A Sweet, Second Chance

By Michael Gray, transplant recipient

In August 2016, to my utter and total surprise, my health took a serious turn for the worse. For being 71 years-old, I had always been fit, relatively healthy and in good shape.

On August 8, I began to vomit blood and had to be rushed to The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. I was admitted and after a nine-day stay, doctors discovered three cancerous tumors in my liver, which was not functioning well. Out of nowhere my health was spiraling downward.

I was diagnosed with NASH – non-alcoholic sclerosis of the liver – and began chemotherapy. At the same time as chemo, I was undergoing a battery of testing to see if I would quality for the national liver transplant waiting list.

Everything was happening so fast. In January, I completed and passed all the medical examinations and was added to the transplant list. My wait began. I had no idea how long it would be, but my wife Betty, my friends and family and my faith in God carried me through.

And carry me through, He did. About a month after being added to the list I received the call! It had been a typical February day. As my wife and I were getting ready for bed, I remember thinking about where to go for our St. Valentine’s Day dinner when the phone rang. It was my transplant coordinator telling me a donor had been found! I was at the hospital and being prepped for surgery 45 minutes later. It all happened so quickly, I didn’t have time to worry, only to pray.

My transplant surgeon and I.

I received my new liver on Valentine’s Day, and awoke five days and three surgeries later with a fresh lease on life. After an additional week recovering in the hospital, I was able to go home and begin my new life. Now, at 72 years-old, my recovery process has been excellent! I still can’t exercise how I used to be able to, but I feel great! All thanks to my donor and my God.

While I don’t know anything about my donor, I have sent their family a letter through Lifeline of Ohio. I expressed my deep condolences and also thanked them for this incredible gift. I am alive today because of their loved one.

In honor of my anonymous donor, my hero, I ask you to consider becoming a registered organ, eye and tissue donor. You could save and heal so many.

Chance Gave Me a Chance

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.

Donation Education Comes to ALL Ohio Schools!

Have you heard?  Our community education team is excited to start the 2017-18 school year under the new Ohio state mandate which includes organ, eye and tissue donation in the Health curriculum!

The Ohio House of Representatives has passed a bill which mandates Ohio high school Health classes must ” include instruction in: (g) the process of making an anatomical gift under Chapter 2108 of the Revised Code, with an emphasis on the life-saving and life-enhancing effects of organ, eye and tissue donation.”  This is a very important piece of legislation for the donation community and was inspired by a request that Donate Life Ambassador, liver recipient and student, Emmalyn Brown, made to her local representative, Debby Phillips of Athens and Rep. Cheryl Grossman of Grove City.

Schools across the state will have access to free resources on www.donatelifeohio.org, including a powerful new video (starring our Ambassadors!) and supplies for students to share with their parents.

While we are proud of the materials and new video, we know that having a community educator visit a classroom is the Gold Standard.  If you know an Ohio high school health teacher, please be a strong advocate and share how important donation education is to you – and countless others. Or, send their information to our community education supervisor, Jenny Hudak-Million.

Fall 2017 CEO Update

2017 is a year of expanding connections and opportunities for Lifeline of Ohio.  We are very excited about the new mandate in which every public high school in Ohio is now required to include instruction on organ, eye and tissue donation in its Health curriculum. We embrace this requirement   with gratitude to our Donate Life Ambassador, Emmalyn Brown, who proposed the idea to her state representative three years ago.

Emmalyn first became an advocate for organ, eye and tissue donation after receiving her life-saving liver transplant on April 9, 2007. During her junior year of high school, her government teacher challenged the class to make a change within their community that could potentially be realized. Emmalyn recognized the lack of information available to teenagers about organ donation, so she proposed legislation that would require donation education to be included as part of the Ohio high school Health curriculum.

After working with her local state representative, Emmalyn’s idea was introduced as House Bill 137 in 2015. The language was later incorporated into House Bill 438 and passed by the 131st Ohio General Assembly in December 2016. We are very proud of this opportunity and of Emmalyn!

Another way in which we are making new connections is through our Pass it on campaign.  This campaign launched a movement celebrating the gift of sports aptitude featuring four very diverse and talented young men, each with a unique connection to donation.  Since its launch we have made tens of thousands of digital connections and reached a more diverse audience than we otherwise could have imagined.  Through the athletes messages we were able to stress the impact they have in their community as sports icons, as well as the impact each one has made as a registered organ, eye and tissue donor.

Mike Pucillo’s story is particularly compelling.  Mike is the first All-American wrestler to open up as gay to his community, his family and his sport.  Through Mike’s message we were able to dispel the myth in the LGBTQ community that gay men cannot be organ donors. Lifeline of Ohio took this message “to the streets” in this year’s Columbus Pride parade and registered more than 50 new donors in the Ohio Donor Registry!  The message was clear that day, “there is no ban on organ donation”!

I want to acknowledge the forward thinking of my staff in these efforts.  Clearly, we are ahead of the curve nationally in our discussions and have been recognized as such by our colleagues.

I hope you enjoy the content in this month’s newsletter.  And, remember to Pass it on, Donate Life and register your decision in the Ohio Donor Registry!



Kent Holloway

CEO, Lifeline of Ohio

2018 DMV Appreciation Week

Lifeline of Ohio is thrilled to recognize our Bureau of Motor Vehicle (BMV) partners during the third annual Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Appreciation Week which will be held this year, September 24-28, 2018.  This week, supported by Donate Life America, will be set aside for recovery partners and state teams across the nation to show their support and gratitude for the employees, managers and administrators who work at BMV’s, DMV’s and/or Public Safety offices.

More than 5.7 million Ohioans have registered their decision to be an organ, eye and tissue donor, and 99 percent of those individuals did so at their local Deputy Registrar (BMV) agency.

The Bureau of Motor Vehicles is often the place where people are first asked if they want to be an organ, eye and tissue donor. BMV agency employees are an integral part of the donation process.  Simply by asking those who are receiving or renewing their driver’s license or state identification card if they want to be an organ, eye and tissue donor, the BMV employees on the front lines are providing hope to the thousands of men, women, and children waiting for a life-saving transplant.

The BMV involvement in the donation process does not stop at the agency counter.  They are also responsible for maintaining the Ohio Donor Registry, which is a secure database that contains the names of registered organ, eye and tissue donors in Ohio.  After a death has occurred, the local organ procurement organization can access the Registry to determine if an individual has made a donation decision.  Additionally, the BMV issues Donate Life license plates and collects monetary donations for the Second Chance Trust Fund.  These voluntary contributions are then used to provide donation education in the state.

Lifeline of Ohio invites all of its supporters, volunteers and community members to say thank you to those working on the front lines of donation, during this national observance.   Let’s show the BMV how critical they are to the mission to save and heal lives through organ, eye and tissue donation.  Like or share our content on social media during that week to show your appreciation, or if you will be visiting your local BMV on or around this week, be sure to say ‘thanks for being the key’ to your BMV clerk during your transaction.  That small sign of gratitude will surely make their day!