April is National Donate Life Month, a commemoration that we and our patients love to celebrate. This year, Donate Life America, who launched the awareness month in 2003 with its partners, has chosen a special symbol to mark the month: a pinwheel.
As the organization explains, the imagery is “symbolic of an instrument that turns obstacles into opportunities. Each Donate Life pinwheel has four sails supported by one stem, symbolizing the power one person has to be an organ, eye, tissue or living donor. This April, we encourage you to stop to feel the breeze, watch the pinwheels and think of the lives of those touched by donation and transplantation.”
Since April 2016, 177 Help Hope Live patients have received life-changing transplants. Let’s hear some of their testimonies.
“Alive Again” with a Kidney and Liver
Brent Lauffer has fought congenital hepatic fibrosis (an inherited liver disease) since his teenage years. He received a liver/kidney transplant in January 2016.
“The liver is continuing to work and the new kidney is putting out urine!” he wrote in an update on his Help Hope Live campaign page. “As I now live, having received my liver and kidney transplants, I want to thank YOU for your help. You give me HOPE for a bright tomorrow. God bless you for your prayers and support.”
Brent speaks to some of the everyday blessings that came from the transplant, saying “it is amazing to wake up and NOT feel sick, hungry, and have to pee! I am alive and headed towards a real life again. I am so thankful for my friends and family and those whom I’ve never met who are supporting me.”
“I’m pictured here with George. He received the other kidney (from our deceased donor)!“
Brent fundraises for the Help Hope Live Mid-Atlantic Liver/Kidney Transplant Fund. Fundraising gives his community a way to tangibly support his transplant recovery journey. As one contributor wrote to Help Hope Live, “You are on the side of the angels with the work that you do.”
A Record-Setting Recovery
Living with end-stage renal disease and in need of a pancreas/kidney transplant, Kathe Wimberly Neely has been fundraising with Help Hope Live since 2011. She witnessed countless patients receive the gift of life as she prepared, year after year, for her own miracle. In February 2017, “the call” finally came.
“Two weeks ago, I received the call,” Kathe posted in March. “One week ago, I was discharged from the hospital–a record recovery, according to my medical team. Another record, according to my pharmacist: the fewest discharge meds she had ever seen. My healing has been amazing. Very few side effects–all very manageable. It’s all temporary and I will get through it with a smile.”
While the gift of life was long-awaited and personally impactful for Kathe, her post-transplant thoughts were with the donor: “That was probably the day a family was facing the greatest heartache one can even imagine. In my eyes, they were so brave to go through such a time while also making some decisions that would forever change my life and the lives of possibly many others with their gift of organ donation. This family, though I do not know who they are, is in my thoughts and prayers daily. This family is who I think of every single night as I fall asleep. I hope to know them one day when they are ready.”
Kathe’s life post-transplant includes a wealth of community support. “Life is grand,” she reported, as “each and every person I know and love brings sunshine to my life. I have met many new people along my journey, each one adding new rays and brightness to my appreciative and over-flowing heart. Again, words escape me.”
Sometimes the beauty of new life lies in the smallest details, as Kathe’s frequent updates highlight. “Couldn’t sleep, so I came downstairs to sit on the sofa because I can,” she posted. “I’m not tethered to a 15-foot tube that’s attached to a dialysis machine in my bedroom anymore. This is amazing!”
Kathe fundraises for the Help Hope Live South-Atlantic Kidney/Pancreas Transplant Fund. “Love how much you do for others,” she wrote to us. “Much love and thanks for the amazing work you do. I’m so glad to work with my Help Hope Live fundraising team on my transplant journey.”
New Lungs, New Life
Pat Donovan and his family were plagued by uncertainty when he was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a chronic lung disease where the cause is generally unknown and the only treatment is a double lung transplant. Pat was fortunate to receive a transplant in July 2016 after only 30 days on the transplant waiting list.
“The miracle of Pat’s transplant continues,” reads a recent update on his Help Hope Live campaign page. “Our gratitude is overflowing! April is Donate Life Month and we celebrate Pat, who is doing extremely well, slowly and steadily regaining strength at this stage of his recovery. Walking without [supplementary] oxygen was made possible by an organ donor! Pre-transplant, even simple activities left him gasping for breath and coughing relentlessly.”
Along with an incredible improvement in health comes the unfortunate and ongoing burden of transplant-related costs. “There is a need to continue to raise funds for uninsured transplant expenses,” explained an update. “The cost of radical dietary changes to stave off infection and organ rejection are real. Co-pays and deductibles are a concern for all of us. The daily medications he will need for a lifetime are literally a matter of life and death. Travel, lodging, and food for trips from Pat’s home in central Maine to the Boston transplant clinic are not as frequent, but they do come with a cost.
Pat fundraises for the Help Hope Live Northeast Lung Transplant Fund.
Fundraise to Sustain the Gift of Life
As Help Hope Live patients have expressed time and time again, a transplant can be an incredible opportunity for greater health and happiness, but it isn’t the end of the road. Fundraising can help to offset some of the lifelong financial burdens of life pre- and post- transplant, including testing, donor search fees, anti-rejection medications and medical travel for routine follow-up care.
Donate Life Month is a great opportunity to start or re-start a transplant fundraising campaign. Help Hope Live was founded in 1983 by a transplant surgeon and his wife, a nurse, who wanted to help more patients have access to transplant procedures. Since our founding, our community-based fundraising campaigns have provided more than $67 million in financial support to cover patients’ unmet transplant related expenses.
Stay tuned for a whole month of memorable Touched by Transplant stories, and keep your pinwheel spinning.