My wife, my hero

By Greg Smith, kidney recipient

TreeRandi and I were sixteen and in high school when we started dating. Our relationship was brand new when I received unexpected news – I was diagnosed with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS). My kidneys weren’t working correctly and my doctor told me I would need a kidney transplant in the future.  After talking to my parents about this diagnosis, I met with Randi to tell her the news. Without hesitation she said, “Don’t worry, I’ll give you one of mine!”

Several years later, we were married and began our lives together. I found the best way to combat my kidney disease was through being physically active – I raced bicycles and competed in triathlons to stay in top physical condition. Through the years as my kidney function depleted, I kept moving and thankfully never needed dialysis.

OSUAs our lives together grew, Randi was tested to be my living donor. When it was found she was a match, we were elated!  After moving several times, and being listed at several transplant centers, we made a home in Columbus and I was listed at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. A date for the transplant was set – December 21, 2012.

The days leading up to the transplant were nerve-wracking however, I remained very active. In fact, just four days before transplant, I rode my bike for 80-miles!

When the day of the transplant finally came, I remember being very worried about Randi. I didn’t want anything bad to happen to her as a result of the surgery.

Green chairRandi went into surgery first and seeing her being wheeled off to the operating room was very difficult, even though we were both confident for a positive outcome. She was the first thing I asked about after coming out of anesthesia. She was doing well and the transplant had gone smoothly on both sides. We were able to go home several days after surgery.

Life post-transplant has been great, with just a few minor bumps along the way. Thanks to the Gift of Life Randi provided me and the excellent care of Dr. Bumgardner and the team of medical professionals at Ohio State, I have enjoyed more than three and a half years of excellent health.

On their four-year transplant anniversary

On their four-year transplant anniversary

The amazing thing about Randi’s donation is that she not only saved my life, but potentially the lives of two complete strangers. Since I had been listed at two other transplant centers before settling in Columbus, I was still on their wait lists. During the time Randi was being worked up at Ohio State, I received two calls for matching kidneys. Since I already had a donor lined up, I was able to pass on those kidneys which most likely went to the next person on the transplant list. Incredible!

When I asked Randi why she offered to donate a kidney to me when she was only 16, she responded that she thought it was the right thing to do. Won’t you consider being a donor? You can register to donate after your death by visiting www.lifelineofohio.org, or if you are interested in becoming a living donor, please visit https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/transplant/living-kidney-donation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Brother’s New Heart

By Ashleigh Kerrigan, recipient sister

AshleighI am a proud member of the Buckeyes for Life student group at The Ohio State University. Organ, eye and tissue donation is very dear to me – my younger brother Brandon went from being a perfectly healthy fifteen-year old to needing a heart transplant practically overnight.

In August 2013, Brandon was diagnosed with a case of walking pneumonia. After five days on antibiotics my mom took him to the hospital – he still wasn’t feeling well and didn’t seem to be getting better. Many tests were conducted and he was soon diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy. Our family was shocked.

Due to complications at the hospital, my brother was flown by helicopter from our town in Maryland to the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. While en route on the helicopter, he went into cardiac arrest twice but was thankfully revived.

Brandon gives the thumbs up before transplant

Brandon gives the thumbs up before transplant

For the next five months, doctors tried everything to reverse the swelling of his heart, however they were not able to do so. Eventually, Brandon had to have a ventricular assist device implanted to keep him alive while our family waited for a heroic heart donor. He wasn’t going to leave the hospital until he received the Gift of Life.

On December 17, 2013 we got the call – a heart was available! My family was extremely thankful that Brandon would be receiving the Gift of Life. My grandmother had just passed away the week before, we felt it was no coincidence he received one so quickly. It was a great comfort. For Brandon, he remembers being grateful to his donor because he knew how many people die while waiting for their second chance at life.

The transplant was successful and Brandon began the road to recovery. “Recovery was long and hard. I’m three years out and I am now just getting into the shape I wanted to be in a year out. I am very appreciative to all the doctors and nurses that were involved in the transplant process, and especially my donor.”

Brandon's Make-a-Wish trip to meet the Boston Red Sox!

Brandon’s Make-a-Wish trip to meet the Boston Red Sox!

Since the transplant, we have corresponded with our donor family and are very thankful to their loved one for saving my brother’s life. Brandon is here because of that person and we will never forget them.

Brandon is now a freshman at the University of West Virginia with a second chance at life! He is the reason I joined Buckeyes for Life, and he is the reason I will always promote awareness for organ donation.

Won’t you please consider registering as an organ, eye and tissue donor? Who knows? You could save a life like my brother’s one day.

 

Joy, laughter and love – a sister story

By Erin Mosley, donor mom

20160817_081122

Eleanor, left, and Louisa

Joy, laughter, love. These are words that come to mind when I think of Louisa and Eleanor. They not only showed these things in their lives, they brought them out in others.

Louisa was our first born and she brought so much joy to our lives. Louisa grew to love playing sports, especially soccer. In fall of 2016 she only had the chance to play one soccer game with her team. During the game she scored a goal. After the game was over she ran up to me and said, “Mommy! Did you see? I scored a goal!” She was so excited. Louisa loved singing and art. She loved being in the children’s choir at our church. She loved wearing sporty clothes and her Converse shoes. She wanted to go live in the jungle one day and be a veterinarian.

Eleanor

About three weeks after Louisa turned two, we had Eleanor. She loved arts and crafts. She loved pretending and had the most glorious imagination. She could turn a pile of boxes into a doll wonderland. She loved looking pretty. She could look at the closet full of hand me down clothes and pick out the most wonderful outfits. She told us that she wanted to live with us forever and take care of us when we were old. She wanted to grow up to be a mommy and stay home with her babies. Summer of 2016 Eleanor fell in love with cheerleading and found her spot.

The girls loved each other. Louisa wanted so much to help with Eleanor. Eleanor only wanted to be with Louisa. That is how they always were. Along the way we added Walter and Beatrice. Louisa and Eleanor loved them both dearly. They were devoted big sisters. They taught Walt how to play, pretend, skip, color, whistle – all the things a little boy needs to know. He adored them. Beatrice was 15 months old when they died. In her short life, the girls gave her so much love.

Louisa

Louisa

In September of 2016, Louisa’s and Eleanor’s lives were both cut short as the result of a car accident. As heartbroken as my husband and I were, we immediately asked about organ donation – we knew that the girls would have wanted to help others. We had never discussed organ donation, but knew it was the right thing to do.

Louisa and Eleanor were so giving in their lives, I know that they would be honored that they were able to give the Gift of Life in their deaths. Louisa was able to donate her corneas, both kidneys and her pancreas, while Eleanor was able to donate her corneas and both kidneys. Together the girls were able to save four lives and give the gift of sight to four others! For young girls (9 and 7 respectively), they did so much in their short time on earth.

Girls and Walt

The girls and Walt

Louisa and Eleanor loved God. They sought after Him and I know He was working in their lives. Now they are with Him in Heaven.

Would you consider registering as an organ, eye and tissue donor and being a hero like Louisa and Eleanor? You can sign up today at www.lifelineofohio.org.

 

Guest Column: The Nicholas Effect

By Donor Dad, Reg Green

nicholasTwenty-two years after he was shot, Italians still keep a little American boy in their hearts.

A few weeks ago an emotional email arrived from southern Italy from people we had never met. They are the Santangelo family, who — after our seven-year old son Nicholas was shot in an attempted carjacking in southern Italy and his organs and corneas donated to seven Italians — had opened a coffee bar named for him.

Now they were telling us they had three bars, all of them named Nicholas, and were inviting us to visit them. They seemed to think of him as part of their family. One of the young men in the family has the word Nicholas tattooed on his arm. Their business cards have his face on them.

As it happened, I was giving a talk to the Italian Transplantation Society soon after and my friend and tireless worker for the cause of organ donation, Andrea Scarabelli, who lives in Rome, offered to drive me to Naples.

On the way down, we called ahead. When we arrived at the first location the whole family was waiting on the sidewalk, the men looking serious, some of the women in tears, the children fidgeting with excitement. Immediately we walked into the group, we were engulfed in hugs and smiles and more tears, some of them mine.

They proudly showed us the huge picture of Nicholas outside the café and I caught my breath, standing next to that beloved face with the honest open look I knew so well and the gentle whimsical smile. I remembered the time I gave a reporter a list of his organs that were transplanted and adding “I wish they could have used his freckles too.”

Reg Green being interviewed next to a photo of his seven-year old son, Nicholas, outside one of the three Nicholas Coffee Bars in Naples.

Reg Green being interviewed next to a photo of his seven-year old son, Nicholas, outside one of the three Nicholas Coffee Bars in Naples.

Inside we were given steaming cups of coffee, so concentrated in the Italian style that they barely covered the bottom of the tiny cups. I asked for a Café Americano, much bigger, though still only a juvenile version of the mug I use at home. I felt like a sissy, as if I’d asked for Miller Lite in an Irish pub.

With the exquisite tact that Italians of all walks of life show to strangers, they did not press me with questions about Nicholas but nevertheless, seeing that they seemed likely to burst with curiosity, I told them stories about him, and that Eleanor, his sister, the four-year old who was sleeping next to him on the back seat of the car when he was shot, is now a 26-year old teacher; that Maggie, my wife, is the costumer for an opera company; that our twins, born two years after the shooting, are at college; and that the drought in California has shriveled up our lawn. In short, it was like visiting friends I’d known for years.

The mayor of the little town, a suburb of Naples, came too and Dr. Giuseppa de Rosa, whom I met when she was a teacher at the Nicholas Green Primary School in a nearby town. A renowned nephrologist was also there, Professor Emeritus Natale de Santo of the Second University of Naples, who has done everything he can to help make transplantation an essential part of medical study. This was an opportunity, they all felt, to draw attention to the urgent need for organ donation in an unusual setting.

None of the three locations is grand, just the traditional meeting places of locals where, along with the weather and the upcoming soccer match, the story of a small American boy whose donation changed the thinking of a nation would be told over and over.

“Why did you call it Nicholas?” young people often ask, one of the family told me. “When I tell them the story, they look him up on the Internet,” he added “and, when they come back the next time, they know more about him than I do.” Including, no doubt, that in the 10 years after he was killed organ donation rates in Italy, until then the lowest among comparable Western European countries, tripled (!) so that thousands of people are alive who would have died.

There are many ways to spread the message of organ donation. To me this kind of spontaneous grassroots growth is the most satisfying of all.

Reg Green’s website is www.nicholasgreen.org. His email address is rfdgreen@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Giving Daughter, Claire

By Don Glass, donor dad

claire Our daughter Claire was a high-academic achiever, gifted on the stage in both singing and performing and was very giving of her time. I was often struck by how my 16-year old girl was so busy in her school and extra-curricular activities, but always made time to volunteer and help others around her.

Claire was so giving in fact, when she tragically passed away in March 2014 she had already made the decision to give to others through organ, eye and tissue donation. In the absolute midst of our grief, we were called by Lifeline of Ohio and informed of the decision she made. We were asked if we would honor her wishes. Without a doubt we said “Yes!”- it was obvious this last act of giving was important to Claire.

Although Claire and I never had a conversation about donation prior to her death, she and her mom did when Claire received her driver’s license. When I learned she was registered, I wasn’t surprised. It was just how Claire was – giving and always helping others.

claire2Through Claire’s selfless act, she was able to give sight to two people through cornea donation and heal countless others through tissue donation. It gives our family comfort that Claire’s legacy is living through others – we hope that someone can now enjoy looking at beautiful flowers, just as Claire loved to do.

In December following Claire’s death, my wife and I attended the Lifeline of Ohio holiday tree lighting. It was tremendous to be surrounded by so many people who were going through the same journey of emotions we were experiencing.

As families hung ornaments on the tree, people were able to share about their loved ones. My wife spoke eloquently about our daughter – it was so good to tell her story, our story, to others. After the donor families spoke, a woman stood up. She said she wouldn’t be here, her children wouldn’t be alive and she would not have the blessing of grandchildren if it wasn’t for the heroic act of organ donation. She shared she didn’t know who her donor was, but she wanted to publicly thank all organ, eye and tissue donors and their families. At this time I was not a registered donor, not for any particular reason, just because I had not signed up. After attending the tree lighting, and reflecting on our daughter’s decision, I took that step to register. I truly felt that I was making my daughter proud.

claire1Life without Claire has been unspeakably difficult. However, our family takes great comfort in the fact that she is a hero to so many. We encourage you to register at www.lifelineofohio.org and join the Ohio Donor Registry. Be a hero like Claire.