Tag Archives: living kidney donor

6 People Who Inspire Us With Courage, Strength and Selflessness

Our signature fundraising gala Live It Up! kicks off at 6 p.m. on Friday, September 23, 2016 with a VIP reception for our generous sponsors and this year’s Live It Up! Awardees. Doors for the main event open at 7 p.m. Get your tickets today!

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Each year we honor individuals who have impacted our organization and their communities with their bravery, selflessness and strength with our annual Help, HOPE and Live Awards.


This year’s Help Award goes to…The Zeldathon Team for excellence in fundraising.


In December 2015, a group of avid video game players and live streamers joined forces for a 150-hour “The Legend of Zelda” gaming marathon. Streaming their activities live, the gamers collected donations for HelpHOPELive throughout the course of the marathon. Gamers encouraged donations from viewers at home by initiating “donation trains” and incentives, turning watching gameplay into an interactive and collaborative philanthropic experience.

Zeldathon Hope raised over $250,000 for HelpHOPELive through the generosity of contributors in over 40 countries. The funds raised were used to meaningfully contribute to HelpHOPELive’s mission to support community-based fundraising support for people with unmet medical and related expenses due to cell and organ transplants or catastrophic injuries and illnesses and to provide one-time emergency assistance grants for families facing an immediate financial need due to a medical crisis.

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“We pursued HelpHOPELive because we wanted to work with a charity that could make a direct impact through donations,” explained Zeldathon executive director Matthew Moffit. “We’re creating something more than just a marathon – it’s a real community, dedicated to the forces of good.”

Moffit, Zeldathon assistant director Liz and spokesperson Brooke are among the dedicated gamers who devoted their personal time to planning, managing and streaming the nonstop gaming marathon. They hope to support HelpHOPELive’s mission again during a future Zeldathon.


The HOPE Award goes to…Maria Weaver-Hollowniczky and Elizabeth Casperite for living donation and organ donor awareness.


Liz Casperite was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease in 2005. Her kidneys grew from fist-sized to football-sized. She joined the transplant waiting list in 2013, facing an average wait time of 4 or 5 years.

Liz and her family initiated a social media push to help Liz cut her wait short by finding a living kidney donor. Maria Weaver-Hollowniczky, a friend of a friend, saw Liz’s social media efforts and felt moved to step forward as a potential living donor.

Liz received the gift of life from Maria on September 17, 2015. Liz and Maria became inseparable during transplant preparations and have stood by each other ever since, partnering to share their story and lobby Congress in support of living donor protection legislation. They attended the 2016 Transplant Games in Cleveland, Ohio.

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Fundraising with HelpHOPELive will be an ongoing effort for Liz, who still faces post-transplant medical expenses from co-pays and travel for follow-up appointments to a lifetime of expensive antirejection medications. Liz must maintain Medicare A and B coverage until 2018 to financially protect Maria in case of post-transplant complications—something they hope to change for future living donors through their advocacy of the Living Donor Protection Act.


The Live Award goes to…John Michael LeMoine for inspiration after injury.


In July 2014, John Michael LeMoine was an Air Force airman enrolled in a firefighting technical school. On a day off, John was goofing around on the beach with his buddies. To avoid hitting a child playing on the beach, John jumped into the air to try to flip over him. He kept the child safe but shattered his cervical spine in the process.

It took six weeks of intensive therapy before John could wiggle his big toe.

John devoted himself to exercise-based therapy. Once insurance stopped covering his physical therapy, he turned to HelpHOPELive to fundraise for a lifetime of out-of-pocket medical and related expenses. In March 2015, John was able to stand independently for the first time since his injury.

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John and his mother, Lori, document his progress and his post-injury adventures, including skydiving, off-roading and adaptive sports with support from the Air Force Wounded Warrior program. “He can now make a sandwich,” Lori wrote in February 2016. “It seems so simple, but this was an impossible task before. These small achievements give him his independence back.” John embodies what it takes to build an engaged, motivated and multi-faceted new life after injury.


This year’s awardees will be honored at Valley Forge Military Academy’s Mellon Hall on September 23 from 7 to 11 p.m. among HelpHOPELive’s generous local supporters, board, staff and friends. Join us to celebrate the incredible milestones clients, volunteers and donors achieved in 2016!

5 Major Transplant Headlines You Missed

Here are some of the milestones and newsbreaks that have touched transplant families since this time last year.


5. Scientists 3D Print Human Body Parts


After a decade of research, scientists managed to engineer functional human body parts including bones, muscles and ears.

Lab grown organ

Will lab-grown organs replace donor organs? Photo via source.

Quote: “This technology could potentially be used to print living tissue and organ structures for surgical implantation.”

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4. Total Artificial Heart Could Eliminate Transplants


After a 60-year break, the total artificial heart (TAH) is being revisited as a potential permanent implant that would eliminate the need for heart transplants.

Total Artificial Heart

Diagram of a Total Artificial Heart. Image via UCLA.

Quote: “There are people that are desperate for this technology…I think it has the potential to save a lot of people’s lives”

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3. Ending The Waiting List…In Our Time?


In addition to lab-grown organs, bioprinting and cold storage could dramatically improve circumstances for transplant candidates on the waiting list.

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Will bioprinting and cold storage end the waiting list? Image via source.

Quote: “We can expect the first fully engineered bioidentical no-immune-suppression-needed organ transplant in humans within 10 years.”

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2. Have Money, Will Transplant


A study indicates that wealthy people are more likely to secure a transplant and less likely to die while waiting for one.

Money organ transplant

Can money get you on a shorter waiting list? Image via source.

Quote: “It takes money and knowledge…traveling can make a huge difference in how quickly you get an organ.”

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1. Incompatible Donors Can Donate A Kidney


Donors may now be able to give a kidney to an incompatible recipient through a process called desensitization.

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Incompatible kidney donation is now possible. Image via source.

Quote: “Desensitization…can cost about $30,000 [but] dialysis would rack up a higher price tag and a considerably lower quality of life.”

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Did a health headline touch your family this year? Reach out to us on Facebook and share the stories that moved you.

I Gave My Kidney To Someone I’d Never Met

In 2014, Debra Brock was facing chronic renal failure after a 30-year battle with insulin-dependent diabetes. A mother of three, grandmother of six and great-grandmother of five, Debra knew she wouldn’t be able to continue supporting her family without a kidney transplant. That’s when family friend Amy Krontz made an incredible decision: she started the process of becoming a living donor for Debra, a woman she had never met.

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How are you and Debra connected?


Amy: Debra’s sister and I had worked in some volunteer groups together, which is how I found out that she needed a donor. We did not meet until I received final approval to be her living kidney donor.

Amy and Deb Brock HelpHOPELive

Living donor Amy with Deb Brock


What made you decide to donate to someone you didn’t know?


Amy: Debra’s sister posted on Facebook about their family’s need to find a kidney donor and that they were fundraising with HelpHOPELive. I recalled the pictures and posts that expressed Debra’s importance as the primary matriarch in a very close and involved family. I was particularly moved by her role in her grandchildren’s lives. I realized that such a positive, loving influence would be a tragic loss. Once I found out that Debra had gone through dramatic weight loss and had taken measures to control her diabetes but that her kidney damage was still too severe to reverse, I wanted to try to help.

Deb Brock HelpHOPELive

Deb is the “matriarch” of her family, says Amy


What were the preparations like?


Amy: I was tested beginning in February 2014 and I donated in August 2014. I had a few blood draws, a 24-hour period of urine collection and a 3-hour glucose test. I also took part in an educational appointment in which I was thoroughly informed about the procedure, including what to expect and all of the possible complications related to living donation.


What would have happened if Debra didn’t get a kidney?


Amy: Debra would likely still be on daily dialysis and would be experiencing complications with not just her kidneys but with other organ systems by now.

Debra: I would have continued with dialysis and prayed for more time to look for donors. Before Amy donated her kidney to me, every day I was faced with death.

Deb Brock HelpHOPELive

“Every day I was faced with death” before the transplant, says Deb


How did the gift of life impact your health?


Debra: The big difference is, I feel terrific! I actually enjoy going to the bathroom now because of my improved kidney function. I have freedom to plan activities with my family and not worry about bringing along my dialysis equipment.

Amy: The procedure was easier to endure than I had imagined. I was well-informed and experienced less post-operative pain and recovery than I had initially anticipated. The risks involved in being a living donor are very small, and making some healthy lifestyle changes has helped me to avoid any complications. A little bit of my time and minor pain for a couple of weeks afterward were small sacrifices to enrich and extend the life of another.

Ultimately, my life has not been compromised in any way living with one kidney. Living donation vastly improves the chances of a successful transplant compared to deceased donor outcomes. If I had more kidneys to give, I would do it all over again, and I strongly encourage others to consider it as well.

Deb Brock HelpHOPELive

The gift of life has helped Deb return to her life with family and “new babies”


Amy, did fundraising provide you assistance as a living donor?


Amy: I was an unemployed nursing student when I donated. I was reimbursed for mileage and travel for testing and appointments related to the donation.


Debra, why do you fundraise with HelpHOPELive?


Debra: My kidney transplant social worker gave me materials to review, and I chose HelpHOPELive because of the reviews I read. I had enough concerns on my mind as I was preparing for the transplant, and HelpHOPELive eliminated my worries about money. Today, I fundraise for prescriptions, travel expenses for post-care treatment and funds in case any medical emergencies take place.

Deb Brock HelpHOPELive fundraiser

Deb and her family fundraise for ongoing post-transplant costs


Do you share a special bond today?


Amy: Most definitely. We remain in contact and I am very grateful for the experience and for Debra’s appreciation for each new day. The choice I made to become her donor is reaffirmed consistently through my interactions with Debra and her family.

Debra: 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. She has given me more time to spend with my family. I love her.


Debra, what does hope mean to you?


Debra: Hope means that there is a tomorrow!


touched by transplant fullWant to make a difference in the lives of kidney transplant recipients and living donors? Make a donation to the HelpHOPELive General Operating Fund today and help us support community-based fundraising campaigns for families.

Voices Of Hope: I Donated A Kidney To My Best Friend

Author and professional rock musician James Michael McLester was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease in his early thirties. He endured 13 years of regular hemodialysis before his best friend, Laura Suarez McCutcheon, offered to donate one of her kidneys to James to save his life. On December 9, James received the gift of life from Laura.

James Michael McLester living donor HelpHOPELive

Laura donated a kidney to her best friend, James


How did you find out that Laura was a compatible donor?


James: Laura and I were like brother and sister when we were involved in the same music scene in the ‘80s. We lost touch for twenty seven years. In June 2014, Laura sent me a message on Facebook asking about my life. I shared with Laura my new autobiography and a bit of my medical history. At the time, I was dependent on dialysis and I was coping with shortness of breath, fatigue, anxiety, hypertension and severe fluid restrictions. Laura volunteered and was tested as a living kidney donor for me at the Texas Transplant Institute in San Antonio, and she was a match.

Laura: I really didn’t think too much about it when I made the decision to get tested. I just wanted to help him. During the months that followed, I never gave it a second thought. By nature, I am a worrier, and I’d never had surgery before, but I knew this was the path God chose for me. I never had one second of apprehension.


What would your future have looked like without Laura’s gift?


James: As a professional musician, I was unable to tour overseas in several countries where dialysis is either unavailable or reserved for extremely wealthy citizens. I would have faced twenty to thirty years of dialysis three times every week. I would have had to endure continued stress and anxiety and an income decreased by 80 percent due to my dialysis schedule.

James Michael McLester HelpHOPELive

James would have faced ongoing health struggles without a donor


How did you feel knowing that she was willing to give the gift of life to you?


James: Before Laura, five different kidney donors were tested for me between 2007 and 2015, and each was unable to donate either because of medical reasons (blood type, health issues) or personal circumstances. After I enjoyed dinner and a long talk with Laura and her fiancé, Chris, we both started to feel comfortable proceeding with the kidney transplant work-up to determine her eligibility to donate. Laura exemplified unconditional love towards me. She is a giving friend to all who know her.

Laura: Once we found out I was a match, we were so excited, I think James was in shock!


Do you two share a special connection now?


James: Laura and I both love the Lord with all of our hearts and realize that He is our source for giving thanks, walking in grace and mercy, and eternally growing in compassion. Everywhere we now travel in this life, we will illustrate a divine portrait of giving and receiving.

Laura: He is my best friend, brother and confidant. Our bond is unbreakable! Our relationship is one of true, honest love and respect.


What is the most exciting part of life after transplant?


Laura: James is very happy post-transplant! He’s making plans and looking forward to his future and the possibilities it holds. I love to see him smile!

James: I can now look forward to touring with my various musical projects, traveling, starting a family, and continuing to share my story for God’s glory.

James Michael McLester HelpHOPELive

James looks forward to touring with several bands post-transplant


Do you still have medical expenses to cover with fundraising?


James: I am responsible for a Medicare supplement policy with an out-of-pocket cost of $385 per month. Thirty-six months after my transplant date, Medicare will terminate my coverage and I will be fully responsible for all transplant-related medical expenses for the rest of my life. The expensive anti-rejection medications I have to take for my lifetime are out-of-pocket expenses that will cost me hundreds or thousands every month. With that said, there’s no guarantee that I will be able to push myself to return to full time work for another few months now that the transplant has happened, so my income is still not what it was before I switched to part time work. That’s why I continue to fundraise with HelpHOPELive even after the transplant.


Laura, would you recommend living donation to someone else?


Laura: I recommend organ donation to everyone. It’s an important decision, and one that must be understood and offered from a place of pure love. It’s an amazing experience! It wasn’t until after our surgery that I really realized, I saved James’ life. Wow! What a gift God has given me! If I had to do it over, I would. Give life! There is no greater gift.

James Michael McLester HelpHOPELive

Laura and the rest of James’ community came together in support


Follow James’s recovery story at helphopelive.org.

A 77-Year-Old Donates A Kidney To Save His Son

On October 15, 2015, 77-year-old Bill Graham, Sr. became the oldest living kidney donor ever recorded at the University of Maryland Medical Center as he donated a kidney to his son and HelpHOPELive client, Andy. The transplant was a lifesaving gift for Andy, who had been fighting end-stage renal disease since 2013.

Andy is described as a “kind and generous man” by his mother, Mary Lou. He and his family were blindsided two years ago when he was diagnosed with acute renal failure despite exhibiting no symptoms or sign of the diagnosis. The unknown autoimmune disease that deteriorated Andy’s kidneys required him to receive dialysis three days each week.

Andy Graham dialysis HelpHOPELive

Andy received dialysis weekly

Andy became unable to officiate high school football games, a pre-diagnosis passion, and he could no longer maintain his fulltime job as an auto industry manager. Within 2 years, even climbing stairs or walking short distances became a major challenge. Andy needed a miracle –and that’s when his father stepped in.

Andy Graham Bill Graham HelpHOPELive

Andy with his donor Bill and his dog Angel

77-year-old Bill Graham, Sr. offered to donate a kidney to save his son’s life. To become a viable living donor, Bill lost a whopping 53 pounds at the request of Andy’s transplant team. “The doctors were truly amazed at his good health,” said Mary Lou. “He was so happy to be able to give his son the gift of a new life. Surgery was a complete success and the guys are on the road to recovery.”

Andy Bill Graham HelpHOPELive

Bill Sr. and Andy are in good health

In a letter, Mary Lou thanked their generous friends and family members, who helped the transplant take place through their donations. With both donor and recipient now in good health, Andy and his family will still face multiple expenses related to the transplant, including expensive immunosuppressant medications that he will need to take for the rest of his life. Andy and his family continue to fundraise with HelpHOPELive to help offset those uninsured expenses and cover any unanticipated expenses that may arise.

Learn more about Andy and his transplant journey on his HelpHOPELive Campaign Page.

 

Meet HOPE Award Honoree Jim Melwert

Each year at HelpHOPELive’s annual fundraising event, HelpHOPE-Live It Up!, we honor community heroes who prove why our mission matters with the Help, HOPE and Live awards. In 2015, we’re also giving out an Advocacy and Volunteer of the Year award.

This year, the HOPE award will go to KYW’s Jim Melwert for his selfless gift of life through living kidney donation.

Jim Melwert gold medal

We honor Jim Melwert for giving the gift of life.

In 2006, Jean DelMuto was struggling with the painful effects of polycystic kidney disease. Facing at least a 5-year wait for a kidney transplant, Jean’s health deteriorated so rapidly that her manager established an in-office cotthat she could use for the naps she needed to take just to make it through each workday. As Jean was entering some of the most challenging health circumstances of her life, her nephew Jim, made her a stunning offer: the gift of life.

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Jim Melwert with his aunt and recipient, Jean.

Jean’s nephew, Jim Melwert, is the Suburban Bureau chief for KYW Newsradio 1060. When he heard about his aunt’s struggles to secure the transplant she so desperately needed, Jim made the selfless decision to donate one of his kidneys to save her life. He made the life-changing donation on February 27, 2006, a date that he and his aunt will never forget.

For many, a transplant represents a “second chance” that can inspire recipients to make commitments to maintain their health and make the most of their future. Jim turned his gift to Jean into his own “second chance”: he began giving serious consideration to his own health, making a decision to start training for and participating in a series of impressive athletic challenges. Since giving a kidney to his aunt in February 2006, Jim has participated in competitions including Ironman events, the Transplant Games, 5k swims and Donor Dashes to honor other organ donors and recipients.

Jim Melwert Transplant Games gold medals

Jim, left, began participating in athletic competitions like the Transplant Games after giving the gift of life.

In 2013, Jim delivered a powerful address as the keynote speaker for the Gift of Life Donor Program’s Living Donor Recognition Ceremony. “As a reporter, our personal experience helps shape who we are and how we see the world,” said Jim. “Being a living kidney donor, I see the triumph of the human spirit, science and the human body. Every single donor [has] the courage, the love and the desire to make a difference. There are no words to explain how it feels to see the difference we’ve made.”

Jim Melwert Jean DelMuto Donor Dash transplant living donation donate life

Jim and Jean celebrate the gift of life together at a Donor Dash event.

HelpHOPE-Live It Up! logo Live It Up! Live It Up 2015 annual event charity galaOn October 16, 2015, HelpHOPELive will honor Jim Melwert for giving the gift of life with our signature HOPE award. Join us to celebrate the power of transplantation, selfless giving and second chances.