Tag Archives: lung transplant fundraising

Voices Of Hope: I Am Living Proof Of What An Organ Donor Can Do

Lauren Ann Arkens received a lung transplant in December 2015 after years of struggling with the effects of cystic fibrosis. She draws support from a strong community of friends and family members including her husband, Tyler. We asked Lauren and Tyler for their perspectives on fundraising and being there for the people you love.

Lauren Ann Arkens HelpHOPELive

Lauren Ann, Lily and Tyler Arkens


How did the reality of lung transplantation differ from your expectations?


Lauren: I had no expectations going in. I heard about what could happen and what was going to happen but nothing can prepare you for what actually happens. In a way, I am kind of happy I didn’t speak with anyone prior to my transplant because I think I would have been comparing what I am going through to what they are going through. Everyone is different and everyone’s experience is going to be different.

Lauren Ann Arkens HelpHOPELive

“Nothing can prepare you for what actually happens” during a transplant

Tyler: This is a really hard question. Personally, the only expectation I had was that life would be noticeably different, that the pieces would fall into place and I would simply deal with however they landed. I know I told a lot of people, “Everything will work out the way it should. Maybe not the way I want, but the way it should,” and I just left it at that.


What’s the worst part of life after transplant? What’s the best part?


L: The worst parts of life post-transplant are all the follow-up appointments and specialists I have to see. I see more doctors now that I am “healthy” than I did when I was sick and on the waiting list. The best part of life post-transplant is getting three hours back in my day when I used to have to use a vest and nebulizer treatments. Also all the energy I have, being able to move around, exercise, run and be a mom and wife. All of these things people may take for granted, but for me, the little things were the most difficult pre-transplant.

Lauren Ann Arkens HelpHOPELive

Lauren sees more doctors now that she is “healthy”

T: The worst part is by far the uncertainty. We had our fair share of hospitalizations when Lauren was still seeing her pulmonary doctors and we could usually tell when something wasn’t quite right; Lauren knew her body pretty well. Today, we have a new normal that we’re adjusting to. While Lauren might feel fine internally, there could be more going on, so when we visit, the uncertainty of whether or not Lauren is going to be hospitalized can be a little frustrating.

The best part is Lauren’s quality of life. She’s just happier. Things are fun and funny again. You can see her light up with joy when something touches her heart or fills her cup. She has a tremendous amount of energy, part of which is more oxygen in her system, and part of which is realizing that she’s really been provided another chance.

Lauren Ann Arkens HelpHOPELive

“You can see her light up with joy” again, said Tyler


Lauren, is your health journey completely over now that you’ve been transplanted?


L: Absolutely not! Being transplanted just adds another chapter. There is a lot of care that goes into maintaining new lungs. My transplant team has a home monitoring program that I have to do, I have lab work done once a week and I have appointments two to three times per month. It is never-ending but it is all for the better! This was a gift–a huge gift–and I don’t want to fail at it. My work is never going to end.

T: Lauren is a worker. I have described her as tenacious, consistent and determined. She understands what it takes to succeed. The expectations have been laid out and she doesn’t take it lightly. She understands the gift and the work required to keep it.

Lauren Ann Arkens HelpHOPELive

Lauren must work daily to keep her lungs healthy


What’s one thing about transplants you wish everyone knew and understood?


L: People don’t understand the time and money it takes to have a transplant. Medications are expensive, co-pays are high and some medications are not covered by insurance. There are hospital stays that may be unexpected plus regular appointments and procedures. None of this is easy. It can be draining mentally, physically, emotionally and financially.

Lauren Ann Arkens HelpHOPELive

Transplants are mentally, physically, emotionally and financially draining

T: There is so much that people don’t or can’t understand with regard to chronic illnesses and treatments. We’ve learned to give people the simplest answers and to operate from the mindset that every body is different and everyone’s response to treatment is different. It isn’t a simple process in which you check the boxes and reach a goal. This is a lifetime of learning, adjusting and adapting. That’s hard to explain [to others].

Lauren Ann Arkens HelpHOPELive

“Nurse Lily” helps mom with home health care


How did you learn about HelpHOPELive?


L: My transplant social worker told us about HelpHOPELive and said that many of her patients had great success with it. We decided to use HelpHOPELive because it was the best option for us. A family friend set up a campaign for us so we didn’t have to worry about it on top of everything else we were dealing with. One factor was that HelpHOPELive donations would be tax deductible for the person donating and we would not be taxed on the funds we requested for medical and related expenses.

Lauren Ann Arkens HelpHOPELive

Fundraising helps cover out-of-pocket medical needs

T: It was hands down the best program for us to fundraise with. As a nonprofit organization, it allows the patient to benefit the most and it gives people peace of mind when donating that their gift or donation will be used wisely and never for another purpose.


Why is fundraising important to you on this transplant journey?


L: To be honest and blunt, if it wasn’t for fundraising, I do not know how we would have afforded medication, gas for appointments, meals and three months of house and electric bill payments while I was off work. All of that has been HUGE and has made such a difference for us in not having to worry while recovering.

Lauren Ann Arkens HelpHOPELive

“I do not know how we would have afforded medication” without fundraising

T: Fundraising helps us afford the things we need for Lauren to survive. But it also provides us with a network of people who have really shown that they care about Lauren and her journey. It blows me away. Fundraising gives people peace of mind that they are supporting someone who really needs their help. Lauren is a real, live person with whom they can meet and she can give them credit and thanks for what they’ve done to support her journey. Finally, fundraising allows us an opportunity to pay it forward. We’ve been overwhelmed by the support, and that has motivated us to go out and give back on behalf of that community.


What advice would you give to someone who has just been added to the lung transplant waiting list?


L: Fundraise as soon as you get listed or even before. We benefited greatly from fundraising early. It made going into the transplant a little easier knowing we had money to pay for things we needed when we needed them.

T: Don’t think about the enormity of the situation and don’t let the weight of the unknown get to you. If you’re able, continue to live your life. Take care of yourself and handle your business every day. That’s all you can do. Then, when your time comes, just focus on the instructions you’ve been given and execute.


How important are friends and family members during this process?


L: It’s extremely important to have friends and family involved in the process. If it wasn’t for the support we received, whether financial or through prayers, I don’t know where we would be today. It took a lot of pressure off of my husband during my period of recovery so he didn’t have to handle everything. People care and they are often amazed at what a person can go through and how they can recover.

Lauren Ann Arkens HelpHOPELive

Friends and family support Lauren with “Lungs N Roses” shirts

T: We’ve developed a very close, tight-knit group of people we can count on when we need to. Interestingly enough, it’s not the people you see or talk to the most who will step up when you need them the most. It’s the people who, when you see them, you feel like you can pick right back up where you left off.

Support for us has come in a lot of different forms. We had a small team that set up meals, household chores, donations, gift cards, taking our daughter, Lily, to and from school and staying overnight while Lauren was hospitalized and recovering. We’ve benefited greatly by creating different ways for people to help and giving them options.


Tyler, can caregiving during a transplant change a relationship?


T: It creates a different dynamic for each relationship. My relationship with Lauren changed a lot. Lauren was in survival mode and despite not wanting the help (she has a strong will), she needed it. It’s hard to ask for help. From my perspective, all I wanted for Lauren was to feel well. I had to adjust to the new dynamic of our lives. There is always a give and take in every relationship. You really have to open yourself up to give yourself to someone and accept someone.

Lauren Ann Arkens HelpHOPELive

“My relationship with Lauren changed a lot,” said Tyler


Are you an advocate for organ donation?


L: I am living proof of what an organ donor can do. It is a chance at a better life. My life was so restricted pre-transplant, and now, what I can do is endless.

T: Yes; the obvious reason for that is because I’ve seen someone’s life change completely. But even if our result wasn’t as positive as it has been, I would continue to be an advocate. We’re all called to give life. We need to discover that giving life has many different meanings and it looks different for everyone. If we’re all really trying to give life, why not give part of yourself to someone who needs it?

Lauren Ann Arkens HelpHOPELive

Tyler celebrates his wife’s transplant journey


What does the word HOPE mean to you?


T: Hope is knowing that no matter what you’re going through, there is something better on the other side. It is contagious and inspiring and if we’d just let it, it would change our world.

L: Hope means believing that there is something better for you. And whatever Tyler said!

Lauren Ann Arkens HelpHOPELive

“There is something better on the other side.”


Learn more about Lauren and Tyler’s journey at helphopelive.org. Find out how you can support a spouse or loved one with their out-of-pocket transplant expenses by reaching out to HelpHOPELive on Twitter.

Five Myths About Caregiving

“The word ‘caregiver’ often conjures up the image of someone who stands next to a bed distributing pills or wiping a brow. In reality, a caregiver takes on numerous roles.  For me, becoming a caregiver after my husband’s diagnosis has meant taking on the responsibility of all the household tasks, jobs that my husband and I used to divide up and share. Almost every single task is now done by me, from financial planning and home repairs to car maintenance and the bulk of parenting.

caregiving

“Almost every single task is now done by me”

Here’s an example of how our lives look different now. Braden and I used to enjoy working outside in the yard together. He would take on the larger, heavier jobs such as trimming weeds, mowing and using the snow blower.  Now, all of that falls on me. Being a caregiver has also made me the ‘practice coach’ for our children as they participate in sports, something Braden enjoyed doing before the days of oxygen tanks when he could run and move around easily. Many times I feel like a single parent, taking on things I never thought I would have to do by myself.

single parent

“Many times I feel like a single parent”

With that in mind, I would like to share some of the misinformation I’ve dealt with as a caregiver. Statistics are from this source.


Myth 1: Caregivers are middle-aged mothers, wives and daughters.


Although I fall into this category, statistics show that today about 40% of caregivers are men, and many caregivers are between the ages of 18 and 34.

caregiver

40% of caregivers are men, many between 18 and 34


Myth 2: Caregiving is done in addition to someone’s full-time job.


In reality, about a third of caregivers quit their jobs or reduce their hours in order to care for a loved one. In many cases, caregiving becomes the person’s full-time job and their career is put on hold.

job stress

A third of caregivers reduce their hours or leave their jobs entirely


Myth 3: People already know how difficult caregiving can be.


Many caregivers suffer in silence and do not ask for help. This is another category I fall into at times. People who help take care of a loved one often have generous or strong personalities and either do not like to or do not know how to ask for help.

help

“People are unaware of the magnitude of the work a caregiver is undertaking”

The problem with not reaching out is that it creates a deficit of support: often other people are unaware of the magnitude of the work a caregiver is undertaking or the stress the caregiver is under. Which leads to this fourth myth…


Myth 4: Caregivers should always be positive and shouldn’t complain.


There is a fine balance for me between sharing personal details to keep people informed and maintaining privacy.  Our family tries to maintain a positive outlook, so talking openly about the illness and related problems was a challenge until we learned several key things.

happy

Are caregivers allowed to express their frustrations and difficulties?

First, we are not alone in our experience; most people have been touched by something similar. Second, dealing with these issues has enriched our lives. Being able to share our challenges provides us the chance to not only help others but to help ourselves, too. The updates we share on Braden’s HelpHOPELive campaign page are a wonderful opportunity to keep our family and friends informed and discuss caregiving as well as Braden’s journey towards transplantation.


Myth 5: Caregiving is a thankless job.


Being a caregiver is stressful and often discouraging, and it can be overwhelming.  But caregiving is also very rewarding at times.  Some caregivers experience an emotional and spiritual sense of fulfillment. Taking care of someone you love provides opportunities to grow closer and form bonds with each other and other members of your family or support network.

Understanding and dispelling these caregiving myths may help us to seek assistance, gain support and lessen some of the stress we encounter as we help take care of someone we love.”

Braden Richards HelpHOPELive

Beth is the wife and caregiver of HelpHOPELive client Braden Richards


Beth is the wife and caregiver of Braden Richards, who is fighting a rare autoimmune disorder. Braden and Beth are fundraising with HelpHOPELive for the out-of-pocket costs associated with a lifesaving lung transplant.

My Life As A Father And Grandfather Who Needs A Transplant

Kappy Pease is a father and grandfather living with a severe lung disease. He is on the waiting list for a lifesaving double lung transplant. We asked Kappy about his perspective on balancing fatherhood and the challenges of life on the transplant waiting list.


Why Fundraising Works For Us


Since my first visit to the hospital where a social worker suggested we begin a fundraiser to help us with the costs of transplantation, my family has come together and has been very helpful in their efforts to work with HelpHOPELive. So far, because of their dedication, we have been very successful.

Each of my kids has taken time out of their busy life to take some of the burden off of my wife, Theresa, and I, both physically and emotionally. They have each stepped up in their own way and have been very supportive. I know I could not do this without all of them.

Kappy Pease HelpHOPELive

“I could not do this without all of them.”

Although my insurance will cover most of the transplant procedure, there are many hidden and unexpected costs not covered. The expenses begin long before the procedure takes place and they last a lifetime, including travel, lodging, parking and food during countless hospital visits and the unpaid time off that my wife will take in order to care for me after the procedure. Most of all, fundraising will help contribute to the cost of the (antirejection) medications I will need to take for the rest of my life after the transplant.

I have found that much of the support I receive comes from old friends who have learned about my time of need through social media and our HelpHOPELive campaign. Working with HelpHOPELive has been a very positive experience. Their knowledge and support has been very helpful to someone who had no prior experience with fundraising.

Kappy Pease HelpHOPELive

HelpHOPELive provided custom fundraising materials and more.


How My Family Supports Me


It has been very rewarding to watch my kids grow and begin to start their own families. I am very proud to say that they have each become very successful in their own way. I’m humbled by the compliments I have received about my kids. The way they have stepped up for me during this time makes me feel like my wife and I raised an amazing family.

Kappy Pease HelpHOPELive

Family members “have stepped up for me during this time.”

At this point in my life, I feel closer to my kids than ever before. Before my diagnosis, I worked very long hours that caused me to miss out on a lot of my five kids’ daily lives and activities. I especially missed getting to watch their sports games, because sports are something that are very special to both me and my kids.

I feel that the physical limitations of my disease have been more challenging as a grandfather than as a father. My kids are adults now, and they need me more as an advisor and a part of their emotional support system.

Kappy Pease HelpHOPELive

A transplant will help Kappy spend more quality time with his grandkids.

Since my diagnosis, I have been given the chance to spend more time with all of them and grow closer to them; however, because of my disease, there are also many things we still cannot do together. The hardest part is my limited ability to play with my very young grandchildren. Once I get the transplant, I will hopefully be able to do many things that I have missed doing for the last 10 years. That includes golfing, hunting, fishing, playing with my grandkids and taking long walks with my wife.

My advice for a new father is, enjoy every moment because they grow up way too fast.

Kappy Pease HelpHOPELive

“Enjoy every moment” Kappy advises new fathers.


Learn more about Kappy or donate in his honor at helphopelive.org. If you know a father who needs help fundraising for a transplant, reach out to us today to learn how you can help.