Tag Archives: touched by transplant

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.

These Families Were Touched By Transplant

April is Donate Life Month, an opportunity to recognize and celebrate how organ donors and transplants have made a difference for families facing a medical crisis. Since April 2015, 167 HelpHOPELive clients have received life-altering transplants. Here are just a few of their stories.

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A Transplant Can Change Your Life…


Terry, one month post-transplant: “To watch a man, a Marine Corps veteran, who has been robust and active all his life, become tired and sick and age overnight due to failing kidneys was torture for those who know and love him. Now, however, to watch that same man laugh and smile again less than 12 hours after receiving the amazing gift of renewed life through his daughter’s donated kidney is beyond words.”

Terry Cobb HelpHOPELive

Terry with his faithful friend


Deanna, two years post-transplant: “Deanna celebrated two years post liver transplant this past Saturday. Every day I look at her and think, “Wow, little girl, you are a miracle.”

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Deanna proudly represents the gift of life


Emily, one month post-transplant: “Multiple family members, church friends and former classmates called to be tested for Emily, but her donor ended up being a near stranger–someone she had only worked with for a month when the donor discovered Emily’s need and said it was always a dream to donate a kidney. The two are no longer strangers!”

Emily Roush HelpHOPELive

Emily with her “reasons to live!”


Rick, seven months post-transplant: “I’ve got a new lease on life now. I can look forward to seeing my family and my grandkids again. I have realized that I can do this and I see the light at the end of the tunnel…there’s a lot more hope than there used to be.”

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Rick’s gift of life


Rachelle, 10 months post-transplant: “Today was my last day of chemo! Wednesday I celebrate my new stem cell birthday!!! Thanks for helping us get our life back!


Dudley: “I had a successful kidney transplant on March 3,2016. I could not have done it without your support and generous donations. I hope to…return to life with my new kidney, which has given me a new lease on life.”

Dudley Edmondson HelpHOPELive

Dudley (left) with his donor


Amy, one year post-transplant: “I feel outstanding! No longer need supplemental oxygen or a wheelchair! I am getting my life back!! Thank you all so much from the bottom of my heart!!! Every breath is a gift.

Amy E Burriss HelpHOPELive

Amy received “a perfect new set of lungs!”


…But A Transplant Can Also Be Financially Devastating


A transplant is not a fix-all solution. Life post-transplant may include unexpected out-of-pocket expenses and additional medical and financial concerns:

cost of transplant

Transplants come with a lifetime of expenses

“My employer’s leave of absence gives me…12 weeks [but] I am due to be out for three months. It looks like I will be out for 6 weeks unpaid.

“It’s been over 3 months and she’s just now NOT feeling awful. Now her function and counts are improving so we again have hope she will have some normalcy soon.”

“I am still unable to work and expect to be in financial dire straits for the next year.”

We were not prepared for the post-transplant care expenses. That has taken a financial toll on our family. Some things you have to take into account are lodging, rent or mortgage payments while you relocate, meals, gas, airfare, and lab and biopsy expenses, which are ongoing, frequent and costly.”

“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 that I have to take for my lifetime are out-of-pocket expenses that will cost be hundreds or thousands every month.”


Fundraising Can Make A Difference!


touched by transplant fullA transplant is not the end of the journey. After a transplant, families may face a lifelong list of out-of-pocket medical expenses. That’s why HelpHOPElive is here to help transplant recipients and their families fundraise for a lifetime of transplant-related expenses, from immunosuppressant medications to follow-up medical visits and emergency care.

This video highlights how fundraising with HelpHOPELive can impact an individual’s life before, during and after a transplant. Visit helphopelive.org today to start or re-ignite a transplant fundraising campaign.

Touched By Transplant: What It Feels Like To Get A Heart

In August 2015, John “Skeeter” Coleman was diagnosed with end-stage heart failure. In October 2015, Skeeter and his family began fundraising with HelpHOPELive to prepare for a lifesaving heart transplant. This is the story of how Skeeter received his new heart.

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I was the “best of the worst,” the doctors said when they put me on the heart transplant waiting list. They said I’d have a heart within seven days. Fourteen days later, they told me to “keep up the positive attitude.” They told me my heart was coming.

John Skeeter Coleman HelpHOPELive heart transplant hospital

In the hospital with grandson Maxson

On the 21st day of waiting, a committee got together at the medical center to work out how to get me an LVAD as a bridge to transplant. No sooner had they convened, someone came into their meeting and said, “We just found a heart for Skeeter.” All the doctors I had worked with came running down to my room. I thought, “What is going on? This looks bad.” Then one of them came forward and said, “We found you a heart.” We hugged; it was a joyous moment.


The average wait time for a heart is about four months.


That night, the anesthesiologist came in with two orderlies to wheel me to the operating room. I said, “Let’s go. I’ve been waiting for this.” They took me to the elevator, and wouldn’t you know it, the bed got stuck and they couldn’t get it out! They kept trying and trying until I said, “This is crazy. Y’all just stop right here.” I got up, no shoes, no socks, rear end flapping in the breeze, and I said, “This is my last walk with this old heart. Leave that bed right there. We have a heart to transplant.”

They followed me right to the operating room. The doctors in the operating room were speechless, and then they all burst out laughing. That’s the last thing I remember before the operation.

Skeeter Coleman HelpHOPELive

With niece Tricia

The operation lasted six hours. When they brought me out into the recovery room, the doctor noticed I was passing a lot of blood, more blood than he had anticipated. They took me right back into the operating room, opened me back up, found a leak, repaired it, stitched me up, and I was put on a ventilator in the recovery unit for three days.

When I woke up, I couldn’t really move or see because of the anesthesia. All I saw was white. I thought I was dead. Then I heard a voice and the voice said, “Daddy!” It was my daughter’s voice.

“I can’t see you,” I said.

My daughter said, “It’s okay. You’re doing okay. But the Cowboys lost.”

And I said, “That’s terrible. But I’m alive?

She said, “Yes, you’re alive.”

Skeeter Coleman HelpHOPELive

With daughter Kelly

Five hours later I came out of the anesthesia fully, and I was alive. It was just wonderful. All my doctors came back in and told me I was doing okay. I still had in my breathing tube. The next day, the doctor just reached over and ripped it right out and said, “Take a deep breath.” That was like a miracle. I could breathe again. It was the greatest feeling in the world.

My daughter walked into the room with a stethoscope. I don’t even know where she got that thing from. She said, “How would you like to listen to your new heart?” That was amazing, just sitting there listening to the new heart beat.


62,754 people have received heart transplants since 1988 thanks to organs from deceased donors.


Fundraising For A Heart Transplant

I stayed in the hospital for almost a month as they adjusted my meds and looked for signs of rejection. When I left the hospital, I was still getting blood drawn every week. I started a new medicine after a rejection scare that cost $1,000 out of pocket for one week’s supply–it wasn’t covered by medical insurance. That right there is why you need HelpHOPELive

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Skeeter stayed in the hospital for almost a month post-transplant

Today, I still have to return to the hospital every three weeks for heart biopsies and every two weeks for med adjustments and blood tests. That’s where HelpHOPELive donations have been incredibly helpful, for medications and doctor’s visit co-pays that are out of pocket, plus the cost of transportation. I go to cardiac therapy three days per week and physical therapy three days per week.

You never know from day to day what expenses you will get hit with. In therapy, for instance, they may recommend a special sling that isn’t covered by insurance, so you have to buy it outright. It costs $100. Then they say, well, you’re going to need this other special piece of equipment, too. That’s another out-of-pocket expense. These expenses can add up to the point that they eat you alive.

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Skeeter at the 10th biopsy of his new heart

Doctors may advise you to switch to different medications, or they may even double up on medications. Sometimes medical insurance only pays for a 30-day supply once a month, and they will not increase that to twice a month even if the doctors recommend it. Other times, you’ll get hit with a bill for something unexpected. I got a bill the other day for $38,675 for X-rays. You sit around and wait for answers, and you think, “How can I pay these bills? I can’t do it.” You just never know what’s coming. Insurance can’t pay for everything and neither can supplemental insurance. That’s why HelpHOPELive is important to me.

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“You just never know what’s coming,” said Skeeter, pictured with his old heart


According to data from 2012, 76.8% of heart recipients are still living five years post-transplant.


“I’m Glad They Kept Me Alive”

My advice to others is to stay positive and get rid of negative people. Concentrate on making other people aware of all of the good things that organ donation can do. I’ve got a positive attitude, and I try to stay busy fundraising, managing my finances and doing my exercises. I’m looking forward to figuring out how I can help people to be more aware of organ donation and what it means to be willing to donate their heart.

I woke up today. I can breathe. I can walk. I’m alive. I’m healthy. I have friends like all of you.

I’m glad they kept me alive. Life is good. Here I am, and I can see the sun shining.

With son Alan Coleman


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Follow our Blog to learn what happened when Skeeter met the wife and children of his heart donor!

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.

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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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