Stories of Donation
Rey had a beautiful life. He was dedicated to raising his children and working hard to support his family. He suffered from diabetes, but never thought it might be life-threatening. Then, all of a sudden bad news arrived, he was in renal failure and he began dialysis. Rey attributed keeping his faith and hope intact, to his trust in God. In October, 2004 he received his second chance, his long waited miracle, a kidney transplant. In the years since, Rey has rarely been sick and experienced no complications. He is grateful to be enjoying his family, working in his garden, listening to music and spreading information about the importance of organ and tissue donation. Rey says, “We need to return all what we have been blessed with.”
Emanuel was born in the city of Jayuya, Puerto Rico. Surrounded by lush beauty and horses, he had a wonderful childhood, during which he played softball and excelled at track and field. One day, he began to feel fatigued and short of breath. Tests discovered Emanuel had Cardiomyopathy and needed a heart transplant. Emanuel was not convinced that the transplant was necessary and thought God was going to perform a miracle and cure him. He had a lot of faith but did not understand that his miracle was on its way in the form of a heart transplant from a girl that passed away in a car accident. Since then, Emanuel has met his donor’s mother, Maria and is back to life, enjoying his horses and his countryside rides.
Dr. Ernesto Fernandez
ACL tissue recipient
Dr. Fernandez is an avid sports enthusiast and it was while enjoying snow skiing, in 2005, he injured his knee resulting in bed rest. Not one to slow down, he tore his meniscus while playing tennis on a Mexican clay court shortly after. Thanks to a tissue donor, doctors repaired his knee and four days later he was able to walk. As a Neurologist at Southern Regional Medical Center, Dr. Fernandez says, “It comes back full circle for me. I am able to be on my feet and work with LifeLink of Georgia and donor families to carry out the donation process. And that’s possible because of my ACL repair.”
Angel’s health issues began in August 2011, when he was diagnosed with hepatic cirrhosis. In liver failure, Angel required a liver transplant to survive. He was placed on the waiting list at Auxilio Mutuo Hospital in Puerto Rico, which had just begun providing liver transplantation services. This was a blessing for Angel, as patients seeking liver transplantation had previously had to go to the continental United States to wait. “I prayed for that to happen and to be able to go through that process surrounded by my entire family.” On Good Friday, Angel received the call and that Saturday he came out of surgery with a new liver; a second chance. “I am grateful to God, my donor and LifeLink for this incredible miracle.”
Denna struggled with adhesions on her bowel early in life, and endured yearly surgeries to remove them however, in time, they would always grow back, seemingly worse than before. As a supervisor for the Ohio Correctional System and a mom of five, Denna was always on the go, but was forced to retire early when her illness accelerated to a diagnosis of gastro paresis – a medical condition consisting of a partial paralysis of the stomach, resulting in food remaining in the stomach for an abnormally long time. After a multi-organ transplant during which Denna, a self-proclaimed Diva, received a new stomach, small bowel, pancreas, and duodenum, she enjoys spending time with her family, volunteering, going to church, and expanding her shoe collection. “Stilettos are a girl’s best friend!” says Denna, “My motto is ‘If I look good on the outside, I will feel good on the inside.’” Denna absolutely loves volunteering with LifeLink of Florida . “I do not know my donor or their family, but I make it my mission to honor them every day while volunteering; they gave me life.”
Tissue Donor Family
Mackenzie’s parents remember her as loud, funny and a loyal friend. The oldest of four, Mackenzie was a country girly-girl, comfortable in cowgirl boots or high heels, and enjoyed listening to country music and line dancing. Her free time was spent volunteering at her local animal shelter, and with her canine best friend, rescue pup, Sadie. Sadly, Mackenzie’s life ended in a car accident when she was 23 years old. “Mackenzie treasured and lived life fully while she was here,” says her mom, Kelly, “She was always ready to try new things and loved being adventurous.” Her love for Sadie showed her giving and kind spirit –one that continues on in recipients who received donated tissue thanks to Mackenzie’s generosity as a tissue donor.
Double Lung Recipient
Dorothy felt limited by pulmonary fibrosis, a respiratory disease which leads to serious breathing problems. She was on oxygen full-time and could not walk without gasping for air. Since her double lung transplant, Dorothy is able to breathe fresh air without her oxygen tank and enjoy walking for exercise. “I owe it all to God who is true to His word that He would never leave nor forsake me, and to the donor family who has given me the opportunity to breathe again.”
After years of being misdiagnosed with congestive heart failure, it was determined Will had a rare disease, amyloidosis, which occurs when a substance called amyloid builds up in the organs. Limited treatment options left Will with one answer – a heart transplant. After 47 days in ICU and a thirteen hour surgery, Will remembers waking up to his nursewho told him he had a new heart and liver. Will has a renewed, stress-free life after transplant – he spent a month in Paris last summer, and has renewed energy to pursue his hobby of cooking. He owes it all to his donor, “I celebrate my donor and their family, not a single day goes by that I don’t think of them.”
Gerald José Otero Costas died while doing what he enjoyed, spending time with friends. After this tragic event, his family made the decision to give others life through organ donation. Gerald was a sensitive and caring young man, and a strong role model for his brothers. A man with great values, Gerald always made his family proud. He is remembered by a memorial tree that his family and friends planted in a local park to represent his passion for sports and his generosity. Awilda, his mom says; “Gerald will always be remembered and profoundly loved”.
Silas was four months old when his mom, Amanda, noticed his breathing changed. A quick trip to the pediatrician turned into a life flight to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta – Egleston. Silas was immediately sedated, placed on a ventilator and diagnosed with mitochondrial dilated cardiomyopathy, a serious heart condition. Weeks turned into months and Silas was placed on a tiny heart pump that maintains blood flow in babies and small children with serious heart failure. About three months later, Silas received his life-saving heart transplant. “Thank you doesn’t seem like enough,” says Amanda, “I don’t know his donor family, but their child is a part of my child so that makes them my family.” Today, Silas enjoys being a toddler who plays with cars and guitars – a love passed to him from his dad, Chris the base guitarist for Casting Crowns.
María Teresa “Tere” Pérez Muñoz
Six years ago, Tere’s life was forever changed when her son, Manuel, a 26 year old psychology graduate, had a fatal accident while riding an ATV. Without hesitation and knowing Manuel’s wishes, his parents donated his organs, saving the lives of six people. Manuel was always happy, smiling and had a great sense of humor. His gentle manners distinguished him from the rest of the guys his age and he shared interests with his mother, like triathlons and baseball, even participating in some events together. Tere says her son is her inspiration and that through sports she has been able to overcome his loss. She is an avid and joyful Zumba instructor and has accomplished her son’s dream to participate in the Iron Man 70.3 competition in Puerto Rico, where she lives.
Life as an attorney can be draining, but add into the equation diabetes and, eventually, kidney failure and dialysis, and Roosevelt struggled daily while he waited for a kidney transplant. When he received the call that a kidney was available for him, Roosevelt couldn’t believe the wait was finally over. He says, “I appreciate life so much more these days. I am forever grateful to the family who gave me my life back.” He is now able to continue as an attorney and even sit behind the bench as a Municipal Court Judge because of the gift he received.
During routine tests for his annual physical, doctors noticed an alarming issue and rushed David to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at a local hospital. Numerous tests and 40 days in ICU later, doctors determined that his liver and kidneys were failing. David was placed on the waiting list for a liver transplant and, amazingly, just 36 hours later, he received his gift of life. During the worst of his illness, the origins of which were never determined, David adopted the motto “Stop thinking ‘Why Me?’ and start thinking ‘Why Not Me?’ He tells his story today to encourage others, is an author and Executive Director at a performing arts and community center. “Because someone gave me the gift of life, I was able to see my son graduate high school, and I was able to get married,” says David, “I’m now able to watch my three children excel in college.”
Chronic high blood pressure affected George’s kidneys, which led to dialysis and a spot on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. George received his second chance at life in 2005 and since then has worked to promote and educate the community on the importance of organ and tissue donation as a volunteer for LifeLink of Puerto Rico. He went back to college and completed a degree in social work and is now in the process of earning a master’s degree. He shares his life with his wonderful wife and is always willing to share his testimony. He always says “I live because of my donor and my donor lives in me”.
Nearly seven months into his wait for a kidney and pancreas transplant, Brian underwent the procedure that would cure his kidney failure, as well as type 1 diabetes he had lived with the previous 38 years. Thanks to an organ donor, Brian feels chapters have been added to the story of his life which includes events such as becoming a certified scuba rescue diver, a public speaker to give hope to those facing a similar journey and a published author. Brian speaks of his donor family with many emotions saying, “Someone decided to turn a loss into a legacy during their unimaginable grief, and because of their precious gift, I can literally fly again by returning to my passion as a skydiving instructor.”
Lilliam, a Commerce high school teacher in her native Caguas, Puerto Rico, faced a radical life change one morning when, driving her girls to school, she collapsed from a heart attack. She was taken to the hospital where tests revealed her heart function was seriously affected and Lilliam would need a heart transplant. In October, 2005 Lilliam received a new heart from a complete stranger that saved her life, and brought her back to health, and to her daughters and husband, Rafael. Since her transplant, Lilliam and her family help raise awareness about organ and tissue donation and give back to the community in honor of good blessings their family has received, and the donor who made them possible.