Monday, February 28, 2011

Organ recipient finds success recruiting donors in Ascension
By Kimberly Fortner, Contributing Writer

Illinois organ recipient Mike Greiner and his family visited Ascension Parish last week to spread the word about the importance of organ donation.

The Greiner family shared their story at a Donaldsonville Rotary Club Meeting, Ascension Catholic High School and several Benny's Car Wash locations throughout the week leading up to a Valentine's Day push for donors at the Baton Rouge Office of Motor Vehicles.

The goal, according to the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency, is “to have no loss of life because of the lack of organs.” Currently, there are 110,000 waiting for life-saving organs. In Louisiana, 1,800 people on the waiting list.

Mike Greiner had diabetes and his health was failing when he got the call he and his family had been waiting for. It was like, “waiting on a phone call determining whether you are going to live or not,” explains Greiner.

In 2003, he received a kidney and pancreas from a young hero named Annie, who was only 21 when she passed away because of a rare brain disorder. Last April, the Greiner family sold their home and used the proceeds to fund a road trip like no other.

They have been on the road more than 300 days and plan to stop in every state to raise organ donation awareness, putting their future in the hands of faith on a journey that could potentially save many lives.
Mike Greiner's wife, Sheri Greiner, said of Annie's legacy, “This is something we can do to give back in her honor.”

The Greiner family was invited to the Donaldsonville Rotary Club Meeting at Café Lafourche by the Peggy Guillot family on Feb. 10. The Guillot’s lost their daughter, Shawn, when she was 15. Shawn’s legacy continues as her organs gave new life to five people, and Peggy Guillot believes that this, “gives meaning for her death.”

Lori Steele with the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency introduced the Greiner family saying, “We can save lives and we can prove it. Someone is here today because someone said ‘yes’ to donation.”

Donaldsonville Major Leroy Sullivan and Councilman Raymond Aucoin presented the Greiners with a key to the city. The Greiner family also stopped by Ascension Catholic High School, Shawn Guillot's alma mater, to share their story and to pay tribute to the school's beloved hero.

Between the Greiners and the Guillots, the lasting effects of organ donation in the lives of recipients and donors were evident.

“I'm glad someone decided to donate so that my dad can live,” Mike Greiner's 13 year-old son, Levi Greiner, said.

His 10 year-old daughter, Chloe said, “I feel very passionate about organ donation. My dad would not be here now without it.”

Benny's Car Wash also supported LOPA and the Greiners Feb. 12 at its Gonzales location. Those who signed up as an organ donors received a free car wash.

“It affects so many people and we're just happy to be able to help out,” Manager Dean Ducoing said.

The employees of Benny's Car Wash washed the Greiner's Chrysler Minivan, detailed, changed the oil, and even topped it off with gas. Their generosity continued throughout the weekend as they hosted events at their other locations.

Steele says of the cause, “It's not about raising money. It's about raising awareness and saving lives.”

LOPA, along with the Greiners, were at the Office of Motor Vehicles on Valentine’s Day to help bulk up the Louisiana's Organ and Tissue Donor Registry. All major religions support organ donations and some say it's an act of selflessness. Anyone can be a donor regardless of race, age, or medical history.

Becoming an organ donor is a simple procedure. The only required information at is your name, address, date of birth, gender and email. When this is entered, you click the box that says “yes, I want to be an organ and tissue donor.” You can change the course of someone's life, in the future, with a few keystrokes.

If you would like to be an organ or tissue donor, go to .

For questions about LOPA, organ donation or if you would like to contribute, contact LOPA at 800-521-GIVE (4483). To find out more about the Greiner family, go to and . They can also be found on Facebook by searching “Best of the USA.”
Job seeker uses plight to encourage organ donations
Man wants work, but can’t find it because he’s on dialysis

Bryan Wells was born two months premature. He had his first kidney transplant at age 13, thanks to a donation from his own father. He’s now on dialysis three days a week as he waits on the Baylor Medical Center donor list for a new kidney. He’s been on that list for six years now.

Wells doesn’t want pity for his lot in life. He wants a job.

With an associate’s degree in Christian Studies and a bachelor’s degree in counseling, Wells said finding a job in Lufkin has been challenging.

“Three days a week I have my dialysis, and then I go home and look through the paper to find a job and just be a normal person like everyone else,” Wells said. “(During job interviews) everything is going great until I say I’m on dialysis, and then they say they’ll call me back and they never do. One guy told me I was a liability because of the dialysis. It’s not that I’m not a hard worker or that I’m not going to give 100 percent. It’s the dialysis.”

Wells moved to Lufkin to be near his father. After searching for a place to live, he came across Glenda Davis and her husband, who owned a rental house.

“It wasn’t five minutes before I wanted to fill out the paperwork because it was the best place I had seen,” Wells said. “I couldn’t have asked for better landlords. They really take care of me.”

Davis considers the 30-year-old man as one of her own.

“I think the Lord sends people like this to me,” Davis said. “I have taken him under my wing. My heart went out to him. I know a good person when I see one. Ever since I have known him, he has struggled to find a job. The doors keep getting closed. When I see someone who wants to work and can work, that makes me want to help.”

Wells doesn’t want a handout, but he also knows his limitations. The self-proclaimed “people person” enjoys working with the elderly and children. He also volunteers at the DaVita clinic, where he receives his treatments, as a patient advocate and helping with a newsletter.

“I have volunteered as a chaplain in two or three retirement homes,” Wells said. “I would like to find something to help people and show them there is hope out there.”

The landlord and her renter have become extremely close over the past several months. She nags him as a mother would, and their playful banter alludes to a comfortable relationship. They both wholeheartedly agree that there’s nothing more important than being an organ donor.

They want to spread the word about the gift of life during National Donor Awareness month. “There’s no better gift you could give and no better feeling than for someone else to have life,” Davis said.

In the meantime, Wells said, he will continue to read and search through the newspaper for a job and through the Bible for motivation.

“What keeps me going is my church and Bible,” Wells said. “I open my Bible and know that God is in control.”

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Greetings Friends in Community Health,

I hope this email finds you well. I am writing on behalf of the Building Bridges to Optimum Health work group to invite you to the 5th annual World Kidney Day Community Conference, to be held on March 10th 2011 at the Loker Auditorium at the California Science Center 700 State Drive, Los Angeles Ca, 90037 Entrance at 39th Street & Figueroa Street.

This is a free conference which aims to share information about prevention and treatment of kidney disease with community members, patients and health care professionals, students and researchers. A continental breakfast and lunch will be served.

This year’s conference will include presentations on: “Risks and Management of Kidney Disease: What labs do you get, where do you go, what do you do?,” “A Holistic and Multidisciplinary Approach to Managing Stress Associated with Chronic Disease,” and “A question and answer panel discussion of patients living with different stages of kidney disease”

There will also be break out informational sessions on: “Prevention of Kidney Disease,” “Kidney Dialysis,” “Kidney Transplantation” and “Recent State and Federal Health Policy Changes”

We hope you can attend and bring anyone who may be interested, especially if they or a loved one has kidney disease or conditions that put them at risk for kidney disease like diabetes or hypertension.

Feel free to forward this email or distribute the attached flier and registration form and don’t forget to register yourselves either through the Healthy African American Families’ web-site ,

by calling (323) 292-2002 Monday through Friday 9-5pm or faxing the attached sheet to (323) 292-2002.

Thank you all, for your help in this effort.
NNY man awaits heart
DISAPPOINTMENT: First organ available rejected by doctors
By REBECCA MADDEN | Watertown Daily Times

John W. Pierce Sr., 53, went into the operating room Feb. 17 at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester expecting to have a new heart when he woke up.

The Belleville resident said he didn't know how long he was under anesthesia before someone from the medical staff woke him up and told him the last thing he expected to hear.

"A guy with the mask and glasses said they rejected the heart, that it wouldn't have worked for me, and wasn't what we thought it'd be," Mr. Pierce said via telephone Friday. "They took me back to my room, and here I sit."

He has called Strong Memorial Hospital home for the past month, and he's now on its heart-transplant waiting list along with 29 others.


Cardiologist Leway Chen said while most patients wait several months or longer for new organs, Mr. Pierce's "other heart" came up two days after he was put on the list. A heart was made available quickly because Mr. Pierce's case is considered high-risk, and the donor was local.

"If we get an offer, we review the medical history of the donor, and we gauge if it's good or not," Dr. Chen said via telephone Friday. "By the time our surgeon got there, it wasn't good, so we aborted."

The news was sad, yet also a blessing in disguise, Mr. Pierce said.

"It's like yes, anything has to be better than what I've got, but I understand the hospital has to look out for its best interest, which happens to be mine," he said. "It wasn't as bad as you think."

Although he said he felt terrible that his family flocked to his bedside hoping to celebrate a successful heart transplant, the brief reunion was uplifting.

Mr. Pierce's condition — cardiomyopathy — puts him near the top of the transplant list. According to Dr. Chen, cardiomyopathy causes the heart not to pump blood properly. The hospital's cardiology team is uncertain how Mr. Pierce's condition occurred.

An active fisherman, Mr. Pierce said he was diagnosed in 2002. It since has gotten progressively worse, and causes shortness of breath and fatigue, particularly at night when he lies down. His heart is too weak for him to wait for a new one at home.

The left side of his heart has swelled and doesn't pump blood well to the rest of his body. The condition particularly affects his kidneys. Fluid builds up and has to be drained.


Despite the setback, Mr. Pierce and his family have been in good spirits. His son, John W. "Jay" Pierce Jr., 25, keeps his cell phone on in class at Erie Community College, Buffalo, in hopes of hearing that his father will receive a compatible heart.

Until then, the two try to spend as much time together as they can. The younger Mr. Pierce visits his father every weekend, and accompanies him while they watch Syracuse University games on television.

"If something happens, we're all ready to be here," Jay said.

Walking with bulky medical equipment has became the norm for the elder Mr. Pierce. Many pills, blood tests and IV medications also keep him in the hospital.

"It's pretty intrusive," Dr. Chen said. "It's a tough road."

And whenever the perfect match comes in, Mr. Pierce's life still won't be a breeze, Dr. Chen said, because rarely is anyone cured of cardiomyopathy. He said in some cases it just postpones the inevitable — eventual death.

Although Mr. Pierce, a former engineer at WWNY-TV7, is well aware of the risks associated with the surgery, he also knows there are greater risks if the procedure isn't done.

To help pass the time in the hospital, he exercises two or three times a day, and accompanied by a nurse, he takes short walks to the facility's coffee or gift shops. He said his in-laws also bought him a laptop, and he spends a majority of the time reading and rereading a transplant guide book.

"They test me on it," he said. "I have to know the name of the drugs I'm on, what they're for and what milligrams I'm taking so when I'm at home so when they communicate with me over the phone after, there is no error. These things are critical. They take it very seriously."


One of the most unfortunate parts of the whole process, he said, is knowing someone has to lose his life in order for his to be prolonged. Other patients waiting for a heart transplant at Strong Memorial have been there as long as six months, Mr. Pierce said.

Dr. Chen said organ donation has been on the decline. According to the federal Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, there were 110,503 people in the nation waiting for some kind of organ transplant as of Saturday. At least 3,200 of those waiting need new hearts.

"Unfortunately, for upstate New York, and all of New York, we don't have a high organ donation rate," Dr. Chen said.

Mr. Pierce's wife, Deanna S., visits him each weekend. Most of his family remains in Sackets Harbor and elsewhere in Jefferson County.


United Network for Organ

Teen becomes 1,000th organ transplant patient at OSF
With a kidney donated from his mother, Max Rutschke returns to being a regular teenager

If your life appears to have fallen into a routine and you yearn for excitement, have a word with Jean Rutschke about a "normal" life.

Until about a month ago, her normal life was turned upside down when her 13-year-old son's health began failing, and it became clear that he needed a kidney transplant. Her life as wife, mother of three and pharmacist for OSF Home Infusion reached the other end of the normal spectrum.

Today, her son, Max Rutschke, is taking trumpet lessons and has auditioned for his school play. In other words, he is involved with activities that his peers at St. Thomas School are also engaged in.

When Max's health began deteriorating in September, he began to lose weight and his appetite diminished.

"We hadn't any idea he was losing kidney function," Jean said, after they had taken him to the doctor for a check-up. But the next morning as she was getting ready to take the children to school, she received a phone call that Max had to check into the hospital immediately. That was the beginning of the nightmare of tests and doctors and dialysis. He would spend up to 12 hours a night hooked up to a dialysis machine with another half hour each for hooking on and getting off it.

"It's not anything you would want a child to do," Jean said. "You just want him to do the normal teenage things."

The renal failure was the result of a congenital problem that recently surfaced. Only a transplant would improve his quality of life. To date his sisters do not appear to have the same problem. Several members of the family were tested to see if they could be a possible donor, including Jean's sister and Max's cousin. When Jean was found to be a match, she was elated and immediately prepped for surgery.

The transplant took place Dec. 13, and Max unwittingly helped OSF Saint Francis Medical Center achieve a historic milestone - it passed the 1,000 organ transplant mark. The procedure was done by Dr. Beverly Ketel, who also performed the first organ transplant at St. Francis in 1985.

During the entire ordeal, Jean said her family received overwhelming support and prayers from their families, and the St. Thomas School and church community.

"It was unbelievable the support we received," Jean said. "St. Thomas (members) cooked for us three times a day, we had so much food. Everywhere I went people would tell me their prayer chain was praying for us. We couldn't ask for more."

Max's schoolmates also sent get well cards, and his principal visited.

"I had so many Barnes and Noble gift cards, over $230," Max said.

His family includes father, Chad, a systems analyst at Caterpillar Inc.; and two sisters, Kylie, 14 and Jennifer, 10.

"I'm the meat in the sandwich," said Max, describing his middle child status.

For a year, Max will have to watch his health very carefully and avoid all contact sports.

"Max is not very athletic anyway," his mother said.

Pediatric transplant patients are rare. In the 25 years that St. Francis has done transplants, only about three a year are children, Dr. Ketel said.

"The success rate from a living donor past the first year is 96 percent," Ketel said.

After the first year, if all goes well, Max can expect his donor kidney to hold up for 20 years.

"Sometime in his late 30s, he might need another transplant," Ketel said.

While a kidney transplant is much preferred to staying on dialysis, it also has its setbacks.

"He has to take medication, and the medicine may have side effects," Ketel said. "Some do fine, others have trouble. Max is off to a very good start, but it's just a start."

Ketel is optimistic other donors will be available. Jean's sister who is 12 years younger than Jean and is a match, has offered to be a donor in the future. Max's 10-year-old sister, who was not tested because of her age, is another possible match.

"So, he has other options," Ketel said. "Two years from now we may be doing it entirely differently."

On Thursday, the United Network for Organ Sharing Kidney Transplantation Committee proposed that younger, healthier patients be given priority for the best kidneys over older, sicker patients who may have been waiting much longer.

The new proposal would match recipients and organs based on factors such as age and health to try to maximize the number of years provided by each kidney.

The 40-page document with its recommendations and revisions is expected to be finalized by June 2012.

As a living donor, Jean says she doesn't feel any differently than she did before the surgery. Max's weight is back up from 90 pounds to 115 pounds and he has grown since the surgery. He takes eight different medications every day and needs to have blood work done once a week.

Jean, who has returned to work, is back juggling her various roles of wife and mother and employee.

"You don't know how much I appreciate this return to a normal routine," she said.
Organ donation 'a silver lining'
By ANNETTE FULLER  | Winston Salem Journal
Credit: Journal Photo by Bruce Chapman

From left) Kevin Reece and George Pingho pose at the "Tree of Life" sculpture in the lobby of the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., Monday February 14, 2011. Kevin Reece fulfilled his wife's wish, Derie Reece, to be an organ donor after her sudden death. George Pingho, a kidney recepient, never knew anything about the donor except that it was from a 37 year old woman. Through his friendship with Reece, Pingho is able to associate a face to organ donors.
When his wife collapsed suddenly, just hours after complaining about a migraine, Kevin Reece of Elkin drove to Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center behind his wife's ambulance.

But on that day, May 25, 2010, she suffered a fatal brain hemorrhage, and there he was, looking at his 33-year-old wife's brain-dead body.

He knew she had a heart symbol on her driver's license, indicating that she wanted to donate her organs, and she also had spoken to him about those wishes.

"When I spoke to the neurosurgeon about organ donation, it was like I was outside of my body, looking at myself talking," Reece said.

Within minutes, a coordinator from Carolina Donor Services was dispatched to the hospital and helped Reece through the donation process. His wife was hooked up to medical equipment to keep her organs healthy until the eager, matching donors could be reached and lined up for transplant.

The heart symbol on the driver's license is enough legally for the donation process to begin, but people should still speak to their family members about their wishes, Reece said.

"I have been there, and I know what it's like," he said. "And I can't imagine how it would have been if my wife had not shared her wishes with me. I might have still had that doubt that she just said 'yes' quickly at the driver's license place, without really thinking."

Her two kidneys, heart, lungs and bone marrow went to recipients or for research.

"I know she would have been very happy to help someone else," Reece said.

Only about one-third of the people needing organ and tissue donations receive them, said Beth Hinesley, community relations coordinator for Carolina Donor Services' office in Winston-Salem.

Helping others upon the death of a loved one "will be a silver lining in the darkest gray cloud you will ever have," Hinesley said. Nearly 60 people can be helped from one person's body, with up to eight people receiving organs, and up to 50 receiving body tissue and bone.

George Pingho of Winston-Salem, a mortgage consultant and entrepreneur, is one who benefited from an organ donation. His kidneys began failing in 2005, and by that August, he needed dialysis to stay alive. Several times, potential transplants fell through.

Finally, on Aug. 29, 2007, he got a transplant from a donor, and his life started over again.

He has spoken several times on behalf of Carolina Donor Services, and met Reece at one of those events. The two hit it off and became friends, in person and on Facebook.

One night, Pingho happened to be working late, and around 2 a.m., saw that Reece posted something on Facebook similar to, "Why was my wife taken away from me?"

On an impulse, he called Reece and consoled him by acknowledging his pain and by telling him, "I have asked myself the opposite question: Why am I still here? This is the benefit that families like yours gave me."

The vast majority of religions either endorse organ donation or maintain that it is an individual decision. There are no fees to the family of the person whose organs will be donated, and the procedures can be done quickly, with no delay to the family for a funeral or memorial service. Also, all the work can be done with no obvious damage to the body; an open-casket funeral can still take place if the family desires it, according to information from Carolina Donor Services.

The neurosurgeon that Reece spoke to that night was Alexander Powers of Wake Forest Baptist. He sees brain deaths on a routine basis in his job.

"Many lay people cannot grasp that this is a legal death, because their blood pressure is maintained and the chest is going up and down," but that is happening only because of a machine, he said.

He applauds families that have organ donation discussions during the course of normal life.

"The catchphrase is, 'Leave your organs behind, because you can't take them with you,' " Powers said. "The number of people who can be healed with organs, and who need organs to continue to live a healthy life, is unbelievable compared to what's available. It really is an incredible act of love from living family members and the person who died."

Marcy Lucas of Winston-Salem followed the donation wishes of her husband, Tim Lucas, when he died five years ago after suffering bleeding in the brain.

In June 2007, she received a letter from a New York man who had received her husband's liver.

"That meant so much to me," she said. "I still carry that letter in my purse."

They kept in contact, and Lucas learned that the man who received the liver celebrates a "liver-versary" every March 6, commemorating the day he received the transplant.

Last year, Lucas traveled to Delaware, and the transplant recipient and his wife drove down to say thank you in person.

"A part of my husband is still alive," she said. "It helps me knowing that people benefited from my tragedy."

Transplant gives Pike teen new heart, hopeful start
By Ernest Herndon, Enterprise-Journal

Jessica Harris has a heart.

The 17-year-old McComb girl who desperately needed a transplant but lacked insurance received a new heart Friday during a 10-hour surgery at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in New York, according to her mother, Hazel Harris.

“The expected outcome is that she will live a full life,” Mrs. Harris said in a telephone interview Saturday evening. “I’m elated.”

Jessica was still under sedation and not fully conscious Saturday evening, but she was showing signs of awareness, and doctors considered her condition stable.

Jessica was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome and had four heart surgeries before the transplant. Her condition worsened last year, and doctors said the only hope was a transplant. But she wasn’t covered under her father’s employee health insurance because her condition was pre-existing.

The new national health care plan sponsored by President Obama did away with that obstacle on Jan. 1, and the Harrises immediately got busy seeking a heart.

It wasn’t so easy.

“We tried several other hospitals and they turned us down because the surgery, they said, was too risky,” Mrs. Harris said. “Jessica, they said, would bleed out during the surgery. Since she has already had four open-heart surgeries, there would be too much bleeding and she would not make it through the surgery.”

Morgan Stanley hospital agreed to conduct an evalution in late January, “but there was still no guarantee,” Mrs. Harris said.

“Once we had the evaluation done, they said everything looked good; they would do it.”

Jessica’s name went on a transplant list Feb. 10.

“She was at the top of the list because she was really in need of one,” Mrs. Harris said.

At lunchtime this past Thursday, the Harrises got word a heart had become available. Even then it was possible the organ wouldn’t be suitable.

“We prayed, and around midnight they came and got her and took her to the operating room,” Mrs. Harris said. “They started the incision at 3 a.m. and she didn’t get back up to ICU until about 1 (p.m.). She did do a lot of bleeding. It was risky.”

Doctors had to replace the aorta after finding two aneurisms there. Mrs. Harris said the aneurisms explained Jessica’s chronic chest pain.

“She’d been walking around a long time with that — years. That was the chest pain.”

The pace of the recovery is uncertain at this point, Mrs. Harris said.

“It’s just one of those wait-and-see things,” she said. “It’s going to be a long road.”

Like Dorothy in Oz

Still pending is the possibility that Jessica will get to meet Michelle Obama.

In an October Enterprise-Journal article, Jessica expressed a wish to meet TV star Brandy Norwood of McComb. Norwood and her mother Sonja arranged a visit to California, where Brandy threw a 17th birthday party for Jessica, appeared with her on “Entertainment Tonight” and got her a seat in the audience on “Dancing with the Stars,” on which Brandy was a contestant.”

Jessica also was accepted by the Make A Wish Foundation of Jackson and expressed the wish to meet Mrs. Obama.

“That’s still in the works,” Mrs. Harris said. “Jessica is too sick to travel. From what I understand, we have received the clearance to go, but it’s about getting an appointment on the calendar.”

As exciting as all that is, it pales before the fact that Jessica has a heart. Mrs. Harris said she knows how the character Dorothy felt in “Wizard of Oz” when the Tin Man finally got a heart.

“That’s how I feel right about now,” she said.

Yet her joy is tempered by awareness that someone had to die to donate an organ. “Not only are we grateful that Jessica got a transplant, we’re also mindful of the family that donated,” Mrs. Harris said.

Prior to the surgery, Jessica told her mother “to tell the people of McComb, ‘Thank you for all you’ve done for us,’ ” Mrs. Harris said.

The Harrises moved to McComb in 2009. Mrs. Harris said the family has been overwhelmed by the response to Jessica’s condition, from prayers to donations to kind words.

“I just wanted the whole community to know that we appreciate it,” she said. “They didn’t have to reach out like they did. We can’t express enough gratitude.”
Organ donation: the gift of life
A GIFT is defined as something given voluntarily without payment in return.

So when Angela Smith and her family decided to donate their mother's organs after her passing last year, they had no expectations.

But this didn't stop the rewards from flowing in.

For the Scarsdale resident, the decision to donate was the most meaningful and rewarding experience of her life.

Her mother's kidneys and liver were used for three organ transplants, saving the lives of three different people.

"She hadn't registered as an organ donor but we had talked to her about it," Ms Smith said.

"It's (organ donation) a gift you cannot purchase. You can't win it in a raffle. I certainly know if it was me and I was waiting for an organ, I'd take it.

"We've never second guessed the decision and I know with her being the giving person she was, she would have said yes."

At a time of utmost grief, hospital staff were conducting blood tests and asking personal questions of the family.

Ms Smith said the process was bittersweet, with the end result outweighing any feelings of discomfort experienced at the time.

"I urge people to put themselves in another person's position who does require organ donation," she said.

"Everyone deserves a second chance in everything they do and if we could get a second chance at life, any of us would take it."

Ms Smith's 11-year-old daughter Katey Reid has also expressed her willingness to donate her organs, even if she isn't old enough to register as a donor.

"We've talked about it before and I put myself in other people's shoes to see how they would feel," she said.

For more information about organ donation, visit
Ambassadors champion a life-changing cause
DELLARAM JAMALI | The Courrier, Australia

FOUR prominent Australians were last week appointed to promote the gift of life as the country's DonateLife Ambassadors.

Ballarat MP Catherine King, who is the Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing, announced Amanda Keller, Denise Drysdale, Derryn Hinch and Tania Major as promoters of organ and tissue donation in Australia.

The four will join Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC who was announced as the inaugural DonateLife ambassador at the national launch of DonateLife Week.

"It's something we thought would be helpful in promoting the cause of organ donation," Ms King said.

"These people have been directly affected by the issue and it is something they have spoken about and expressed interest in before."

Ms King said the "high profile" people could expand on the community's knowledge and understanding of organ donation and encourage family discussion of donation wishes through their charitable work.

"We currently have around 1700 people waiting for organ donation and the federal government has committed some $151 million in raising the rate of organ donation in Australia." she said.

"The good news is that since the money has been committed, the rate of organ donation has been going up but there is still a long way to go.

"I sincerely thank our DonateLife Ambassadors for championing the cause and encouraging Australians to start talking about the life-saving and life-changing gift of organ and tissue donation."

DonateLife Week runs until February 27. For more information, visit
Birthday brings both hope and uncertainty for transplant patient
Source: The Transplant Network 

When he takes the Great Basin Brewing Company stage for a special Sat., March 5, 2011 show that falls on his 49th birthday, singer-songwriter and transplant patient Brother Dan Palmer will naturally reflect on the dichotomy of two prevailing themes in his life: hope and uncertainty, a precarious, dare-to-dream way of living.

Almost two years after liver failure led to three near-death episodes — followed by three miraculous revivals — the former northern Nevadan is embracing the idea of picking up where he left off. While Palmer joyfully reclaims his life, health, love and music, it’s a razor’s-edge of simultaneously reckoning with the fact that his health can take a dramatic downward spiral, a life-and-death scenario that, ironically, would abruptly move his number up on the national transplant waiting list.

Writing, recording and performing are Palmer’s lifeblood — and a healing force that goes above and beyond a symbolic creative outlet. For his loved ones, seeing Brother Dan back onstage, entertaining and interacting with his audience, is not simply his lifeblood — it’s a true miracle for the man who was unable to speak for six weeks, who faced the threat of never singing and playing music again.

“Close to two years ago both mine & Dan’s lives changed forever,” states Melisa Maxey, Palmer’s sweetheart and caregiver, who’s been at his side every step of the way. ”I’m not sure if people really realize how far Dan has come. To see Brother Dan play, sing his own music and perform on stage with his longtime friends brings tears to my eyes. I have seen Dan on life-support, with doctors giving him no chance of recovery. I was next to his hospital bed when he opened his eyes, squeezed my hand and whispered to me ‘it’s going to be okay,’ after coming out of each of three comas. I sat in disbelief as he played his guitar and sang ‘Don’t Walk Away,’ — a song he wrote while in the hospital, still in his hospital gown, in his hospital bed. To me, Dan is a true testament of how the human spirit can overcome unimaginable circumstances. He has provided hope for so many people around the world. My wish for Brother Dan, as he continues to put one foot in front of the other, is to be surrounded by love.”

Like an angel, Maxey will be steadfastly present when The Brother Dan Band performs a free show on Sat., March 5, 8-11 p.m. at the Great Basin Brewing Company, 846 Victorian Ave., Sparks, Nev. Palmer will be joined onstage by loyal friends Phil Prunier (guitars, vocals), Joel Edwards (sax, flute, vocals) and Gary Setzer (percussion).

Brother Dan Palmer began studying classical guitar at age 6, and has been performing since he was 8 years old. With his own discography, as well as a repertoire of over 1,000 cover songs, Palmer has opened for or played music with major-label recording artists David Lindley, Foghat, War, Men At Work, Three Dog Night, and many more. A longtime volunteer for many local organizations including theNevada Humane Society, Burners Without Borders, and C*A*R*E* Chest of Sierra Nevada, Brother Dan is on the waiting list for a liver transplant in California, and serves as an ambassador for Donate Life. Palmer’s latest release, Fishnet Stockings, is available on CD.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Thanks to Heidelberg's Austin Hospital for the gift of life
Source: Heidelberg Leader

MICHAEL Knight is living proof a stranger can give the greatest gift: a second chance at life.

The 59-year-old’s time was almost up before he had a lifesaving liver transplant at Heidelberg’s Austin Hospital.

“I was diagnosed with liver disease in 1993, and was put on the transplant waiting list in 2005 at the hospital,” the Chirnside Park resident said. “I am thankful every day that someone decided to be an organ donor because they gave me the gift to live.”

Mr Knight said it was a “wonderful moment” when he received the phonecall that he would get the transplant. “If someone hadn’t been brave enough to give me that gift, I would have been dead in a matter of weeks,” he said.

“If I didn’t get my new liver, my wife would be left without a husband, my kids wouldn’t have a father and I wouldn’t have had the good years I’ve had since the operation.”

To give back to those who helped save his life, Mr Knight now devotes two days a week volunteering at the Austin.

The Austin is this week celebrating DonateLife Week, a national awareness week on organ and tissue donation.
"THE FIFTH QUARTER"  Based on the Inspiring True Story opens March 25th

In February 2006, young Luke Abbate accepted a ride home from a fellow student following his high-school team practice. In a severe case of irresponsible and reckless teen-age driving, and over the objections of Luke and the other young passengers, the driver lost control of the car at nearly 90 miles per-hour, spinning off a narrow road and landing in an embankment some seventy feet below. Luke suffered irreparable brain damage, and died in the hospital two days later – just four days before
his sixteenth birthday.

While in the hospital, the Abbate family made the difficult decision to permit the doctors to utilize Luke’s organs in a nationwide organ transplant program.  Five recipients were almost immediately identified, including a young mother who was suffering with serious heart disease. Sharing an uncommon blood type, Luke’s heart was flown to the young woman’s hospital location across the country, resulting in a successful heart transplant, and saving her life.

Following his brother’s death, Jon considered giving up his football career – but knew that doing so would not properly honor the younger brother who loved and idolized him. Upon his return to Wake Forest, Jon was given the approval of head coach Jim Grobe to change his number from his long-standing 40, to his brother’s number 5. And, in so doing, dedicated the new season to the memory of his brother.  The Abbate family founded The Luke Abbate 5th Quarter Foundation for the purposes of educating young people nationwide to the dangers and life-altering consequences of irresponsible driving.

A tradition began to evolve during the following Wake Forest games. In  paying homage to Luke, Jon would signal his family sitting in the stands (Section 5) by holding up his hand with all 5 fingers outstretched. He did this at the end of the third quarter. Gradually, the rest of his team started to do the same. Within a couple of games, players from both teams, the fans in the stands, and those watching the games on television, would begin the final quarter by raising their hands with all 5 fingers outstretched in honor of Luke’s memory. The final quarter became known as Luke’s Quarter, the 5th Quarter, and this humble signal crystallized the entire team. And, although having lost their starting
quarterback, starting running back, and starting defensive end to injuries at the beginning of the season, Wake Forest went on to complete their most successful season in school history, winning 11 games against 2 losses. Coach Grobe was selected the ACC’s Coach-Of-The-Year, and Jon performed brilliantly in the ACC Championship Game with fifteen solo tackles against powerhouse Georgia Tech.

The 5th Quarter Featurette:


The Luke Abbate 5th Quarter Foundation
On Feb. 13, 2006 we recevied the call no family ever wants to get:
"Your son has been in a car accident."
Our son Luke was a passenger, riding home from Lacrosse practice on a Monday night with four teammates. No drugs. No alcohol. But the teenage driver of the car chose to speed 77 miles an hour down a steep rural road, losing control and flying off a 70-foot embankment.

Twenty-four agonizing, heart-wrenching hours later, doctors declared Luke brain dead.  We kept him alive in order to harvest his organs so others could live. He died on Feb. 15, 2006 -- four days before his 16th birthday.

We've formed The Luke Abbate Fifth Quarter Foundation to help:

  • Raise awareness among teenagers and parents about the life-and-death consequences of teenage driving.
  •  Raise awareness among teenagers and parents about the life-saving gift of organ donation.
We hope the efforts of this Foundation will help save lives.  So that other families won't get the tragic call that came to us on Feb. 13, 2006 and forever changed our lives.

                                            The Abbate Family
                                Steven, Maryanne, Adam,
                                       Rachel and Jonathan

Mayor-Elect Rahm’s High-Profile Brothers

Rich Daley suffered his share of controversial stories about his brothers Bill and John, but they were not nearly as dramatic as what awaits us with Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Last night on WIND’s Mike Gallagher Show, the conservative host was in full outrage mode over a story in that day’s Washington Post titled “Under kidney transplant proposal, younger patients would get the best organs.” The Post’s Rob Stein wrote, “Instead of giving priority primarily to patients who have been on the waiting list longest, the new rules would match recipients and organs to a greater extent based on factors such as age and health to try to maximize the number of years provided by each kidney—the most sought-after organ for transplants.”

Rahm’s older brother, Ezekiel “Zeke” Emanuel, MD, Ph.D, seems to have had nothing to do with the proposal, although he does hold some controversial beliefs about directing limited resources to those whose lives would benefit most. For instance, he has written in a medical journal that people between ages 15 to 40 should have priority over the youngest and oldest.

Still, he is not mentioned in the Post article, and he left his job at the White House as a health advisor to the Office of Management and Budget last month to return to his bioethicist job at the National Institutes of Health.

That didn’t stop Gallagher, with the assent of his guest, Betsy McCaughey—former Lieutenant Governor of New York and persistent opponent of “Obamacare”—from blasting Zeke Emanuel as if he himself were compiling the list that would exclude everyone over the age of around 60. We warned you, Gallagher said, that this was coming under “Obamacare—rationing of care and a government panel deciding who should receive what.”

If stories involving Zeke carry high drama, just wait until there’s a juicy celebrity item involving the third and youngest brother—Hollywood’s storied talent agent, Ari Emanuel.


I GENERALLY DO NOT COMMENT HOWEVER OUR READERS SHOULD KNOW THAT DISCUSSIONS REGARDING FAIR AND EQUITABLE ALLOCATION OF KIDNEYS HAS BEEN DEBATED FOR NEARLY A DECADE. WTF, i am disappointed that many blame everything on the federal government - in this case the solution is in our own hands all americans need to be held accountable.

Transplant recipient gives thanks
By: Casey J. Bortnick | YNN  Rochester | Your News Now | Healthy Living


Organizations across the country are reminding people to give the gift of life. There are currently more than 100,000 people in the U.S. waiting for a life-saving transplant and 8,000 of them are in New York. That's why a local college student is trying to inspire people to become organ donors this holiday season.

"I just have to be involved," said Lauren Aggen, 20.

From designing and repairing costumes to performing on stage.

"I love it. I would do it every single day of my life if I could," Aggen said.

Aggen always seemed destined for the theater. She has a natural flare for the dramatics and she’s determined.

"I'm very driven," said Aggen.

It’s a quality she picked up from her parents in suburban Chicago.

"They taught me never use my medical condition as an excuse. And I think that's really important in life," Aggen said.

Aggen is a college student at the Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. She uses hearing aids and sign language to help her communicate. Aggen is immune compromised and takes 32 pills a day.

"If I don't take the medicine, my body will know that my heart is not my heart. And it will go into rejection and then I will die," said Aggen.

Soon after Aggen was born, doctors at a Chicago hospital discovered something was wrong. A valve in her heart was too small to pump blood through her body.

"And I only had three days to live, unless I got a heart transplant. And three days would be Christmas," Aggen recalled.

Seven days passed and Aggen was about to be taken off the transplant list. Then a phone call from Austin, Texas changed her life. A baby boy there had died from sudden infant death syndrome. His heart was a perfect match.

"When the put it in, usually you have to stimulate it, start the heart. But it just beat on its own," said Aggen.

Aggen survived, but the next 20 years of her life have been filled with challenges. The drugs she took while waiting for a transplant caused her to lose her hearing. She even went into a brief coma at the age of six.

"It was just one thing after another," she said.

Despite the obstacles, Aggen excelled, graduating high school with high honors.

"I think part of it is my donor family. Even though I don't know who they are, they've inspired me to want to do the best I can do," said Aggen.

In an effort to say thank you and promote organ donation, Aggen wrote a book. Entitled "Austin's Gift," it chronicles her life and pays tribute to the baby boy and his family who gave the ultimate Christmas gift. Aggen has been unable to track them down.

"And, you know, they don't have to meet me. But I just want them to know that because of them I'm here. And I'm very grateful. And I'm trying to do things to express my gratitude to them," Aggen said.

It's a gift of life Aggen doesn't plan on wasting. A gift she hopes to share with others.

"That's my gift of telling people my story. That's my gift," said Aggen.

Aggen actually started writing her book when she was just 13. The Make-A-Wish Foundation helped her publish it. It was be released December 20th, two days before Aggen’s 21st birthday.
Heart patient approaches 25th anniversary of his transplant, Iowa City, Iowa

IOWA CITY — Andrew Hinze won’t get another heart.

With his health deteriorating as he approaches a transplant milestone, however, the 50-year-old Oelwein man is grateful for the second chance at life his second heart has given him.

“I’ve had all the joys and all the heartaches and everything that goes along with a regular life,” said Hinze, who is twice-divorced and the grandfather of two. “I was probably weeks from dying when I got the transplant, so everything (since then) has been gravy.”

Hinze, the second patient to receive a heart at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, will mark the 25th anniversary of his transplant on Tuesday, March 1. He is the longest living Iowan with an in-state heart transplant.

Since the program’s inception in 1985, 275 patients have undergone the surgery at the hospital. Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines had 87 heart transplants before its program was suspended. Four patients who received hearts there before Hinze have since died, including a 32-year-old man who died last month after reaching the 25-year milestone.

Heart longevity hasn’t changed much since the first human heart transplant was performed in 1967 in Cape Town, South Africa, but other advancements are keeping patients alive longer.

One patient could soon undergo what will be a first for UI Hospitals, which has Iowa’s only heart transplant center.

Dr. Frances Johnson, director of cardiomyopathy treatment and medical director of the heart transplant program, said any day now, surgeons will perform the hospital’s first transplant of an artificial heart under study at the UI. The $120,000 device is also being studied at other centers, where it has already been used.

The heart is temporary and is one of the devices used as a bridge for patients awaiting a heart. The patient’s own heart is removed and replaced with the artificial heart, which has a small portable pump that allows patients to go home while awaiting a transplant.

As of last week, 19 Iowans were on a waiting list for a heart. Not all are candidates for the artificial heart.

Joel Newman, spokesman for the United Network of Organ Sharing, which matches donors with recipients under a federal contract, said fewer people are dying while waiting for a heart.

In 1998, for example, 802 patients died while awaiting a heart in the United States, compared to 359 in 2009.

The difference, both Newman and Johnson said, is owed primarily to the development of devices, such as the artificial heart and pumps that help patients survive while waiting for a transplant.

The longest a patient has lived so far with a transplanted heart is 31 years.

Hinze, who has a hereditary heart condition called familial cardiomyopathy, is not a candidate for another heart because of damage to his other organs from medications.

Transplanted hearts last an average of 10 years, Johnson said, “so Andrew is definitely on the outer part of that bell-shaped curve.”

Hearts endure some damage when they are removed from the donor and again as biopsies are taken, she said.

That damage means the hearts wear out faster. Other organs also are affected by the anti-rejection drugs transplant patients must take.

Hinze, who has a leaking heart valve and was hospitalized this week, was told he has six months to a year to live. He hopes to beat the odds.

A former masonry worker, Hinze was given the same outlook when he began experiencing heart failure at age 25.

Encouraged by the success of the UI’s first heart transplant patient, Emerson Martin, Hinze said he didn’t fear the operation. The only thing he knows about his donor is that he was 19.

Hinze went on a walk from Iowa City to Des Moines two years after his transplant to promote organ donation.

The operations were celebrated widely in the media during the program’s inception.

Reporters closely followed the progress of Martin, of North Liberty, who died last year at age 50, just a few months short of the 25th anniversary of his transplant on June 2.

Hinze also received widespread attention after his transplant on March 1, 1986.

That spotlight dimmed as the operations became almost commonplace to outsiders.

The medical team responsible for those transplants, however, takes another viewpoint.

“Every case is different,” Johnson said. “It still is really miraculous.”
The greatest gift
Gemima Harvey| Coffs Coast News | Australia

 DONATELIFE WEEK has been raising the profile of organ donation this week and Coffs Harbour is a leading rural hospital in donor numbers.
Organ and tissue donation specialist on the Mid North Coast, Anne Judd, said we needed to get the message out there and change perceptions so organ donation was not a taboo subject.

“We tend to keep it all in our heads and don’t share the fact we want to be organ donors and because most organ donors die suddenly, if the topic hasn’t been raised, families can be reluctant when asked if they would like to donate their loved one’s organs,” Ms Judd said.

“Only 56 per cent of families say yes because the subject had never been discussed.

“Conversely, families who talked about it feel they are upholding the wishes of their family member and it brings some positivity to a tragic time.”

She said strong progress was made in NSW last year with donors increasing 26 per cent from 2009.

One donor can save up to 10 lives and improve the quality of many more.

Contact DonateLife on 02 8566 1700 or visit for more information.
Pastry Shop Owner Needs Gift Of Life, Columbia South Carolina
Written by
Nate Stewart | WLTX, Columbia SC

Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Customers are showing their support for a pastry shop owner who needs a kidney.

Frank Toth owns the Pastry Place on Fort Jackson Boulevard. Toth says he loves his job. "It's like an actor who loves to do money and they say they can't believe they get paid for it," Toth says.

Toth and his wife Sharon started Pastry Place together .  "You have a lot of time to do the things that you wanna do."

But with each passing minute, the time they spend with each other is spread thin, after doctors told Frank he had a serious medical problem. "I need a kidney, very urgently."  Frank has been on dialysis for two and a half years; if he were to stop, he'd only have 48 hours to live.  "Sometimes I sit there just my wife and I just bawling, because we know what a struggle it's been to get to this point."

Sharon says they've had seven customers walk through their front door offering to donate their own kidney; however, all were rejected as potential matches. "We've made so many friend we never feel we're without family."  Their son-in-law Jody has offered his kidney. "[He is] the kind of man he is the kind of person I strive to be," he says.

Frank was even recieved the go ahead to receive the transplant, but in the final testing stage, Jody didn't get the same results.

"The day Frank got his approval letter is the day that we got our denial." "If they feel like they can donate a kidney and they know someone then it's the gift of life, that's really what we're pushing, not just for me but for anybody who needs a kidney."

The chime of the front door may be sweet for Frank and Sharon, it's the sound of hope.  "When I start to get really really concerned, in walks an angel."

According to the National Kidney Foundation of South Carolina, right now there are more than 1,000 people in need of a kidney transplant.

A registered organ donor can help up to 8 people
Caroline Rash | Anderson Independent Mail

Christina-Taylor Green, the 9-year-old girl killed in the recent Tucson, Ariz., shootings, saved the life of a little girl in Boston and the eyesight of two other children because of her parents’ decision to donate their daughter’s organs.
Roxanna and John Green said that knowing their daughter could help improve others’ lives brought some comfort in their time of grief, and they have begun encouraging other families to discuss organ donation before grieving family members face the decision.
Nicole Burdette of Anderson had to make the same tough decision when her husband Alex, a state trooper, was killed while helping a stranded motorist on S.C. 81 South, near where that road intersects with Hayes Road in southern Anderson County, in March 2005. Twelve hours after he arrived at the hospital, he was pronounced brain dead, and Nicole had to decide whether or not to donate his organs. Since Alex had always expressed to her that “if he could help someone, he would,” Burdette knew what she had to do.
“He had stopped to help a woman on his way home from work,” Burdette said. “So I thought being an organ donor could be his last way of helping someone.”
Becoming an organ donor is quick and easy, but since South Carolina did not create an official registry until December 2008, some people who believe they are organ donors may not actually be registered.
The pre-2009 heart symbol on 34 percent of South Carolinians’ driver’s licenses indicates a desire to be a organ donor but is not an official registration, so people who wish to be donors still must formally join the registry.
To ensure that you are an organ donor, visit or register during your next trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
But even with the good will of many donors, nearly 1,000 people remain on South Carolina’s organ recipient waiting list, and a new person is added every 11 minutes. Local healthcare agencies race against the clock to find matches for those waiting patients, and AnMed Health Center of Anderson has recently garnered national attention for its success in increasing numbers of organ transplants.
AnMed has worked for years in conjunction with the statewide agency Lifepoint Organ and Tissue Donation to dispel myths about organ donation and inform people of how to properly register as a donor. After attaining an average of 3.75 organs successfully transplanted per donor, AnMed was one of six South Carolina hospitals to receive a Medal of Honor for Organ Donation from the Department of Health and Human Services in November.
Though the average is 3.75 organs placed per donor, each donor can help up to eight people, according to Chuck Horton, AnMed Health Center’s nurse manager of the neurointensive care unit. In fact, a donor might be able to help someone he or she knows.
When Corey Macher of Anderson was put on the organ donation registry for a kidney, he started looking for a match within his family but did not guess that a relative of an acquaintance from church would be able to save him from hours of home dialysis each day. Then the daughter-in-law of his friend died unexpectedly, and the family requested Macher be the recipient. When Macher unexpectedly got the call from the Medical University of South Carolina one morning on the way to class at Clemson University, he left school, packed up his car in a rush and drove straight to Charleston, where he received a life-changing kidney.
“I can’t express how much better a patient can feel,” Macher said. “You can go out and don’t have to sit at home depending on a machine. Before it was so hard trying to go to class and do dialysis.”
After receiving the kidney, Macher graduated in 2009 with a degree in accounting. His family now celebrates the day he got the kidney as a “second birthday,” and he occasionally works with Lifepoint to spread the word about organ donation by sharing his story at health fairs and other local events. Lifepoint and AnMed host other events to raise awareness as well, such as the annual Christmas gathering where family members of donors and recipients can celebrate the gift of life by hanging pictures of their loved ones on a Christmas tree and sharing their experiences.
Sometimes, these events allow family members of donors to see exactly how they helped another person. In 2006, after reading an article in the Independent Mail about Beau Langer receiving a kidney, Nicole Burdette contacted him to see if he might have received her husband’s kidney. Their stories matched, and soon the two met. Both attended the Christmas ceremony that year, and Langer was able to express how much Nicole’s decision meant to him.
“Alex Burdette is my hero,” Langer said.