A girl named Hope drives home Katie Ride message

Most of us think of organ transplants being from adult to adult. There are dramatic stories of friends, family and coworkers and, in the recent news, a baseball coach donating organs to save the life of another. The gift of an organ transplant changed the lives of an Amelia Island family. This time it was a tiny baby receiving the life-saving organ.

Amy Kienle, vice president of operations for Amelia Island's McArthur Family YMCA (www.firstcoastymca. org), was taking her two-month-old daughter Hope for her well-baby checkup. It was a Friday and the following Monday, Kienle would return to her job with the YMCA in Orlando and life would resume a regular schedule. Husband Ron would continue teaching physical education and the couple's two daughters, Hannah and new baby Hope, would start their growing and learning years.

Well-baby checkups are just that. They should be a rite of passage and a confirmation that a baby is thriving, but that was not the case on that Friday for the Kienle family. What was to be a routine doctor visit turned into a search to find out why baby Hope's bilirubin levels were off. The doctor immediately sent the family to the Arnold Palmer Children's Hospital in Orlando where concern for the little girl increased.

Thankful for family, friends and co-workers, the family started an odyssey that culminated in a life-saving liver transplant surgery at Shands-Gainsville when Hope was 18 months of age. Hope's situation was so dire that a full liver was needed. Fortunately the wait was not too long. The Kienle family does not know who the donor was, as stipulated by the family, but the donor family gets updates on Hope's wonderful success story.

A little girl who spent the first months of her life in and out of the hospital and who was unable to speak was soon thriving and speaking. No one was happier that Hope's big sister Hannah.

The Kienle family expresses thanks to all the health care professionals and the organ transplant team that were part of their happy ending. While Hope is thriving she will have to continue taking the anti-rejection medications and be sensitive to the medical problems that transplant recipients may experience.

This family will proudly ride in this year's Katie Ride For Life (www.katierideforlife.org) on Saturday, April 16.

The one-day ride/walk is sponsored by the transplant center at Mayo Clinic Jacksonville and features a 100-, 62-, 36- and 18-mile option for bicycle riders. The routes span the barrier islands going south of Amelia Island. There will be a new 5K and 10K walk through Fort Clinch this year and the traditional 6-mile Family Fun Ride.

The annual ride is named for Katie Caples, daughter of Susan and Dave Caples, owners of Elizabeth Pointe Lodge in Fernandina Beach. Katie died in a tragic automobile accident and her organs and tissue were donated. Her legacy lives on as her family and the foundation in her name raise funds to increase awareness of the importance of organ and tissue donation.

"Katie was a wonderful athlete and a generous young woman. When getting her first driver's license she made the decision to be an organ donor. Through our annual event we hope to encourage more people to make that important decision," shared the Caples.

Hope may be the youngest ambassador for the campaign to increase organ transplant education, but no one is more enthusiastic! This lucky little girl celebrates two birthdays - her actual birthday and the day she received her liver transplant.

For more information: visit www.katierideforlife.org and www.donatelifeflorida.org.