Team Rainbow – Dash for Donation

By Marie Smith, liver recipient

Marie at the 2013 Dash as she awaited her second chance at life.

My journey to a liver transplant began in 1985 when I learned I had contracted Hepatitis C. For the next 20-plus years, I was exhausted and my stomach was bloated, but I attributed not feeling well to being overworked and raising a family.

Finally, in 2011, my condition worsened to the point where my doctor sent me to The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center where I was diagnosed with liver failure. I couldn’t believe it! He said I would need a liver transplant to save my life. The news that an organ donor’s gift was my only chance at life was frightening. I was scared I would die before receiving my second chance at life.

I was placed on the national transplant waiting list in April 2012. My health status was very unpredictable – my family had to do everything for me. They cleaned my house, helped me shower, mowed the lawn and cooked my meals. I could not do anything for myself. I credit my family and my strong Catholic faith for getting me through that very dark period.

Fast forward to Thursday, November 12, 2014 – my liver was shutting down. I was admitted to the hospital and placed into a light coma in the hopes my condition would improve. Thankfully over this next 24 hours this worked and I was moved to stepdown.

Marie and her nephew Evan in 2017

At 8:11 p.m. on Saturday, November 14, the call came!! My coordinator was on the phone asking how soon I could get to the hospital and I exclaimed, “I’m already here!” I was afraid I was too ill to receive the transplant, but the doctors told me I was indeed a good candidate.

I started crying and called my husband, who wasn’t answering. He had been with my late the night before and was resting. I then called my mom and dad who were already on the way to the hospital to visit with me. My emotions were all over the place. I was thankful for this second chance, but couldn’t help but pray for my donor.

My transplant was set for 6:00 that evening. My priest came and we prayed for the donor family and for a safe transplant.

The transplant went smoothly and I am now almost three years post-surgery. I am able to cook and take care of my family, which includes raising my nephew Evan. I’m able to help my mom with my 103-year-old grandma. I’m able to do almost everything I was able to do before I got sick. There are still up and downs, but it’s nothing like I was before. Life is amazing.

 

2016 Dash for Donation

 

 

 

 

 

 

To honor my anonymous donor, I am taking part in the Dash for Donation – it’s our second year! “Team Rainbow” will be dashing through the streets of Columbus to give thanks for the life I have been given. I give thanks to my donor every single day. It’ll feel great to be part of the thousands of others who have been touched by donation.

While waiting, I knew that my life was in someone else’s hands – someone who chose to become an organ, eye and tissue donor. I ask you to educate yourself, your friends and your family members about the importance of registering. Have that conversation – it saves lives!

“I can do that” – Team Jordan

By Morgan Mersy, liver recipient

Team Jordan in 2016

“I can do that. I can do anything.” Those are words said by my heroic donor, Jordan Ayers. He was right – he could do anything. He saved my life.

I was born with a rare genetic liver disease and always knew I’d need a transplant. Once I was in college, my health became worse and I was listed for a new liver. Thanks to Jordan, I received my life-saving transplant February 26, 2001.

Since my transplant I’ve been able to do so many things that wouldn’t have been possible without this gift. I graduated college, got married and became a mom. My son, Graham Jordan, is my best and most proud of accomplishment in the 16 years since transplant. I cannot thank Jordan enough for this beautiful life.

In 2004, I took part in my first Dash for Donation to raise awareness for organ, eye and tissue donation and to publicly thank Jordan for his gift. I look forward to the Dash every year and aim to create a bigger team than the previous year. “Team Jordan” means so much to me and to everyone who participates. But what means most to me is having Jordan’s family there with us. They come every year to honor their son and reflect on his incredible Gift of Life.

I hope you’ll join me on July 15 at the Dash for Donation in downtown Columbus! It’s an awesome day to take part in – if you can’t join us, please consider registering as an organ, eye and tissue donor today in honor of Jordan. I can’t thank him enough for my second chance.

My Dad’s Hero

By Makenzie Kelly, recipient daughter

Each semester, I welcome Lifeline of Ohio community educators into my classroom at Newark High School. The educators share the Donate Life message with my students and truly help them to understand organ donation so they can make an informed decision when they receive their learner’s permit. I’ve been proud of the relationship I’ve built with the community education team, but didn’t realize it fully until donation impacted my life.

Little did I know after helping share the message of donation in my classes for so many years, my dad, Fred, would need a kidney transplant to survive.

In 2013, my dad had blood work that came back abnormal from a neurologist appointment. We couldn’t believe it when he was, just a few days later, diagnosed with end-stage kidney failure. We were told he could do dialysis, but he would need a kidney transplant.

Dialysis disrupted his freedom and changed his emotional thoughts – he was now worried he would pass away. Fifteen years earlier he beat a brain tumor and this second medical emergency was worrisome for the whole family.

After more than two years of waiting on the national transplant waiting list and undergoing dialysis three times a week, he got “THE CALL!”  It was January 7, 2016 right after we celebrated my sister’s birthday when the phone rang. He cried. I cried. We all cried.

We were full of apprehension as we arrived at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center for the transplant, but we were also fully aware a family was grieving the loss of their loved one. I was so thankful my dad was receiving his second chance at life.

As a family, we whole-heartedly thank my dad’s heroic donor. This person gave our “Frapple” (the name given to him by his grandson) the ability at sixty-five years old to watch his grandkids grow.  He gets to see them dance, play ball and watch them run in his house on Christmas morning.  It is the best gift we could have ever received.

I continue to have Lifeline of Ohio into my classroom to educate my students. The message they spread has a profound impact on all who hears it. Won’t you consider registering to be a hero today?

Everyday is a Miracle

By Laura Lewis, transplant recipient

For most of my life, I have been a healthy and active person. As far as family history, my mother had dealt with elevated liver enzymes, but other than that, I led a normal life. That is, until 2007.

In November 2007, when I was 48, I became very ill with what I thought was the flu. I was sick for what felt like months and just could not get better. It wasn’t until my doctor ran further testing that I was diagnosed with liver failure and my only option of survival was a liver transplant.

One of my first thoughts was how I was going to die. I’ve always been afraid of death and now that my life expectancy was hitting me in the face, it was hard to wrap my mind around. It was unfathomable to think my only chance of survival would come from a complete stranger saying “yes” to donation.

Before I was placed on the national transplant waiting list, I had to talk to my family. I had to tell my six boys their mother was very, very ill. It was a hard discussion. Thankfully, I have a very supportive husband who cared for me throughout the entire wait and beyond. He was my rock.

The wait was agonizing. For five months I prayed for a donor to be found while I became sicker and sicker.

And then, on March 16, 2008 at 4:50 in the morning, I got the call! I worked at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and I called the charge nurse to tell her I wasn’t coming in to work that day, I was coming in as a patient!

I was third in line for the liver and was thankful when the doctors told me I would be the one to receive it. The other two people ahead of me in line were ill that day. While I was sad for them, I was elated to get my second chance.

Waking up from the surgery, I felt better than I had in a long time. I was able to go home after five days in the hospital and I was back to work within five weeks!

In the nine years since my transplant, every day is a miracle. I’ve written my donor family every year on the anniversary of my transplant to say thank you, but haven’t heard back from them. While I would love to know anything about my donor, I do know they saved my life and for that I am eternally grateful.

My donor’s gift to me not only changed my life, but also the lives of two of my boys. My liver disease, then transplant, inspired them to earn their nursing degrees. The ripple effect of my donor’s decision to be a hero is astounding. I encourage you to consider registering as an organ, eye and tissue donor today. You never know the legacy you may leave.

 

 

 

Aubri’s New Heart

By Karlynn Gamble, recipient mom

When I was 21 weeks pregnant, I had an ultrasound to find out the gender of my baby. At that appointment, I learned two things that would change my life – the baby was a girl and she would be born with a heart defect. I was shocked. The doctors told me she would need a series of three surgeries, but that the defect could be repaired. I was scared, but hopeful.

I went through the rest of my pregnancy learning about her condition – Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome – and the surgeries my baby would endure.

Aubri made her grand entrance in the world June 1, 2012. As I was told months earlier, she began to undergo surgery to repair her defect within days of being born. In the coming years, she was able to complete two of the three surgeries before our world was again rocked.

Aubri while waiting for her donor hero

On April 13, 2016 we went to Nationwide Children’s Hospital to have the final of the three surgeries. The surgery went well, but the outcome was less than desirable. Through many weeks of complications and setbacks, it was determined that Aubri would need a heart transplant to survive.

My mind automatically went to the worst case scenario. It was very scary to think my baby would need a new heart to survive. It was something I had never thought about. We now had to shift our thinking – we had to rely on the generosity of a stranger to save my little girl.

For the next seven months, Aubri was hospitalized. She turned four while in the hospital. She spent all of the summer and into the fall in the hospital. I can’t say enough about the staff at Nationwide Children’s – they took such great care of her. Everyone involved in her care tried to provide her with as normal of a childhood as they could.

Aubri today!

After more than six months in the hospital, we received the call on October 3, 2016 – a heart was available for Aubri! I cried for five minutes before I could talk to the nurse. Our miracle was here! Following a 10-hour surgery, Aubri was on the road to recovery. She was discharged from the hospital December 7, 2016 and she is living life! She’s been able to join her classmates back in preschool, play with her little sister and dance! She is now a typical four-year old with unending energy. All thanks to a family who said “yes” to donation at their darkest hour.

We received a letter from the donor family not long after her transplant. Wow. It was very emotional reading about the child who saved my daughter’s life. I am in the process of writing back – I look forward to letting them know how well Aubri is doing and to simply say “thank you” for giving our family a second chance.

Won’t you register as an organ, eye and tissue donor? Be a hero to another family, as Aubri’s donor has been to ours.