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.

The Colors Are Amazing!

Cindy CrawfordWhile taking her vision test at the License Bureau, Cindy Crawford realized she was having trouble seeing the graphics on the screen.  After barely passing the test, the clerk mentioned she might want to have her vision checked.  Cindy was concerned because she just had been to the eye doctor and was told her vision was okay.  Years before, she had been informed of a degenerative eye disease that would eventually cause her vision to fail.  Cindy feared that time had come.

She was referred by her eye doctor to a specialist in Columbus and was told that her disease, Fuchs Dystrophy, was progressive and that her only course of treatment would eventually be a corneal transplant.  For the moment her eyesight, although poor, was not quite at the point that required a transplant.  Her doctor prescribed medication and adjusted her glasses, with the hope that her vision would stabilize.

For the next two years Cindy lived her life, watched her grandchildren grow, and even accepted a job as a manager at the Lima Bowsher BMV agency.  Her employer and co-workers supported Cindy with the tools she needed to do her job by providing lights, magnifiers and assistance when it was required.  Unfortunately, her vision continued to fail and in 2011 she was unable to drive and she squinted constantly as she struggled to see. “It was like I was driving through fog all the time,” she recalls.  It was hard to see anything.” She knew it was time for her to be listed to receive a corneal transplant.

“For me, it wasn’t a choice,” she says. “There is no cure for my disease and I knew if I wanted to have any sort of life-working or helping out with my grandchildren, I would need the transplant.”

NEDM 2017 Twitter Profile PhotoOn the day before Thanksgiving in 2011, Cindy received the first of two corneal transplants.  She received her second in August 2013.  Thanks to two generous donors, Cindy was able to see clearly again. “I am so grateful to both of my donors,” she declares, adding that she has written both of their families “to offer my condolences and to thank them.”

Now, when Cindy works at the BMV she can see clearly out of the large picture windows.

“The colors and brightness are amazing!” she says.  “I didn’t realize how bad my vision was until I received these transplants.”  When time and opportunity permits Cindy shares her story with others.  She considers it her way of paying it forward: “It takes a lot for a transplant like mine to occur- a heroic donor, doctors, staff, technology and more.  I thank God for making it ALL possible so I could have my returned sight.”

To be a hero like Cindy’s two donors, please register today!

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.

 

My Son, My Hero

By Jackie Holland, donor mom and recipient

Copy of Jake Jackie

I was born with a birth defect – acute nephritis – and had to have one of my kidneys removed when I was a small child. For more than thirty years, I dealt with this condition until 2008, when my remaining kidney was functioning at eight percent. To prevent starting dialysis, my only son, Jachob, decided he wanted to be my living kidney donor.

 

When he first told me this, I was stunned. He was 31-years old, married and had two daughters. He had a lot on his plate, but this was just his nature – to help others. He truly had no hesitations about donating to me other than the recovery time. He was an active guy and wanted to make sure he wouldn’t be out of commission for too long.

Jake King (2)

On June 13, 2008, my son saved my life. After transplant, I was able to begin living my life to the fullest. I went back to work just thirteen days after transplant, and Jachob returned to work fourteen days after giving me the Gift of Life. We both had incredible recoveries and were doing very well.

A few years later, December 31, 2013 was the darkest day for our family. Jachob suffered a brain stem stroke and did not recover. His wife and our family knew that he would never want to live supported by machines. We made the decision for Jachob to be an organ donor. Because of that decision, he gave life to yet another person.

In life, he gave me his kidney. In death, he gave Charlie his other kidney.

Jachob and his family

Jachob and his family

From the correspondence we’ve had with Charlie, we know that he had been on dialysis for six years before receiving his second chance at life. In his letters to us, Charlie said that his birthday is now December 31, 2013. He’s also said that his doctor called his gift a “super kidney.” At some point, we would love to meet the man that Jachob was able to save. I’ve asked Charlie in our letters to always take care of the precious gift he’s received. Taking care of our Gift of Life is the best way Charlie and I can memorialize my incredible son.

Organ donation took something so senseless and brought great meaning to it. My son was a hero in life and in death, and for that I am incredibly proud. Won’t you consider becoming a registered organ, eye and tissue donor?