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Recipient Stories

Shave that Goatee!

I was a diabetic since 1980 and, admittedly, I didn’t always take care of myself the way I should have.  I lived with diabetes for 15 years without complications until my health began to deteriorate.  I was having migraines and losing my eyesight.

In 1999, I was told I would eventually need a kidney/pancreas transplant and that I needed to begin dialysis immediately.  Being placed on the national transplant waiting list gave me hope.

For reasons I don’t really know, I decided to grow a goatee.  My wife hated it, but I told her that as soon as I got a transplant, the goatee would come off.

Dialysis was no walk in the park – after treatment I was exhausted for days and had to go on disability.  I was physically unable to provide for my family and that was a struggle.

I had been undergoing dialysis treatments and was listed for a transplant for nearly two years before I got “the call.”

I was washing dishes on February 26, 2001 and when they phone rang they told me I might have my transplant the next morning.  My coordinator told me to go to dialysis as usual, and if they needed me, they’d stop me.

The next day, I fell asleep during my dialysis treatment and woke up to learn that the transplant was not going to happen.  That was a devastating blow, but I kept telling myself, “at least they called me!”

One month later I received another call — it was March 26, 2001 and I was doing dishes again when the phone rang.  Everything happened so quickly, and the next thing I knew, I was coming out of surgery with my second chance at life.

The next day my wife brought me a razor and said, “shave that goatee!”

I’ve recovered well, and I’m working hard to take care of the gift I’ve been given.  I’m more health-conscious and I go to the gym (although I hate it).

Because of this generous gift I was able to see my daughter, Samantha, graduate from high school and, I saw my eldest daughter, Melinda, graduate from college and get married.  I got to walk her down the aisle — what an amazing feeling — and one I am so thankful for. I’ve reached some milestones since my transplant too: I’m a grandfather, I turned 50 and I no longer have to worry about being sick!

I can’t express my gratitude for the gift I was given.  I tried multiple times to contact my donor family and finally succeeded in 2005.  I met the entire family and now join them for an annual dinner in my donor’s honor.

In October 2009, I ran my first half-marathon – 13.1 miles, thanks to my donor.  Completing this race really shows that anything is possible with organ donation.

My donor is my hero – he gave me my life back.

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