In 2008, Judy underwent hip surgery to correct a labral tear and noticed some of her fellow patients seemed to be recovering more quickly than she was.
She started experiencing pain on the back of her thigh and soon learned a tumor had developed. Her life changed in an instant when she was diagnosed with cancer.
Judy underwent an intense course of chemotherapy for two years and remained on crutches for the duration of her treatment. Her surgeon, Dr. Ross Wilkins, believed he could save her leg by using a donated bone in place of her own.
In the midst of chemotherapy, Dr. Wilkins removed the tumor from Judy’s leg and replaced eight inches of her femur with bone from a deceased human donor.
Because chemotherapy can interfere with bone healing, Judy ended up needing a revision surgery and received additional tissue in the repair procedure.
After completing treatment, Judy, her kids and her mother took a trip to Costa Rica.
“I dreamed about getting all the way to the water’s edge, but my crutches sank in the sand and I couldn’t get all the way down to the beach,” she said. “I still took a photo with the water in the distance, and I sent the photo to Dr. Wilkins. It was a great accomplishment for me just to be there, and I wanted to share that with the man that made it happen.”
The following year, she took another trip to the beach and was able to finally put her toes in the sand.
“I took a picture of my toes all sandy and the crystal blue water in the background,” Judy shared. “I keep that picture on display in my house so I am always reminded to be thankful for my leg, my medical team and my donor.”
Because of this life-changing experience, Judy is now an advocate for tissue donation. Her young children learned about tissue donation at an early age, having watched their mother’s recovery process.
Judy honors her donor by donating time to The Limb Preservation Foundation and Donor Alliance to share her story of healing and hope. She expressed, in her own words, what she would say to her donor if she could.
“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to keep my leg. Thank you for letting me put my ten toes in the sand. Thank you for the chance to play tennis and take a tap dance class. I have loved the chance to travel and run around with my children. Because of you, I am here living this life, and I can’t thank you enough.”
Karen Abercrombie recently shared insight into her experience with donation after her sister, Julie, passed away. Julie’s gift of life helped nearly 80 people, including NFL quarterback Carson Palmer.
Karen wrote about her journey and the importance of organ, eye and tissue donation. She also highlights the important and difficult role of the Family Care Specialist who talk to a potential donor family at an unimaginable time.
Click here to read her heartfelt piece.
Two years after his cartilage transplant, Phil honored his tissue donor by competing in his first CrossFit competition, taking third place in his division. Six months ago, he joined Full Dimension CrossFit, a local CrossFit gym, to challenge himself. He not only found a new passion, but also an incredible community of support in his fellow athletes and coaches.
Phil also received the “Spirit of CrossFit Wars 2016” award for his strength, courage, inspiration and showing up daily without complaint. “I did this for my donor,” said Phil. “I wish the donor family knew how much I cherish this gift that I was so fortunate to receive.”
Phil feels fortunate to train with the amazing athletes and coaches who inspire him daily. Working hard every day is how Phil maximizes the gift he was given, honoring his donor by pushing himself and getting stronger.
Congratulations to Phil on this exciting milestone!
Cuatro’s busy, outdoor lifestyle came to an abrupt halt after an unfortunate skiing accident. While enjoying a ski day in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, he broke his leg on the second run of the day. Doctors placed a rod in his leg to help correct his broken tibia, but it was only the beginning of his health challenges.
“This break of my tibia resulted in a non-union, which basically meant it refused to heal on its own. When your mobility is limited, it changes your life dramatically,” said Cuatro.
Six months after his initial surgery, Cuatro endured another procedure to replace the rod in his leg. This surgery also required a bone graft from Cuatro’s hip, which he described as a very painful procedure. When that did not solve the problem, he became desperate.
Cuatro found Dr. Ross Wilkins, who was confident he could help. Instead of a larger operation, Dr. Wilkins used an AlloSource bone graft provided by a deceased donor and Cuatro’s own stem cells. Following this procedure, Cuatro healed quickly.
When asked about receiving donated human tissue, Cuatro’s appreciation is clear.
“I feel blessed and have a huge appreciation for those who recognize how great the gift of tissue donation is for others who need it. I am a registered donor and hope that it may improve the lives of others who, like in my case, desperately need it.”
After his recovery process, Cuatro was excited to “have both feet on the ground for the first time in over a year – a blessing for sure!”
Cuatro has resumed his active lifestyle, returning to skiing and rock climbing. He owns a mobile bicycle repair shop, now helping others take advantage of the Colorado outdoors he too is able to enjoy.
His experience provided not only gratitude for his mobility and the donor who helped him heal, but also a new outlook on life.
During the grand opening of AlloSource’s expanded campus in 2013, Governor John Hickenlooper designated September 21 as a day to commemorate tissue donors and recipients.
Though we honor donors every day by maximizing their gift of donation, we are grateful for the opportunity for people in Colorado and throughout the country to pause for a moment and celebrate tissue donors and recipients.
You can visit Donate Life Colorado for more information and to sign up as an organ, eye and tissue donor.