Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dear California Donate Life Community:

On behalf of Donate Life California, I am hoping that you can help California with a critical bill to help us significantly increase the number of registered donors in California.

AB 1118 (John A. Pérez) would require California school districts to offer pupils who are enrolled in health classes during grade 9 or 10 at least 15 minutes of instruction on organ and tissue donation including the recovery process.

As of this July, California’s registry will be mature – that is, we will have completed our first driver’s license renewal cycle, so the only new designated donors will be first-time drivers or “holdouts” – people who did not check yet previously and will need more persuading. By opening up a direct education channel to first-time drivers, AB 1118 will perform an invaluable service to furthering the Donate Life mission.

In order to get this important bill passed, we need your help. Please open the attached letter template (Partner and Ambassador versions attached), add your personal information, apply your organization’s letterhead if applicable, and send your letter to by Friday, April 8 so we can present your letter prior to its first committee hearing the following week. (You may also fax it to me at 213-633-1650 and I will forward the PDF.)

Thank you for your support!

Bryan Stewart, Donate Life California

CLICK ON THE IMAGE BELOW:  Save As or right click to save document to your desktop; complete then print.


The 5th Quarter is in theaters in select cities around the nation! Based on a true story, The 5th Quarter carries a powerful message of triumphing over tragedy when two parents (Andie MacDowell & Aidan Quinn) and their surrounding community come together after a devastating car accident. After the tragic car crash takes the life of his younger brother Luke, Wake Forest's football player Jon Abbate (Ryan Merriman) helps lead his team in their most successful season.

In the tradition of 'The Blind Side' comes the inspirational true story......
If you love inspirational sports stories and want to see a heart-warming film about having gratitude for life and overcoming obstacles, gather your family and friends to go see The 5th Quarter! Watch the Trailer here!

Make plans now and tell all your family and friends to go see The 5th Quarter at your local theatre.Find your local theatre here!

The 5th Quarter has already had a major impact on those that have seen it in early screenings and Facebook fans are raving about the inspirational impact this incredible film will have on those who see it.
" a beautiful story of faith and inspiration" 
- Kathie Lee Gifford/'Today"
"if you were inspired by 'Blind Side''ll want to see 'The 5th Quarter'" 
- Gov. Mike Huckabee/Fox News-ABC Radio
"A well-acted drama that finds just the right balance between entertaining the audience and provoking them emotionally as well as intellectually. It will make you stand up and cheer." - Avi Offer, NYC Movie Guru
"I'm moved by this movie, by the power of story, strength and hope, and I think you'll be moved, too—with five fingers in the air." - Hollywood Jesus
"A tribute to the power of hope and love, The 5th Quarter is an inspiring true story about a family coming together to rally a team, a school and a community to achieve more than they could ever have been imagined." - Christian Cinema

"The story was incredibly moving, and it was apparent that Rick Bieber took great care to be as true to the real-life story as possible. I thought the moment to moment portrayal of what the family went through right after the accident felt very authentic." -Kim Peeler, AOL
"This is going to be a "MUST SEE MOVIE!" -Dan Ellenberger
"What a powerful story... It is a breath of fresh air to see organ donation in the form of a true story..." -Christina Leahy
"Can't wait to see this!! My son was an organ and tissue donor at the age of 18. I'm so proud of our heroes...the donors!" -Lynn Parker
"DO NOT MISS SEEING IT. It is incredible! Please... if you thought for one moment, The Blind Side was a good movie - then, do not pass on seeing The 5th Quarter. You will not be sorry." -Ty Manns

Visit The 5th Quarter Movie Site
5th Quarter Fandango Site
Become a Fan of The 5th Quarter
Follow The 5th Quarter

Jet Skier on a mission, Australia
by: 3AW Radio

Yesterday Derryn Hinch interviewed 13-year old Coen Ashton, a remarkably upbeat teenager who suffers from the debilitating lung disease Cystic Fibrosis.

Coen is currently on a waiting list for a double-lung transplant, something 3AW drive host Derryn Hinch can certainly relate to at the moment as he battles liver cancer.

In order to get more people to donate organs, Coen decided to raise awareness for organ donation by jetskiing the entire length of the mighty Murray River. During his trip, he got 1000 people to sign up for organ donation.

Coen is from Queensland but reguarly comes down to Melbourne to receive treatment at the Alfred Hospital.

Right now the humble Year 8 student is brainstorming his next idea for donation awareness. He is an inspiration to all and we here at 3AW support his quest for new lungs. Best of luck Coen!
PLAY AUDIO: Coen Ashton and Derryn Hinch chat about Coen's quest for new lungs
Hospitals Across Louisiana Participate in National Donate Life Month in April

Shreveport, LA-- The Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency (LOPA) and Willis-Knighton Health System are having a Donor Flag Raising Ceremony on April 5, 2011 at 10 a.m. Hospitals throughout the state of Louisiana are celebrating National Donate Life Month during April 2011. On April 1, hospital will begin a 30-day initiative to raise awareness about the critical need for individuals to register as organ, eye, and tissue donors with flag raising ceremonies; donor drives initiatives, and educational outreach.

As part of the recognition month activities, hospitals will join thousands of organizations across the nation in the Flags Across America initiative to honor and celebrate the hundreds of thousands of donors and recipients whose lives have been affects by donation. The goals of Flags Across America is to rally every donor hospital and transplant center, as well as all recovery agencies, to collectively fly the Donate Life flag during April 2011. Hundreds of organ and tissue donor families from North Louisiana have been invited to attend the Donor Flag Ceremony on April 5.

“Organ and tissue donation can save and improve lives in our community, around Louisiana and across the nation, and Willis-Knighton wants to help drive that point home with this symbolic flag,” said Deborah Bellamy, Program Administrator at the Regional Transplant Center. “Joining the Donor Registry gives hope to those in need of organ, cornea, and tissue transplants, while leaving a legacy of generosity for the donor and his or her family.”

About LOPA 
LOPA is the only federally-designated organ procurement agency for the state of Louisiana. The agency plays a vital role in educating the medical community and the general public about organ and tissue donation matters, working with families through the donation process, recovering donated organs and tissues and placing the organ and tissues for transplant. 

Contacts: Ashley Payne, Hospital Resource Coordinator for Willis-Knighton Health System LOPA Phone: (504) 837-3355 x373, E-mail:
Organ donation: Save a life
LINCOLN — The 15-year-old was registering for a learner's permit to drive when her mother asked if she planned to sign up as a organ donor.

“No way,” the girl replied. “I don't want them to take my organs if I get into a car wreck.”

After the mother informed the teen that her organs wouldn't be harvested unless she had died in a car wreck, the young driver signed up as a donor.

The story, told Wednesday by the recipient of two kidney donations, Bev Neth, the head of the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles, illustrates the myths that prevent some people from becoming organ donors.

Joann Schaefer, the state's chief medical officer, said among those myths are that a family must pay to donate organs of a loved one and that an organ donor cannot have an open-casket funeral. Both are untrue, said Schaefer, who also is the recipient of a donated liver three years ago.

The two state officials joined Gov. Dave Heineman in declaring April “Donate Life Month” and in urging more Nebraskans to become organ donors.

Currently, 458 residents of the state are on waiting lists for organ and tissue donations. Forty-two Nebraskans died last year while on such lists.

People can register as organ donors when they renew their drivers license or by visiting the website,

In Nebraska, 47.5 percent of people have registered as organ donors, with registration varying from a state-high 61.1 percent in western Nebraska's Arthur County to a low of 25.1 percent in northeast Nebraska's Thurston County.
Douglas County's registration rate is 49.1 percent.

Officials said one person can save eight lives through organ donations, restore sight to two people via cornea donation, and help 50 others via tissue donation.
Liberty nurse grateful for gift donor left for her, others
By Angie Anaya Borgedalen | Liberty Tribune

Diane Ehren-Kipping, a registered nurse at Liberty Hospital, received a bone transplant from a cadaver to help replace damaged tissue resulting from the disease fibrous dysplasia. Below, a scan of a lower leg bone shows a joint that
could be affected by the disease Eiane Ehren-Kipping has, known as fibrous dysplasia.

For about a year and a half, Diane Ehren-Kipping endured a painful right foot.

Tired of suffering, she went to a podiatrist, who prescribed anti-inflammatory medication, steroid injections and inserts in her shoes to deal with the persistent pain of what was thought to be plantar fasciitis.

A registered nurse at Liberty Hospital who is now the coordinator of employee health, Ehren-Kipping at the time worked 12-hour shifts and blamed being on her feet for so many hours for the pain.

“But nothing I did was working,” she said. “It just kept getting worse and worse.”

Finally, her doctor suggested getting her foot X-rayed. Luckily the X-ray included her ankle.

“The X-ray revealed something unusual on the tibia and the doctor ordered an MRI and a bone scan,” Ehren-Kipping said.

She said Dr. Howard Rosenthal from the Mid-America Sarcoma Institute in Overland Park, Kan., an orthopedic surgeon, called to tell her the bad news.

“I remember distinctly he called at 5 p.m. on a Friday and said, ‘I don’t know how to tell you this, but you have a bone tumor,’” she said. “At that time we didn’t know if it was malignant or benign.”

She soon learned that the tumor was not cancerous but she had a disease called fibrous dysplasia, which destroy normal healthy bone and replaces it with scar-like fibrous tissue that weakens the bone, making it susceptible to fractures.

A whole body scan showed that she also had the disease in other bones, including her pelvis and ribs. Surprisingly, Ehren-Kipping said she had never had a broken bone. It is not known what causes the disease and it is not considered genetic, she said, but it can become quite debilitating if left untreated.

To treat her problem, a portion of bone was harvested from a cadaver. The donor bone was mixed with bone from her own leg and allowed to fuse, strengthening her leg and improving her ability to walk.

“It looked like shredded up crab meat,” she said.

Ehren-Kipping said she is so grateful that someone decided to donate their organs and tissue to help her and others.

Ehren-Kipping described herself as a “very private person” but thought the need to speak up about her health was imperative to bring awareness of the need for donors.

From working in the emergency room, Ehren-Kipping said she had experienced both sides: as the donor family and as a recipient. She said she often approached grieving families about donating the organs and tissue of their loved ones who had died.

“About 50 percent would agree to do it,” she said. “It was hard to do.”

Ehren-Kipping’s driver’s license indicates that she is a donor. Not only can a donor save as many as eight lives by donating their organs, she said countless others could benefit from the donor’s tendons, bones, intestines, corneas and other body parts.

“Fifty people can potentially benefit from one donor,” she said. “If only one person decides to do it, it’s so worth it.”


As of February of this year, there were more than 110,200 patients waiting for an organ transplant in the United States, and every day 19 people on the waiting list die while waiting for an organ, according to

Dispelling Transplant Myths

According to a number of websites, there are numerous myths about being an organ donor. Here are three top myths:

Myth: I don’t need to tell my family about my wish to donate because I’ve signed a donor card and put a sticker on my driver’s license.

Fact: Your family and next-of-kin will be consulted before any organs or tissues are recovered, and their wishes will be honored. Tell your family now if you wish to donate.

Myth: If I donate, I won’t be able to have an open-casket funeral.

Fact: Donated organs are removed surgically. Careful attention is made so that an open casket and funeral is still an option.

Myth: I’m much too old to donate. The issue doesn’t apply to me.

Fact: Strict age limits for organ and tissue donation no longer exist. Medical professionals would be called upon to decide which of your organs and/or tissues would be suitable for transplantation.
Spain's family bonds lie at the heart and soul of great healthcare
Spain leads the world in organ transplants, but its success in the operating theatre is matched by its holistic approach outside
Sarah Boseley , health editor
The Guardian, Thursday 31 March 2011

Looking tired, Adolfo Martínez Pérez, dressed in a white clinical coat, apologises for being late, saying he has been to see a judge. A difficult patient suing for compensation, perhaps? No. The surgeon and his fellow transplant co-ordinator, nurse Mercedes González González (her mother and father had the same surname), have just returned from witnessing the uncle of a five year-old girl sign a legal document in another part of Madrid's Ramón y Cajal hospital, declaring that he understands the consequences of donating part of his liver to his niece.

Spain has probably the best organ transplant system in the world. Its healthcare is highly regarded – it ranked seventh in the World Health Organisation's top 10 in 2000 (the UK was 18th) – and, like the NHS, it is free at the point of delivery. It has an excellent network of family doctors and a health centre within 15 minutes of every home. But when it comes to transplants, Spain is way out in front.

It is good at the headline-grabbing experimental surgery. Three face transplants of the 12 performed in the world took place in Spain, more than in any other country and, in March last year, a team of 30 in Barcelona carried out the first full face transplant, including teeth, palate and jaw, on a 31-year-old man who had shot himself in a hunting accident.

And it was Spanish surgeons who performed the first transplant of a windpipe manufactured from a patient's own stem cells, which meant that the recipient, Claudia Castillo, 30, escaped a lifetime of immunosuppressant drugs.

But in the routine yet emotionally fraught business of persuading the families of those who have died to donate organs, Spain has also shown the rest of the world the way. The UK is one of many countries that have taken lessons – last week the founder of the Spanish organ transplant network, Dr Rafael Matesanz, was advising Colombia.

Spain has about 5,500 people on the transplant waiting list, compared with about 8,000 in the UK. It has only two-thirds the UK population, but the impressive part is the proportion of families who say yes to organ donation at the moment of death. In the UK, it is 60%. In Spain, it is up to 85%. The organ donation rate in Spain is 34 per million. The latest figure for the UK is 15.5.

Pérez and González are fundamental to Spain's success, according to Matesanz. It's not about donor cards, registers or "presumed consent" but about the teams of transplant co-ordinators in every hospital. "The key is organisation. European people are not that different from one country to another. What really changes is how you approach the moment of death," he says.

In Spain, he says, when a patient arrives in critical care after an injury, heart attack or stroke "there is no limitation to the care if there is a slight possibility to save the patient's life". Medical staff carry on trying beyond much hope of resuscitation or recovery and there are a high number of critical care beds. Spanish families are grateful.

It also means that most of those who die in hospital are certified brain dead on a ventilator, which makes more organ donation possible.

At that point, the transplant co-ordinators will go to see the family. At the Reina Sofia hospital in Córdoba in Andalucia, in the deep south of Spain, but less than two hours from Madrid by impressively fast train, the lead co-ordinator is Juan Carlos Robles Arista, not a surgeon but an intensive care specialist.

Robles and usually another member of the team see the family after they have been told of the death by the treating doctor. Some people in Spain carry donor cards, but the wishes of the family take precedence. The importance of the family in Spanish healthcare, who help feed and care for their relatives in hospital day by day, cannot be over-estimated.

"The first and most important thing is the reaction to the announcement of the death," he says. "That is a hard moment for the family and also for the doctor. It is a painful situation but my job is to explain to the family that in their pain, they could find happiness in helping others."

It's often not one discussion but a protracted conversation. In his 13 years in the job, Robles has found that every family is different. "Sometimes you think it will be difficult and they say yes, of course." What matters above all, he says, is that the doctor believes in the importance of his work. "If you don't believe in what you are doing, you are not able to explain the comfort and happiness of this kind of thing." Do relatives ever come back and thank him for encouraging them to donate? "Many of them, many."

Uxue Gómez Iglesias, 23, is in the hospital, as she has been every day for the last month and will be for the next month, feeding and talking to her mother, who has undergone a double lung transplant. Milagros Iglesias Bello, 54, had emphysema and had been confined to bed wearing an oxygen mask for two years. Her daughter, smiling broadly, pulls out snapshots from last week. Her mother is sitting up and starting physio.

"We are from the Basque country but we now live in Seville," she says. "I was working as a fruit seller but I had to give up my job." It is unthinkable that one of the family would not be with her mother every day. More remarkable still, since she and her mother have no money and Seville is 45 minutes away, a lung transplant charity called A Pleno Pulmón has provided a flat in Córdoba where she now lives for free, and her mother will recuperate for two months.

With the fall in road traffic accidents leading to fewer deaths in young people, the age of organ donors has risen. Spain's average donor is now over 55 and the oldest was 88. Living donations are also on the increase and encouraged. Giving a kidney to a relative should not jeopardise the future health of the donor. A small piece of the liver can be transplanted to save a child's life and will grow back in the donor.

Ramon y Cajal in Madrid has a unique collaboration with the La Paz children's hospital – its surgeons operate on the adult donor and transport the organ to the child at La Paz. The five-year-old whose uncle has agreed to donate – because neither parent is suitable – is older than most. "The child is normally three to five months old," says Pérez. "It takes 10 to 14 hours of surgery for the child who has very tiny blood vessels." Living donors are not the answer for adults, though. Pérez shakes his head. "We have only four or five a year. You have to take more than half the liver. There is a 1-2% mortality risk. In 2002, a New York Times journalist who was a donor died after surgery."

In Spain, transplants, which still seem to be on the exotic fringe in the UK, are a matter of national pride and appear to have been absorbed into the culture – the subject of the Oscar-winning film All About My Mother, directed by Pedro Almodóvar. On my visit to Córdoba, an art exhibition on the subject of organ transplant opened and I was handed the second volume of poetry on the subject by celebrated poets from the region, Tintas para la Vida II.

There is a stocky stone monument outside the Reina Sofia hospital to the donors and, every Tuesday, school groups come to be told about donation and have their pictures taken with donor cards. It's not the card that matters – it is the discussion the young people will later have at home with their parents.

Spain's hospitals, built in the years after Franco when the autonomous regions were given charge of healthcare, are trusted and admired. The 30-year-old Reina Sofia hospital is the pride of Córdoba and its biggest employer. Of the 300,000 inhabitants, 5,000 are employed there. It is big, bright, beautiful and hi-tech. Questions about hospital superbugs are met with incomprehension.

We walk down a corridor with a glass wall, feeling intrusive. Behind it are sterile isolation rooms where young people with no hair are lying on beds in blue hospital pyjamas. They have wifi, computer screens, music systems and television. Some look round startled by passers-by who are obviously neither medical staff nor relatives.

Wandering about a hall filled with natural light are a large number of people, chatting as they wait to be called in when their relative comes out of surgery. All of the 33 operating theatres are in use. Further on is a room with numbered lockers and numbered fully reclining chairs with blankets, a shower and a toilet, where relatives can wait overnight.

None of this looks cheap, yet Spain's healthcare spending is not excessive. "We only spend 6% of GDP," says Dr José Martínez Olmos, secretary general of the ministry of health, although if you add in private sector spending, it reaches 8%. Most people use the state sector. As in the UK, the private sector offers shorter waiting lists, but for major illness, emergencies or cutting-edge treatment, public hospitals are the place to go.

"The healthcare system in Spain is not expensive," Olmos continues. "We spend €1,600 per head per year. This is a price that a developed country can afford."

Doctors' salaries are lower than in the UK - perhaps €100,000 a year for a hospital doctor with 20 years' experience - and there has been a salary cut for medical staff because of the economic crisis. Yet, says Olmos, "that's a high income for Spanish citizens. The president earns €80,000 a year." And there appears to be no great medical migration for higher salaries abroad.

It's hard to square the low cost with Spain's cutting edge medical achievements and not just in transplants. "Everything that medical science has achieved is part of our healthcare system," says Olmos. Nor do they turn down new and expensive drugs - although they insist on renegotiating prices with drug companies in future years and Olmos admits they "are looking at Nice" (the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, which assesses the cost-effectiveness of medicines in the UK).

Spain faces the same ageing problem as the UK. Martínez Olmos, talks of a big push on tackling the chronic diseases of older people in the home, in order to keep them out of hospital. It's been a theme of the NHS for years now too.

But there is every chance that Spain will deal with the health and social needs of its booming elderly population better than Britain. The massive advantage Spain has is the family. The old bonds may have worn thin in the fast-paced cities, but essentially the commitment of the younger to the older generation is still there, especially in the rural areas.

Just as Uxue Gómez Iglesias, at the age of 23, will give up her job to look after her mother, so families will care for their ailing and elderly relatives at home for as long as they can. And, interestingly, while the Spanish talk much of "the crisis" and Olmos admits that healthcare costs are rising by 5-6% a year, there is no discussion of cutbacks either among medical staff or the population at large. Any mention is greeted almost with a shudder and pushed aside. Spain's healthcare is good and nobody wants to settle for less.

Ben Franklin Bridge lights up to show support

CAMDEN — The Ben Franklin Bridge will be illuminated during the month of April to promote autism awareness, the Gift of Life organ door program, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, to observe Earth Day and Easter Sunday and to support the March of Dimes and Temply University alumni.

For most of April the bridge will have green lighting for National Donate for Life Month, sponsored by the Gift of Life Donor Program. The Gift of Life Donor Program helps 13 area transplant centers in the eastern half of Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and the State of Delaware where heart, kidney, lung, liver and pancreas transplants are performed. For further information on this program visit
Family raises awareness of organ donation
Thursday, March 31, 2011
By Margaret Smykla | Pittsburgh Post - Gazette

A year after donating a kidney to her cousin's son, Eileen Pistelli said she feels "absolutely fine."

"Unless I had these little marks on my belly, I wouldn't have known it was done," she said of the surgery.

"I feel absolutely no different," said the Pleasant Hills woman, 48.

The recipient of her kidney, Anthony Lucking, 26, of North Strabane, is doing well, too.

To increase awareness of the need for organ donors, and to provide money and other support for financially strapped transplant patients, Mrs. Pistelli and her sister, Mary Kay Paul, of Peters, began the Pennsylvania Chapter of Second Chance at Life in September 2010.

A basketball fundraiser to benefit the nonprofit charitable will be held at 8 p.m. Saturday at Thomas Jefferson High School, 310 Old Clairton Road, Jefferson Hills.

The game will pit the Pittsburgh All-Star Footballers Basketball Team -- comprising active Pittsburgh Steelers players -- against Thomas Jefferson student alumni.

"I want to get it out that this can be done, and you can be healthy, all while drastically helping someone else's life," Mrs. Pistelli said.

The date was chosen because April is National Donate Life Month.

At age 18, Mr. Lucking was diagnosed with Henoch-Schonlein purpura, or HSP, a form of blood vessel inflammation that results in a rash, stomach pain, and, in his case, the locking of his hands, elbows, feet and joints.

Over the next several years, it led to other problems, such as high blood pressure, migraines, and kidneys functioning at 13 percent of capacity. Ten percent usually results in dialysis.

As word spread of his need for a kidney, there were many volunteers, including his family: his parents, Maureen and John, and brother, Nick -- but they were not compatible.

While Mrs. Pistelli and Mrs. Paul were deemed suitable donors, Mrs. Pistelli was the determined to be the better match.

On April 19, 2010, Mrs. Pistelli, a registered nurse at Allegheny General Hospital, donated her kidney to Mr. Lucking, a PNC Bank loan administrator, at UPMC Montefiore.

At the time, she commented that in saving her godson's life, she became his "fairy godmother."

In the days that followed, Mr. Lucking presented her with a snow globe containing a fairy. "To my fairy godmother," reads the inscription.

An unanticipated consequence of the procedure, said Mrs. Pistelli, is realizing how much she means to family and friends who showered her with love and attention throughout the experience.

"People always tell me I gave so much, but I got back so much more than I gave," she said.

Game tickets cost $7 for all ages, and can be purchased at the high school, at the door prior to the event, or by emailing Mrs. Paul at For more information about the organization, or to donate, visit
Heart transplant recipient grateful for gift of life
By Joanne Fox | Sioux City Journal

Journal photo by Tim HyndsDonor heart recipient Steve Stille of Storm Lake is shown in a trauma room at Mercy Medical Center-Sioux City Wednesday, March 30, 2011. Stille was twice flown to Mercy after having heart attacks. He received a donor heart at University Hospitals in Iowa City. Sioux City Journal photo by Tim Hynds

Steve Stille of Storm Lake, Iowa, is an imposing presence, but no match for a seven-pound organ in his body.

The 6’6” graduate of Storm Lake High School played center and later forward at the University of South Dakota. He even scrimmaged with pals in a basketball league.

When he awoke in the middle of the night with flu-like symptoms in March 1997 – over the Easter weekend – he tolerated his bad health until Monday. When he didn’t seem to be recovering, his wife suggested a visit to the doctor.

“They drew blood and, I use this term literally, came tearing back into the office,” he said. “They told me I was going to the hospital. I was having a heart attack.”

Health care providers sent Stille’s EKG to Mercy (then Marian Health Center) Medical Center – Sioux City.

“My sister (Deb Trizila) worked in cardiac care at the time and later told me her ears perked up when she heard an EKG coming in from Storm Lake,” he said. “She later told me when she saw the results, she was convinced I was never going to make it.”

Stille’s left anterior descended artery – “Among health care providers they call it the widow maker,” he quipped – was badly damaged.

“The doctor didn’t mince words on how serious the situation was,” Stille said. “He said they considered putting stents in my heart, but figured that would kill me.”

Hindsight being better than foresight, Stille admitted he had some clues. His dad was 49 and died from a heart attack. Stille had Type 2 diabetes.

“But I didn’t know genetics were such an important component in heart disease,” he said. “And diabetes tends to mask heart attack symptoms. I had no chest pain. No pain anywhere. Just those flu symptoms.”

After spending a dozen days at Mercy, Stille was sent home to begin cardiac rehabilitation.

“A normal person’s heart runs about 65 percent capacity; mine was at 9 percent when I had the heart attack,” he said.

In November 2008, Stille was taken to Iowa City for further examination. His energy level had decreased. The decision was made to put Stille on the list for a heart transplant. The call came within four months.

“I had my bags packed. So did my wife (Becky) and daughter (Sarah),” he recalled. “But my wife was at the beauty shop getting her nails done and we couldn’t wait, so we called her and took off. She later told me, she threw a $50 bill down, yelled, ‘My husband’s getting a heart transplant; I’ll settle up with you later!’ and ran out the door.”

On the four-hour drive, Stille and his daughter chatted about fun things.

“I was excited, yet apprehensive,” he recalled. “I tried to remain positive about what was going to happen and not put doubts in my mind. Most important, I thought about the donor.”

Stille was able to see Becky, Sarah and other daughter Meredith prior to becoming the 256th heart recipient at the University of Iowa hospital in March 2009.

“I remember laying in the operating room and, on my left, never seeing so many instruments in my life. And there were more at my feet and more on my right,” he said. “I asked the nurse if they were going to use all of them and she replied, ‘Only if they need to.’”

The surgery went well. Stille walked 50 feet the next day and ate a full lunch.

“There was some discomfort, but I had prepared for the worst,” he said. “I would have gone home after six days – the fastest recuperative time they ever had for a transplant – but I developed some fluid in my chest that seemed to have some bacteria in it, so I remained there for almost three weeks.”

Since then, Stille has had 17 heart biopsies. He’s scheduled for another next week at Mercy, to ensure there’s been no rejection of the new heart, which came from an unknown individual.

“They can’t tell me gender, age, race, anything,” he said. “I’ve written two letters and plan to write a third, which is forwarded to the donor family. I want them to know about me and how thankful I am for this gift of life.

He continued, “I think about the donor every day and the family. I say a prayer for them. It’s humbling to realize the sacrifice somebody made for me.”

A somewhat private person, Stille shares his story when he thinks it might make a difference.

“I only hope when others hear my story, a family or individual, when they have a difficult choice (organ donation) to make, they are willing to make that choice,” he said.

In fact, explaining his gratitude leaves the 63-year-old Stille at a loss for words.

“This was such a life-changing event for me,” he said thoughtfully. “I just want to reassure the family or individual who made this sacrifice for me that I am taking good care of their gift.”

Stille paused, reflected and said, “I just feel so blessed.”


April is National Donate Life Month, encouraging individuals to consider the gift of organ donation. However, people still harbor some misunderstandings about the process. Here are some Frequently Asked Questions and Answers.

Q: I carry a donor card and it is in my will that I want to be a donor, so do I still have to tell my family?

A: Even with first person consent/donor designation, it is still recommended that you inform your family of your wishes to donate so there are no surprises at the time of your death. Some states do require consent from your legal next-of-kin for donation to occur.

Q: Won't donation cost my family a lot of money?

A: There is no cost to the donor's family for organ donation. All costs related to donation are paid for by the organ procurement organization.

Q: Can I still have an open casket funeral?

A: It is extremely unlikely that the process will disfigure the body or change the way it looks in a casket.

Q: Will anyone really want my organs if I'm elderly?

A: Anyone, regardless of age, can be considered for organ donation.

Q: Can organs be given to different racial groups or individuals of the opposite sex?

A: In most cases, race and gender are not a factor. However, organ size is critical to match a donor heart, lung or liver with a recipient.

Q: Can the donor family meet the recipients?

A: The identity of all parties is kept confidential. The donor family and the transplant recipient may receive information such as age, sex, occupation and general location. Individually, the recipient may be told the circumstances of death and the donor's family may be informed of the transplants that were performed and receive information about the health status of the recipients. Donor families and recipients are encouraged to communicate with each other through the organ procurement organization. While the initial contact is anonymous, families and recipients may decide to communicate openly after a period of time and if both parties are interested, they may meet.

-- Iowa Donor Network website
Gift of Life Donor Program

Why We Dash: Hrt4Bryan
Team Stephanie
Team Fundraising Goal: $1,000.00
Total Raised to date: $1,055.00

Tell us about yourself, where are you from and what do you like to do?

I am a 26-year-old currently living in Verona, NJ. I work as a graphic designer for a company that manufactures security equipment for the Department of Homeland Security as well as local government agencies. Although I am currently out on disability as I wait for my transplant, I still enjoy using my free time to design as well as read, watch movies and as the weather gets nicer, going for short walks.

Bryan Indergrund, 26, is currently waiting for a heart transplant.

How and why you were listed for a transplant?
I was first diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in January 2004. I was admitted to Luke’s Roosevelt in New York City where my doctors discovered that I had a ventricular tachycardia caused by a myocardial bridge. They performed surgery to release the artery of the bridge as well as a single bypass in the event of scar tissue closing the artery again. I also had and ICD implanted to keep my heart beating at a normal pace.

For the next 6 years I lived a seemingly normal life but started to show significant symptoms, which my doctors said was caused by my heart beginning to go into to failure as a result of the hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Insurance reasons led me to the Heart and Vascular Center at the Hospital of the University on Pennsylvania. After my initial checkup, my doctors expected me to be listed as a Status 2 which has a wait time of about 5 years. After my transplant evaluation testing, my new doctors learned that my condition was far worse than they had anticipated and they put me on the IV medication Milrinone which led me to be listed as a Status 1B in August of 2010.

What has been the hardest challenge of waiting for a transplant?

The hardest part of waiting for transplant is the waiting itself. When I was listed as Status 1B, I was told that someone with my blood type (O negative) waits on average six months. Luckily, I was able to return to work for a few months while I waited but soon the fatigue of a full work schedule caught up and my doctors recommended that I take it easy and coninue to wait from home. I try to keep myself busy by reading, watching movies, catching up on past seasons of TV shows and doing various design work for friends and family. Unfortunately while I am on the IV medication, I am unable to drive so I am pretty much confined to the house but I have a great support group of family and friends who are more than willing to drive me places and come visit me.

How often do you travel to and from Verona, NJ to Philadelphia for transplant care?

When I was first listed for transplant, I was traveling back and forth to Philadelphia weekly. But as I became more stabilized on the Milrinione I now travel to Philadelphia every four weeks. Since I live two hours north of Philly, the every 4 weeks is much easier for my Father since he is the one who drives me. I also must go down for a right-heart catheterization about every three months but the doctors have been great with scheduling that on the same day and my office checkups.

Tell us about your blog, The 26-Year-Old Tin Man. Why did you decide to start writing and what keeps you going?

The main reason I started my blog was to keep my huge support group informed as to how my appointments went so I wouldn’t have to make a ton of phone calls and repeat myself over and over again. It has kind of involved into a storybook chronicling my entire experience. It has also helped me to put into words how I am feeling when I am having an exceptionally good day or a bad day. It has become very therapeutic for me as well.

Read more about Bryan’s experience on his blog The 26-Year-Old Tin Man. You can also find Hrt4Bryan on Facebook.
Gift of Life Donor Program
NJ Students Raise Over $6,000 for Gift of Life Family House
The Lawerenceville School Lives Saving Lives Club
On February 20th, the Lives Saving Lives Club of The Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, NJ, held its 3rd Annual Organ Donor Awareness Benefit Dinner. This event is 100% promoted and planned by students who on their own provided the stringed instrument music for the affair, prepared and served the four course meal, and had a wonderful time doing it all.

The faculty advisor to the club, Arthur Thomas, is a heart recipient who shared his story at a Lawrenceville School meeting three years ago, and two students – Taylor Bloom and Mary Hopkins – now in college, decided to form a club to raise awareness and funds for organ donation. The first two years the club raised a total of $6,900, which it donated to Family House. This year, under the direction of senior co-presidents Jimin Lee and Nicole Banton, the club has raised over $6000 more, which will continue to support Gift of Life Family House.
Thanks to Lawrenceville School students for their support!

Have a brilliant fundraising idea like this one?
 Learn more about hosting your own to benefit Gift of Life Family House.