FAMILY MEETS: Carol Stafford, second from right, poses with the Panus family — John, left, Mirna, second from left, and Julie. Stafford received a liver from Jennifer Panus, who died in a car collision. The family recently met for the first time.
The self-employed small business owner and mother of two found herself with a broken leg about five years ago. While on the operating table, Stafford’s liver began to fail and doctors told her she would need a replacement.
After waiting to get on the transplant list, Stafford, of Apple Valley, had the transplant March 8, 2007, at UCLA Medical Center.
Five years after her transplant, Stafford is alive and well. And recently she had the privilege of meeting her organ donor’s parents and sister.
“There were tears of joy from everyone,” Stafford said. “Everyone cried. It was very sweet.”
Seventeen-year- old Jennifer Panus died in 2007 following a T-bone traffic accident. Antelope Valley News reported Panus rolled through a stop sign and was struck by a Ford truck. Panus was airlifted to a hospital, where she died of severe head trauma a few days later.
When Stafford received the transplant, the then-50-year-old woke up wanting to dance, which sparked her desire to know who her organ donor was.
“I had these feelings and I didn’t know where they came from,” she said. “I’m not a dancer but Jenny used to love to dance, so those feelings might have been hers.”