Sunday, February 28, 2010


2010 Winter Olympics: Chris Klug goes out with a flourish

By Rachel Bachman, The Oregonian

February 27, 2010, 6:48PM
klugend.JPGChris Klug finishes his last Olympics race.
WEST VANCOUVER, B.C. –Few people had Chris Klug in the elite eight of their men's snowboarding parallel giant slalom bracket.

Yet as he has done countless times before, Klug overcame the odds Saturday at Cypress Mountain to finish seventh in the Vancouver Winter Games. Klug's performance, cheered by about 100 fans from Colorado and Sisters, Ore., where he lives half the year, caps an Olympic career that spanned 12 years and three Games.

Not bad for a 37-year-old organ-transplant recipient who needed a sponsorship from Hooters this season to help pay his training bills.

klugfans.JPGChris Klug had his own cheering section at Cypress Mountain, most of them from Oregon or Colorado."That's a little bit tough, just to come up short," Klug said of losing in the quarterfinals. "But it was a lot of fun. I was really proud to be out here. Definitely tried to fight as hard as I could."

Jasey Jay Anderson of Canada won the gold, beating Austria's Benjamin Karl in the head-to-head-format final. Mathieu Bozzetto of France won the bronze medal when his opponent in the third-place race, Russia's Stanislav Detkov, was disqualified on his second run. The other U.S. rider, Tyler Jewell of Steamboat Springs, Colo., finished 13th.

Dozens of red foam "No. 1" fingers with Klug's name on them bobbed in the stands. Someone held up a sign that read "Donor Dudes." On a rainy/snowy day with fog like clam chowder, Klug appeared to have the largest, most resilient cheering section.

"I'm gonna go up there and jump in the crowd and say hi to them all in a minute," said Klug, who has been on the racing circuit for 20 years. "If this is my last competitive season, I'm really stoked to be here."

Klug was 16th after two qualifying runs, barely making the 16-man competition field. Just as in the NCAA basketball tournament, Klug was matched with the No. 1 seed, top qualifier Andreas Prommegger of Austria.

In parallel giant slalom, two snowboarders race one another twice on side-by-side courses, with the time differential carrying over to the second run. So if a racer finishes .25 seconds ahead in the first run, his opponent must start .25 seconds behind him in the second run. Klug finished .88 ahead of Prommegger in the first run, then beat him on the second run.

"I mean, to come in 16th in the qualifier and bounce the top guy, he's got momentum on his side," Jewell said.

In the round of eight Klug faced France's Bozzetto, who was the ninth qualifier and fell behind .60 on the first run. On the second run, Klug was leaning hard into the gates when he missed one near the bottom, eliminating him from contention. He described the low-visibility conditions as "riding by Braille."

Klug, born in Denver and raised in Aspen, Colo., was diagnosed in his early 20s with the same liver disease (primary sclerosing cholangitis) that killed legendary NFL running back Walter Payton. Klug nonetheless made the 1998 Olympic team and finished 6th in Nagano, Japan. But he still was ill.

After three years on a transplant list, Klug in 2000 received the liver of a 13-year-old boy who had died in an accidental shooting. Klug returned to training and, about 19 months after the transplant, won the bronze at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City. To add flourish to the achievement, he took his last run with duct tape to hold together his broken binding.

He became a spokesman for organ donation, raising awareness, answering phone calls and e-mails from people needing transplants.

Klug didn't make the 2006 Olympic team. In the run-up to the 2010 Games he failed to make the U.S. "A" team – even after winning the U.S. championship – and found outside funding scarce for PGS, which doesn't attract sponsors like the flashier snowboard halfpipe.

So he formed the training group America's Snowboard Team, securing sponsors including Hooters and hiring a coach, and made the Olympic team.

Klug, who lifted his eyes frequently Saturday and smiled at the crowd, in July will celebrate his 10th year with his donated liver. He still takes anti-rejection drugs twice a day and probably will for the rest of his life. But he is more thriver than survivor.

"I remember right after my transplant I took a handful of pills (daily), and I was like, 'Boy, this is going to be hard to get used to,'" Klug said. "Now it's just one pill in the morning and night. I just kind of got accustomed to it.

"No matter where I am, on my surfboard or my snowboard or kiteboard, I just take one with me and it doesn't really slow me down."

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Source: Hollywood Life

Don’t you think it’s a totally tubular decision to cast Aussie hottie Alex as the lead when Hawaii gets a reboot this year?

A rep for Alex O’Laughlin confirms to that the actor has landed the plum part of Detective Steve McGarrett when the iconic 70’s TV show gets a modern-day update on CBS this year.

Yippee! We’re stoked to see Alex back in action after his medical drama, Three Rivers, flat-lined in November. Until last week he and Nip/Tuck actor Julian McMahon, 42, were neck and neck for the role.

We’re confident that the Aussie hunk can handle his Hawaii 5-0 role, especially because we know he’s adept at playing super-sleuths. Who can forget his turn as vampire private eyeMick St. John in the short-lived (but utterly engaging) CBS drama Moonlight?

Alex will be joined on the North Shore when filming begins on location in Hawaii, is Lost’s Daniel Dae Kim, 43, in the role of state police officer Chin Ho Kelly and Taryn Manning, 31, as Det. McGarrett’s sister, Mary Ann McGarrett.


Source WBAY

Becoming an organ donor in the State of Wisconsin will soon be as easy as logging on to the Internet.

In the beginning of April, the state will establish a registry similar to ones used in other states, like neighboring Michigan.

Leslie Winter is registered to give the gift of life.

"I decided to become an organ donor because I thought if something ever happened to me I could maybe save someone else's life," she says.

But under the current state program, simply having the orange donor sticker on your driver's license doesn't necessarily mean you'll become a donor. A donor's family has the right to refuse donation if and when the time comes.

To help clear up any confusion, the State of Wisconsin is creating an online organ donor registry.

"You're placing this on this official registry and you're stating 'I want to be a donor. I want to make that decision myself rather than having someone make that decision for me,'" Brown County Medical Examiner Al Klimek said.

Ultimately, no one will be forced to donate a loved one's organs if they don't want to, but the registry is another tool to help families make a decision during the difficult time.

"If a conversation never actually happened between a loved one and their family about what their wishes were, it may be a way for the family to know that this was what their loved one desired," Jennifer VanDuyse of Aurora BayCare Medical Center in Green Bay said.

It's a desire donors like Winter want to make on their own, leaving only grieving up to their families.

"It takes the pressure off your family because I'm sure at that time it's a hard decision for them to make," Winter said.


Source: Canberra Times
by: Natasha Rudra

Justice Terry Connolly would give people ''the shirt off his back'' and yesterday about 1000 people, including Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, rose at dawn to remember his generosity.

The Prime Minister joined Justice Connolly's widow, Helen Watchirs. and the couple's daughters, Maddy and Lara, to walk around the lake in his honour. (pictured to the left)

The Terry Connolly ORGANised walk is one of the events at Organ Donation Awareness Week and aims to raise Australia's donation rate.

Justice Connolly died unexpectedly in 2007 during a morning bicycle ride but, as an organ donor, he was able to donate his corneas.

Dr Watchirs said yesterday she was pleased with the response to the walk.

''It was a fantastic turnout, we're really happy with the number of people who attended, the weather was great and there was fantastic mood of optimism,'' she said.

Dr Watchirs, who is also ACT Human Rights Commissioner, said she wanted people to change the culture of not discussing organ donation.

''[It's] so it's not left to loved ones to make the decisions. The family discovers it first, you know what your loved one's wishes are,'' she said.

Dr Watchirs had warm words for Mr Rudd, who received a heart valve transplant in his 30s, saying his support had helped boost the campaign to raise awareness of organ donation


Source: The Advertiser, Australia

BECCKY Johns is the reason everyone needs to have a conversation with their family about becoming an organ donor.

The year 12 Catholic College student was born with infantile polycystic kidney disease, which is genetic.

In June her mother, Sue, will donate a kidney to Beccky.

The transplant will be Beccky’s second because 10 years ago her father, Paul, also donated a kidney to her.

But 24 hours after the operation Beccky lost about 80 per cent of her new kidney as a result of complications.

Although the doctors weren’t sure how long she would last with the new kidney, in true Beccky form she got four years out of it.

Since October 2008, she has been on dialysis, to which she is hooked up for jl10 hours every night.

“It interferes with everything,’’ Sue said.

“Socially it’s different for her; she can’t really go to parties and sleepovers with her friends.

“It can be difficult to work part time.

“She’s had two nights off dialysis in two years, and that was Christmas Eve and year 12 retreat.’’

Sue said Beccky was still on the donor waiting list.

Her chances of getting a donor are complicated because of the previous transplant, and her immune system is different.

“It means we’re just watching and waiting for the call.’’

If Beccky was lucky enough to get a matching donor, it would mean the option of using one of her mother’s kidneys could be kept in reserve and used in future, if needed.

“We know that if we do get a phone call then some other family has had a tragedy,’’ Sue said.

“We’re very aware of that.’’

For Sue and Paul, the decision to help their daughter by donating an organ was the easiest choice they’ve been presented with.

“The day she was born we made that choice,’’ Sue said.

“I wouldn’t think twice. We are very proud of her.’’

National Organ Donor Awareness Week ends tomorrow and Sue and Paul said there had never been a better time to talk about becoming an organ donor.

“Potential donors need to talk to their family because usually the decision lies with the family,’’ Sue said.


Source: Centralian Advocate
Ross Butcher (right)with Marie de Guisa at Mont Blanc in France.

Ross Butcher (right)with Marie de Guisa at Mont Blanc in France.

Two tell of their gift of life

Miriam Raphael

RIGHT now, more than 1700 people are waiting for organ transplants that could save their lives. Three of these people live here.

Australia is a world leader in successful transplants but only 247 people donated their organs last year. Organ and tissue donation nurse at Alice Springs Hospital, Andrea James, said most people supported organ donation but 40 per cent of families did not consent to donation because they did not know their loved one's wishes.

During Organ Donation Awareness Week, Australians are being encouraged to `discover, decide and discuss' their wishes with family about organ and tissue donation.
What organ donation means to Central Australians

Meet Howard Smith and Ross Butcher, kidney recipients, who want to share their stories in the hope more local people will consider giving the gift of life.

Howard Smith, Lutheran Pastor from Docker River
I had kidney trouble and moved to Alice Springs for renal dialysis in October 2004. It was a big change, everything was new to me. Marlene, my wife, also had to leave the community and come and live with me. We got home sick a lot of times.

I had my name on the donation list for quite a while. When Andrea came and told me the new kidney was coming, I was really excited and my family was very happy. I just wanted to get off dialysis. It made me think that I could go back home and spend time with my family and country.
I had renal that night, and the next day I was on my way to Adelaide on the Doctor plane. By the time I got there, everyone was waiting for me. Bang, straight away. I had the kidney transplant on November 25, 2007. Election day.

I was back in Docker River before Christmas. Everyone was shocked. After they saw me, all the renal people wanted to see Andrea that day and get on the transplant list.
I reckon I got a second chance when I got this kidney. It has changed a lot for me. I feel so much better. Before, I couldn't go anywhere, because every morning I had to clean my blood. Now I've got a lot of freedom. It has allowed me to do whatever I want. We often have Lutheran Church courses, so we go away for a week to our training. I couldn't do that before. I am not sure who I got the kidney from, but it saved my life.

I'm very healthy and I try to look after myself, and my kidney. I'm doing regular exercise, eating the right food. It comes back to responsibility. I have to play a role in doing the right thing, take the tablets. I don't drink alcohol and after the transplant I stopped smoking.

When I see people going to renal, I talk to them and tell them to do the right thing. Sometimes I go around and talk to people about donating kidneys and giving blood. We should all be thinking about donating kidneys to people who are sick, because it's going to change their life. I wanted to talk to the paper, to tell people you can give life to someone.

Ross Butcher, Central Australian tour guide, now living in Darwin
I've got IgA nephropathy, a technical term for a disease that was caused by a viral infection. I had really bad tonsillitis when I was a kid. They never took my tonsils out and I was in and out of hospital for 12 months, taking huge doses of penicillin.

Got to the age of 17, woke up one night, in excruciating pain. My kidneys were bleeding. By 24, I was on dialysis. I waited eight years for a transplant.

It's a pretty shocking state of affairs, being on a dialysis machine. You don't have much energy and you're restricted by what you can eat and drink, to the point of it being ridiculous.

It's debilitating. You can't travel. I once won an environmental award, and I got sent down to Melbourne to a Landcare conference to hear David Suzuki speak. I was down there for three days, but two of those three days I was in the hospital.

One of the hardest things was if I went out with my friends, girls just never noticed me. I just couldn't put any energy out, so I didn't get anything back. So that was difficult to deal with.

The worst part about being on the transplant list is waiting for so long and when the phone rings, you always wish that someone is on the other end saying, `we've got an organ for you.'

So when I got that phone call I was so excited. I just couldn't get my head together to pack, so I ended up at the hospital with a bag with virtually nothing in it.
I was in hospital for about 14 days. I got out of there at 9am, and I was back in the hospital at 4.30pm, because I was racing down the street with way too much energy on a push bike, and fell off and broke my wrist!
Not long after my transplant I headed over to the Kimberley and worked as a tour guide. Then I went to the snowfields for a season, taught myself how to snowboard, before heading to Central Australia, doing walking tours with Trek Larapinta in Alice Springs. Last year I went to France and trekked the highest mountain in Europe, Mont Blanc.

Every two years or so I write a letter to the Red Cross and they send it on to my donor's family. They know exactly what I've been up to during the past 10 years. It is a fantastic thing, that a family can sit down and decide they're going to give a gift to somebody they'll never, ever meet. It's totally selfless.


Source: Journal Now

The N.C. Eye Bank will present two "Donate Life" flags in memory of slain police Sgt. Mickey Hutchens, who was an organ donor. The ceremony will be held at 9 a.m. Monday at the Winston-Salem Police Department.

Beth Hutchens will accept one flag on behalf of her husband's memory, and Chief Scott Cunningham will accept the other for the police department.

Hutchens was fatally wounded on Oct. 7 while responding to a call on Peters Creek Parkway. He died from his injuries five days later while at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

Monday is the beginning of National Eye Donation Month.


Source: Manly Daily News, Australia

Little Tianna’s wait for lifesaving surgery

Little Tiana Zilifian is in need of a liver transplant. Picture: ANNIKA ENDERBORG ~PP375342

LITTLE Tianna Zilifian’s beaming face looks like that of any happy, healthy child.

But her heartwarming smile belies a critically sick little girl who desperately needs a liver transplant to survive.

The four-year-old from Belrose suffers from biliary atresia, a rare liver disease that destroys the ducts that carry bile to the intestines.

While other children her age have spent the last two years playing on swing sets or learning to ride bikes, Tianna has been in and out of hospital. Despite extensive treatment, Tianna, who has a younger brother Anthony, has now been classed as ``high priority’’ on the transplant list.

On Thursday she was moved into Bear Cottage at Manly, a children’s hospice providing respite and palliative care to children with life-limiting illnesses.

She will remain there until an organ donor is found.

Tianna’s mother, Aleena, said her daughter was extremely brave in dealing with a condition that leaves her body bloated from the neck down.

``She is in good spirits most of the time but gets a bit down or bored if she is in hospital for long periods,’’ she said.

``She can’t do a lot of the gross motor activities like jumping or running as well as other kids so she has resorted to a lot of painting and playdough.

``She has learnt to cope over the years as best she can to keep herself busy but she is always lethargic and tired.’’

With this being Australian Organ Donor Awareness Week, Mrs Zilifian said she was hopeful a suitable donor would soon be found. ``It will just give Tianna so much energy to be able to do all of the things she hasn’t been able to over the last four years,’’ she said.``It will give her a second chance.’’

Mrs Zilifian urged people to listen to the central message of the awareness week. ``By one person being an organ donor they can save up to 10 lives,’’ she said.

More information can be found at http://www.donatelife or to record your decision to donate visit or call 1800 777 203, or alternatively go to any Medicare office and pick up a brochure.


Source: Sydney Morning Herald
by Jessica Mahar

Life changing ... giant beach balls on Bondi for Organ Awareness Week.

Life changing ... giant beach balls on Bondi for Organ Awareness Week.

A liver transplant three years ago saved six-year-old Alec Maddocks's life, and for others to have that chance, people need to keep discussing organ and tissue donation, his father, Matthew, said.

After a three-year wait because of a shortage of available donors, Mr Maddocks said his son was put on the critical list for eight months.

The rare biliary atresia condition meant Alec's bile ducts were blocked and his liver was only operating at 20 per cent capacity, unable to flush all the toxins out of his body.

Yesterday, at the start of Australian Organ Donation Awareness Week, a healthy Alec rang the bell to start the DonateLife Community Beachwalk, where giant beach balls were rolled down Bondi Beach as a symbol of the life change transplants offer.

In response to a federal government plan to pay hospitals for transplants, transplant groups said they supported measures that encouraged more organ donations.

The parliamentary secretary for health, Mark Butler said the government wanted to ensure there were systems in place so donation opportunities weren't missed. ''For the first time the federal government is funding hospitals for the costs they will incur if they undertake one of these procedures,'' he said.

''These payments to the hospitals simply reflect the cost and this system has no impact whatsoever on the nature of the discussions that families have when they get into these tragic circumstances.''

Transplant Australia's chief executive, Chris Thomas, said there was often a financial disincentive for hospitals to keep beds open for donors.

''Principally we support the fact that hospitals shouldn't be out of pocket financially. It's a significant issue that the public could misinterpret and that could work against the donation rate,'' he said.

Australia's level of organ donation was one of the lowest in the developed world, Mr Thomas said.

The president of the International Transplantation Society, Jeremy Chapman, said the federal funds would give hospitals the ability to look after critically ill patients, while still looking after the needs of potential deceased organ donors and their families.


SOURCE: Delaware Gazette

Staff Writer

Sunbury resident Debby Rice remembers her father, Denny Hile, for his faith, positive attitude and words of encouragement.

So when doctors told Hile that after receiving two triple bypass heart surgeries he was going to need a new heart, it’s not surprising he took the news in stride. Hile was placed on a waiting list for the transplant and he carried a pager for 21 months, waiting day after day for it to notify him a suitable organ donor had been found.

“He never gave up hope,” Rice recalled. “He always talked about when, not if he would get his transplant.”

Rice, now 40, and her three siblings lived on pins and needles waiting for their father’s pager to chime with good news. But the message never came.

Hile died May 1, 1997 at the age of 62.

The family’s story, unfortunately, is not that uncommon.

Every 48 hours, an Ohioan waiting for an organ transplant dies. In the last 10 years, more than 10,000 Ohioans have died waiting for a transplant.

Donate Life Ohio, a coalition of the state’s organ, eye and tissue recovery agencies, hopes Rice’s story about hefather will help save some of those lives. She and several other Ohioans will share their personal experiences as part of a campaign to encourage people to become organ donors. Starting this month, their stories about loss, hope and advocacy will be featured in TV ads, radio spots and viral videos in Delaware County and the rest of Ohio.

Their message about the importance of organ donation will be echoed by Governor Ted Strickland, Ohio State University football coach Jim Tressel and Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer.

More than half of Ohio’s licensed drivers and state identification holders are registered organ and tissue donors — which Donate Life Ohio coalition agencies stress is not enough.

“Our ultimate goal is to try and get everyone to sign up to be an organ donor. Life, after all, is the ultimate gift that you can give someone,” said Rachel Lewis, spokeswoman Lifeline of Ohio, a non-profit organization that promotes organ and tissue donation in central and southeastern Ohio.

A single person has the potential to save eight lives as an organ donor and heal 50 people as a tissue donor, according to Lewis. In 2009, 284 Ohioans shared the gift of life through organ donation at the time of their death. Through their generosity, 945 individuals received a second chance at life through transplantation.

More than 3,000 Ohioans, however, are waiting for a life-saving transplant at any given time, with 78 percent needing a kidney transplant due to end-stage kidney disease, according to Lifeline of Ohio.

The goal of Donate Life Ohio’s 2010 campaign, called Green Chair, is to add 240,000 new donor registrations in Ohio by June 30, 2010. The challenge is directed from Donate Life America and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is one that has been successfully met in years past.

Becoming an organ and tissue donor is easy.

So why don’t more people become organ and tissue donors? Donate Life Ohio coalition agencies say a lot has to do with common misconceptions surrounding the topic, which the group has tried to address by stressing:

Becoming a donor does not affect the level of medical care a person will receive in the case of a medical emergency. Furthermore, doctors working to save a person’s life are separate from the medical team involved in the transplant process.

Costs related to donation are not paid for by the donor’s family. The organ/tissue recovery agencies or the transplant center pay all costs related to the donation.

All major religions support organ and tissue donation as the ultimate act of charity.

People of all ages and medical histories should consider themselves as potential donors.

Medical condition at the time of death will determine what organs and tissue can be donated.

A donor can have an open-casket funeral. Great care is taken to preserve the natural appearance of the donor following the recovery of organs, eyes or tissue.

Ohioans can become a donor by visiting,, calling 800-525-5667 or by saying “yes” to donation when visiting a local bureau of motor vehicles (BMV).

To download your own copy of the Donate LIfe "Green Chair" campaign please go to the Donate Life PSA Download Library on the left hand column of this blog. April is National Donate Life month and this would be an excellent opportunity to show this at your school, university, church, workplace. Please contact Donate Life Ohio to also obtain brochures that you may use to raise awareness and to encourage people to register as a donor.


Published: Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 9:44 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 9:44 a.m.

HOUMA — Terrebonne General Medical Center was recognized as one of the top hospitals in the state to help increase enrollment in the Louisiana organ donor registry.

Hospitals throughout Louisiana have increased the organ donor registry to 200,000 people five months ahead of schedule.

The registry allows Louisiana residents to give consent for organ and tissue donation for the purpose of transplantation, eliminating the need for family members to make this decision for their loved ones at their time of death.

Each year, more than 400 people in Louisiana receive kidneys, livers and hearts that have been donated. However, with almost 1,800 Louisianans still on waiting lists, the need for organ donations far exceeds the supply. Over 1.8 million Louisiana residents have registered to be organ donors.

By enrolling in the Donate Life Louisiana Registry, an individual gives legal consent for the use of their organs, tissues and eyes for the purposes of transplantation and research at the time of death. To sign up on the Donate Life Louisiana Registry, visit


Source: Channel 34 News, ABC
February 26, 2010

Lourdes Hospital is partnering with the Center for Donation & Transplant (CDT) to honor patients and their families that choose to give the gift of life through organ or tissue donation. Lourdes will recognize its organ and tissue donors by flying a Donate Life Flag in their honor each time a donation is facilitated at the hospital in 2010. Lourdes will begin by flying a flag on March 1. After the flag has been flown, it will be given to the donor’s family in memory of their loved one, as part of an aftercare packet designed to help families cope with their grief. Lourdes will also fly the flag during National Donate Life Month in April to help raise awareness of the life-saving benefits of organ and tissue donation. Jeffrey Orlowski, Chief Executive Officer of CDT said, “The flags provide awareness of the importance of donation and also serve as a symbol of respect for those who have given the gift the life. The families of our donors find it very meaningful to receive the flag in recognition of their loved one.”

The Center for Donation & Transplant is the federally designated non-profit organization that coordinates the retrieval of donated organs and tissues at 46 hospitals throughout western Vermont and northeastern New York State.



Updated: Friday, 26 Feb 2010, 6:00 PM EST
Published : Friday, 26 Feb 2010, 6:00 PM EST

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Hundreds of students from across the globe are on a mission of hope. And now, that mission made a stop right here in western New York.

The Torch of Life is making a two year long journey from Alaska to Argentina to promote the cause of Organ and Tissue Donations. Thursday morning the torch passed through Buffalo.

Canisius High School students carried the torch from City Hall to their school on Delaware Avenue. The Torch of Life was brought to the Pope by liver transplant recipient George Marcello to promote the cause. Buffalo is one of 300 cities where the torch will stop.

The students are working together with Upstate New York Transplant Services. Their Education Coordinator, Danielle Keller, keeps the cause of organ donation close to her own heart.

"I am also the mom of Lexis, who received a heart almost six years ago. So, without people raising awareness of this issue my daughter may not have received her heart. Because you never know when it's going to be a part of your life," said Keller.

Canisius High School student Connor Farrell said, "There's over 100,000 people in the United States that are currently in need of some type of transplant and it's something that anyone can give. It's a gift that they can give back, um, so, we just kind of joined together to raise awareness."

Connor is part of the Donate Life Club at Canisius. On special days the students wear green ties to school as another way to support awareness of organ and tissue donation.

Friday, February 26, 2010


Source: The Augusta Chronicle

SAVANNAH, Ga. - Amy and Brad Stewart understand parents when they say they can't bear the thought of losing a child.

Amy Stewart plays with son Cabell. The 14-month-old has nearly regained the set-back in muscle development from all the weeks spent in the hospital after he had a heart transplant.

But, the Savannah couple wants them to try.

"It's an uncomfortable thing. People don't like to talk about end-of-life decisions. They especially don't like to think about their children dying, but it's the kind of thing you really need to put thought into," Amy Stewart said.

The reason?

Someone or some family's decision last summer saved her son's life.

The Stewarts faced the unimaginable in 2009 when their 6-month-old son, Cabell, was diagnosed with idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart muscles enlarge and become unable to pump enough blood throughout the body.

In most cases, the cause of dilated cardiomyopathy is still a mystery to researchers.

The baby had been ill for weeks but gave doctors no clue what could be wrong. After a radiologist detected his enlarged heart, Cabell was rushed to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston where the family received the diagnosis.

Doctors determined Cabell had only months to live unless he received a heart transplant.

Because infants' organs are generally smaller than those of adults, Cabell would need a transplant from a very young donor. The Stewarts were told the wait could be three months or more, possibly more time than Cabell had left.

The prospect of waiting on the death of someone else's child left the Stewarts uneasy. But they prayed that someone might see an opportunity through tragedy.

After 51 days of waiting, someone did. Cabell received his new heart Aug. 26.

More than 3,000 Georgians are on waiting lists for organ transplants.

The most common organs and tissues recovered today include kidneys, liver, heart, pancreas, lungs, intestines, bone, skin, heart valves. That means that one donor can potentially benefit 60 people or more, according to LifeLink of Georgia.

Currently, there are two children under the age of 1 year in Georgia waiting for organ transplants. There are seven children ages 1 to 5 on the waiting list and five children ages 6 to 10.

The wait for an organ donor is typically longer for infants because of their size, said Tracy Ide, public affairs coordinator for LifeLink of Georgia. Organs are allocated by blood type, height and weight, how sick the patient is and length of time on the waiting list.

When a child dies in a way that makes them a candidate for organ donation, the decision is left up to the parents or legal guardian.

Through the decision of a donor family that the Stewarts will never know, Cabell is thriving.

Anti-rejection drugs have so far proven successful in getting his body to accept the new heart. Through work with a physical therapist, the now 14-month-old has nearly regained the set-back in muscle development he experienced those weeks in the hospital.

"He sits up; he cruises; he can crawl. He can do pretty much everything other babies of his age can do," Amy Stewart said.

Now Amy is stepping out as a strong advocate for organ donation.

Since the day Cabell arrived at Egleston, Amy has kept a blog about Cabell's journey. She plans to someday organize the pages she has written and her photos documenting every high and low into a book about the family's experience.

For now, she volunteers as a public speaker for LifeLink of Georgia. It's the least she can do to show her gratitude for her infant son's second -- or perhaps first -- chance at life, she said. "I think that's where I can really help."

"I want people to see why organ donation month is so important. I want them to see Cabell, to see where he came from, where he is and to see the effects that a transplant can have on an entire family."

The donor family "didn't just save Cabell's life; they saved all of our lives."