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Recipient Stories

My Hero, my Best Friend, Saved my Life

We typically think of heroes as people who save people from burning buildings. For me, heroes are found in more unlikely places.  My two heroes, my hero of donation and my best friend, saved my life.

In the fall of 1984, my best friend Nancy Painter convinced me to participate in the American Red Cross blood drive at work. Afraid of needles, I initially protested. I eventually  agreed to donate, not knowing the decision would safe my life. The Red Cross contacted me three days later telling me my donation was rejected because of possible hepatitis in my blood. I didn’t have hepatitis but was diagnosed with incurable Liver Disease, specifically Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC), the shrinking of the bile ducts leading from the liver. Thanks to Nancy’s encouragement to give blood, my disease was found early and precautionary measures were taken to monitor the disease’s progress.

Nancy saved my life. But she’s not my only hero.

For 28 years, I experienced no symptoms related to the disease. I continued to donate blood with documentation showing my blood did not contain the hepatitis virus. But in November 2011, I started to get sick. I had slowing energy, showed signs of jaundice and developed sores on my chest. The love of my life, Jeff, proposed during the holiday season, and hoped I would be healthy enough to attend our wedding.  Unfortunately, my body deteriorated and in February 2012, I was placed on the organ transplant list.

My second hero, my organ donor, saved my life and gave me a future.

I received the gift of a liver transplant on March 29, 2012. Jeff and I got married in November 2012. Thanks to my organ donor, my saving grace, my story is one of life-saving miracles. My donor’s gift gave me a new-found energy, time with my friend Nancy and the opportunity to build my life with my husband. Nancy and I joyfully volunteer as Donate Life Ambassadors and work at health fairs and other events to help others understand the importance of donation.

Melissa proudly sits in the green chair to encourage others to not let another chair go empty.

Melissa proudly sits in the green chair to encourage others to not let another chair go empty.

A true hero to me is selfless. They’re the silent, registered organ, eye and tissue donors who save eight lives and heal 50 others through their gift; they’re the persistent people who look out for their best friends.   Without my organ donor’s gift and Nancy’s friendship, it may have been too late for me.

Be a hero. Save a life. Register as an organ, eye and tissue donor today.

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