Tag Archives: Derek Avillanoza

14 Amazing Quotes About Organ Donors for National Donor Day

For many of us, February 14 represents more than roses and candy hearts. National Donor Day occurs on this date every year. This awareness day provides an opportunity for transplant recipients and their families to celebrate the selfless gifts of living and deceased organ donors who gave them a ‘second chance at life.’

It can be difficult to understand the impact of organ donation until you experience it yourself. When he received our 2017 Help Award, our client Bill Soloway repeatedly recognized the immense impact his heart donor has had on his life.

Skip to 3:20 to hear Bill’s thoughts:

14 Favorite Quotes About Organ Donors

“I believe we got married for a reason: she was sent down from heaven to be my angel.”

-Derek Avillanoza on receiving a kidney from his wife

A part of the Southwest Kidney Transplant Fund

“I am living proof of what an organ donor can do. It is a chance at a better life.”

-Lauren Arkens on lungs received from a deceased donor to combat cystic fibrosis

A part of the North-Central Lung Transplant Fund

“My kidney donor exemplified unconditional love toward me. She did the most selfless thing one can do for another: she was willing to lay down her life as she donated one of her kidneys to me.”

-James Michael McLester on his “angel” living kidney donor and best friend Laura Workman

A part of the South-Central Kidney Transplant Fund

“Amy and I share a bond that is not comparable, even to a sister or your best female friend. She has given me a part of her. She has given me life.”

-Deb Brock on her living kidney donor Amy Krontz, who did not meet Debra until she was approved as a living donor

A part of the Great Lakes Kidney Transplant Fund

“In my eyes, the donor family was so brave to go through such a time while also making decisions that would forever change my life and the lives of possibly many others.”

-Kathe Wimberly Neely on gratitude for her donor family that made her kidney/pancreas transplant possible

A part of the South-Atlantic Kidney/Pancreas Transplant Fund

“Every breath is a gift.”

-Amy E Burriss on lungs she received from a deceased donor

A part of the South-Atlantic Lung Transplant Fund


“I want to let the donor and their family know they are giving a gift only they, God, and the medical teams can give. [It is] a gift there are no words for. Thank you just doesn’t say enough.”

-Children of Monty Scott on the donor heart their father is waiting for

A part of the Northeast Heart/Kidney Transplant Fund


“Maria hates being called a hero. But she’s reluctantly agreed to the title superhero instead.”

-Liz Casperite on her living kidney donor Maria Weaver-Hollowniczky

A part of the Mid-Atlantic Kidney Transplant Fund

“That donor didn’t just impact Bill; he impacted Bill’s family, friends, the people who had yet to become Bill’s family and friends, including his future grandchildren. A donor’s impact is still being felt many years later. They have left a legacy not many can claim.”

-Pat McEntee on the impact of a deceased donor on his transplant mentor Bill Westerman

A part of the Great Lakes Heart Transplant Fund

“I had a living liver donor. Her name is Madalyn and she is my hero.”

-Amanda Washek, transplanted in April 2015

A part of the South-Atlantic Liver Transplant Fund

“Every day my donor will be on my mind and in my prayers. My donor is what lifts me.”

-Annie McMahon on her deceased lung donor

A part of the New York Lung Transplant Fund

“Every day I wake up thankful for the opportunity my dad has given me.”

-Christopher Anthony Zerfass on receiving a kidney from his father

A part of the Mid-Atlantic Kidney Transplant Fund

“I thank God and my donor every minute of the day for my life. I have had a second chance at life.”

-Josh Bulvin, who received a donor heart in March 2010

A part of the Mid-Atlantic Heart Transplant Fund

“This was the greatest gift our family could ever receive.”

-Victor Melendez on receiving a deceased donor’s kidney

A part of the New York Kidney Transplant Fund

Whether you are a transplant candidate on the waiting list, a grateful recipient, a selfless organ donor or member of a donor family, we are glad to be part of the incredible journey that is transplantation. If you have an organ donation story you’d like to share, email us, and you could be featured on our blog during National Donate Life Month in April.

These Families Were Touched By Transplant

April is National Donate Life Month.To raise awareness about the importance of organ donation and to celebrate transplant donors, we are sharing stories of HOPE from patients and families touched by transplant. Here are our first three transplant stories.

touched by transplant full

Touched By Transplant: Struggle and Triumph

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This is HelpHOPELive client Derek Avillanoza’s transplant journey.

I found out I would need a transplant in February of 2011. I became very ill. My doctor referred me to a nephrologist who told me the bad news, a conversation which I recall still today: “It’s obvious you will need a kidney. It’s just a question of when.” I was devastated. I started dialysis in June of 2011.

Honestly, I didn’t know that much about kidney transplants before I needed one myself. Then reality hit me. I educated myself, and tried to learn about everything concerning kidney failure. I am still learning and educating other people to this day.

My wife and I felt like we were on top of the world when we first found out we were a donor match through virtual testing. We got very emotional. We found out just days before the procedure that we would not be an appropriate transplant match: my body would reject my wife’s kidney because of higher antibody levels in my system. We were devastated, angry, disappointed and heartbroken. But after signing up for a paired kidney exchange, we experienced another cycle of intense emotions, this time positive, when we got the ‘final’ phone call in January of 2015.

I was absolutely nervous before the operation, because I didn’t personally know many people who had undergone a transplant. The transplant team at UC Davis was outstanding and very informative, letting me know exactly what to expect. I asked a whole bunch of questions!

The recovery process has been very humbling and has required a lot of self-discipline as I control my daily ritual. I have to take prescribed medications at a pre-appointed time twice a day, check my vitals twice a day, manage a strict diet to keep control of my diabetes, and fill out a daily transplant diary to monitor physical changes. I have to chart all of the medications I take (18 in the morning, 15 at night). Oh, and then there’s bloodwork twice a week, and a 6.5-hour drive every Tuesday to visit UC Davis. These steps are worth every minute – they extend my life. I am very thankful.

Friends and family have been very supportive, and I’m very grateful for their kindness and love. Without my wife’s constant urging, I would not even be here talking about my transplant today. I believe that we got married for a reason: she was sent down from heaven to be my angel.

I have had to medically retire from my career in government because of my illness. We were advised by the financial coordinator at UC Davis Transplant Center to pursue a fundraising campaign with HelpHOPELive to cover medical and relocation expenses related to the transplant. We continue to work with HelpHOPELive because we’ve started to receive medical bills associated with the transplant, and we are also incurring expenses related to the medications I need to stay healthy.

I am so blessed and grateful to have gone through this procedure. It has extended my life so that I can spend more time with my wife, children and grandkids.

These are the five words that describe my transplant journey: Grateful. Honored. Humbled. Overwhelmed. Emotional.


Touched By Transplant: A Sense of Destiny

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This is HelpHOPELive client David Ludwig’s transplant journey.

I really couldn’t believe it when I found out I needed a double lung transplant. I always thought my cystic fibrosis would have been cured before I reached that point. The whole idea of a transplant seemed far-fetched to me, and I knew very little about transplants prior to having one myself. All I knew was that post-transplant, you live on immunosuppressants for the rest of your life. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much time to learn more about my transplant before it occurred.

I never actually received “the call” telling me I would get a transplant. I had just survived multiple emergency surgeries, including a procedure prompted by my lung rupturing which caused me to bleed out internally. I had a pneumothorax while receiving treatment for a cystic fibrosis-related illness, and I was in critical condition when I was transferred to the Keck USC Medical Center for transplant.

My family was very supportive and so were the friends who found out about my circumstances later. My aunt found HelpHOPELive, and she and my mother used my Campaign Page to fundraise for me while I was incapacitated.

I felt very calm when they offered me the transplant. My life was at stake. I remember giving the resident surgeon a thumbs-up when he asked if I wanted the double lung transplant. I had a strange sense of comfort during the entire process, despite having large extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) tubes and a tracheostomy tube in my neck and additional tubes everywhere. A sense of destiny and the will to overcome seemed to envelop me during this time.

The recovery has been intensive, partially due to post-transplant kidney failure which lasted for six weeks. I was bedridden for several months, so I lost all muscle in my arms and especially in my legs. I had to learn how to walk again. I’m still building up stamina with my new lungs, and that has been the hardest part of the recovery process.

I have new expenses after the transplant to add to the expenses I have had to manage because of my cystic fibrosis. Now, in addition to anti-rejection medications, I take several drugs and numerous vitamins to offset the side effects of the immunosuppressants.

My future is optimistic. Cystic fibrosis is typically a death sentence, a 13- to 30-year time bomb. These new lungs have spared me from my original fate. I am forever grateful to my donor. My donor’s tragic loss has been my gain, and the same is true for many others. The biggest thing I’m looking forward to is playing a round of golf. Now, I will be able to do it without wheezing or breathing through the proverbial straw.

These are the five words that describe my transplant journey: Hope. Gratitude. Rebirth. Renewal. Happiness.


Touched By Transplant: Infectious Positivity

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This is HelpHOPELive client Josie Marie Setters’ transplant journey as told by her father, Chase Setters.  

My wacky and energetic 5-year-old daughter, Josie, was taken to a specialist at The Children’s Hospital at OU Medicine in Oklahoma City to evaluate recurring bladder infections. During preliminary checks, it was discovered that Josie’s blood pressure was upwards of 160/90. She was immediately admitted, and two days later, we learned that Josie had chronic kidney disease. Her kidneys were operating at around 30%.

Josie, now 8, remains wacky and energetic despite her diagnosis. Her infectious positivity and silliness have united our community around her. She needs a kidney transplant to survive, and we are hoping to get Josie the transplant she needs in the summer so she can continue to attend school like a normal 8-year-old.

I’m in Information Technology by profession, and I’ve always been a bit of a geek. In early 2015, I posted a Facebook link to Josie’s story and HelpHOPELive campaign. Less than 5 minutes after I posted the link, Wedge, a serial gamer and host of the YouTube channel TheManaSource reached out to me and asked permission to use my story. Next thing I knew, I was tagged in a video that Wedge had created specifically to help my daughter fundraise.

This gesture meant the world to me. Most of us can grasp the idea of selfless giving, but once you witness this miracle in person, it is no longer an idea. It manifests in an incredibly powerful and humbling way, and it becomes almost impossible to express the gratitude you feel towards those who contribute.

We have received donations through HelpHOPELive from contributors across the U.S. One-time strangers who got to know us through Wedge’s video have donated over $1,000 to help Josie. My company of 75 employees pulled together to donate over $10,000, which the company matched.

Is human nature good or evil? Maybe my view has been skewed as I’ve worked to fundraise for my daughter’s lifesaving transplant, but my resounding answer is that our nature is good.

These are the five words that describe my transplant journey so far: Fear. Acceptance. Limitations. Waiting. Hope.


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