raising a young daughter with my wife, working and trying to be a productive member of society. I was only 30.

My first walk post-transplant!

I met with the transplant team at Indiana University Hospital and went through testing to be listed, but it wasn’t until my health declined further in January 2016 that I was placed on the national transplant waiting list.

On April 7, 2016, I was taking a break with my co-workers when I thought I heard my phone ring. I checked and I had missed a call from Indiana University. I immediately called back and was informed there was a match and needed me in Indiana as soon as possible. I was elated!

After the rush of realizing my time had come to receive a transplant, I became nervous of what lay before me – surgery, recovery and returning to health. I was also thinking of my donor, their family and what they must be going through in their time of tragedy.

My transplant surgery went smoothly and two days later I was walking down the hall. My new life had begun! I wanted to get home so badly to be with my wife and daughter – I was so thankful for this gift and I wanted to share it with my family.

Shortly after the one-year anniversary of my transplant, I wrote a letter to my donor family. They wrote back and I learned my donor was a young boy named Chance. I am so thankful Chance’s family made the decision to donate his organs, giving others like me a new lease on life.  He is my hero.

I am living proof of organ donation and grateful for this second chance. I ask you to consider registering as an organ, eye and tissue donor. Because of Chance and this gift, I can now watch my daughter grow up.