Recipient and Donor Stories

Approximately 1.5 million tissue transplants are performed each year. Allograft tissue can: save patients facing life-threatening burns, allow athletes with torn ligaments or tendons to heal and regain strength, restore hope to military men and women whose bones or joints have been crushed in combat, and repair musculoskeletal structures, teeth, skin, and spinal components in patients of all varieties. None of this would be possible without the generosity of each tissue donor and the strength of their family. They look beyond their own grief to envision the possibilities that lie beyond.

The stories below tell the compelling stories of recipients whose lives have been changed by tissue donation, and the brave donor families that make these possibilities realities.

Tissue Recipient Thankful For Every Experience Following Transplant  |  February 23, 2017

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.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Donor Sister Shares Personal Story of Tissue Donation  |  November 29, 2016

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.

 

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Bone Allograft Helps Active Recipient Get Back On His Feet  |  October 4, 2016

cuatro-hundley

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.

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Endurance Athlete Shares Life-Changing Cartilage Transplant Experience  |  August 19, 2016

Meg MedalOn any given day, Meg would be out the door before the sun rose, ready to coach for USA Cycling or teach a yoga class. As an endurance athlete and mother to a busy toddler, her health is crucial to her lifestyle.

Though she endured knee pain for several years, a fall off of her mountain bike was the catalyst to a visit with an orthopedic surgeon.

“After my knee scope, it was clear there was a bigger issue,” Meg said. “I basically had no cartilage left on my knee.”

While exploring her surgical options, Meg met with Dr. Vishal Mehta and learned about a new cartilage product, ProChondrix®.

AlloSource’s ProChondrix is a fresh osteochondral allograft that helps deliver the necessary components for cartilage restoration. This next generation of cartilage therapy provides live cells and other biological components, which are necessary for repair and regeneration of damaged cartilage tissues.

Dr. Mehta felt ProChondrix would help give Meg back her quality of life. Before embarking down a surgical path, Meg and Dr. Mehta had several in-depth conversations about the procedure and ProChondrix.

“Dr. Mehta asked me, ‘where do you want to be in a year? Do you want to still be in pain when you go out for a run or a ride? Or do you want to feel pain-free and feel like you have control of your knee?’” she explained.

Meg felt confident in ProChondrix and Dr. Mehta and underwent surgery in the summer of 2015. After the procedure, Meg began an aggressive physical therapy regimen and is now back on her bike both coaching and riding for fun.

She recently visited AlloSource and got to see firsthand how allografts are processed. She also reflected on what it means to receive donated human tissue.

10481659_10204308711026091_7535777964120364701_o“You’re receiving a donation from somebody’s loved one. To know that’s going into my knee, it was emotional. It’s very humbling and makes you appreciate the process.”

When she talks about her experience, Meg’s feelings of gratitude and excitement are tangible.

“Hands down, this was the best decision for me,” she said. “My deep knee pain is gone, I’m functional and I can keep up with my son again. It’s a world of difference.”

 

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IndyCar Driver Stefan Wilson Raises Donation Awareness in Brother’s Honor  |  May 17, 2016

Stefan Wilson has teamed up with Indiana Donor Network to raise awareness for organ, eye and tissue donation through the #Driven2SaveLives campaign.

Stefan’s connection to donation is incredibly personal. His brother, IndyCar driver Justin Wilson, passed away in August 2015 from injuries sustained in a crash at Pocono Raceway. Justin had previously registered his decision to become a donor and discussed this with his wife. On the worst day of his family’s life, Justin gave them a beacon of hope through his final lifesaving act of donation and became a hero to five individuals who received his gift of life.

Read more about Stefan’s passion for donation here.

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Nurse Shares Personal Impact of Tissue Donation  |  April 26, 2016

Kirstin struggled with a debilitating knee condition for many years, made more challenging by her active job as a nurse at Shriner’s Hospital in Chicago.

Though she underwent several different treatments for her knee, her pain persisted. She received an osteochondral allograft transplant in 2015 and is now able to continue helping patients heal.

She recently shared her story in her own words and discussed how grateful she is for the gift she received.

Read her story here.

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Meniscus Transplant Helps Provide New Beginning for Recipient  |  February 10, 2016

20160205_122745Lori’s love of softball began when she was young and endured through adulthood, where she continued to play until a devastating knee injury took her out of the game.

As she slid into home base, she felt a sharp pain in her right knee and immediately knew something was wrong. When Lori visited her doctor, she learned she had a torn meniscus. Her doctor performed surgery to repair her meniscus, but she re-injured it shortly after the procedure.

This injury altered my life as I knew it,” she said. “I was a very active person, I enjoyed sports, hiking, camping and traveling. I learned the hard way how one injury can drastically alter your world and health.”

Over the next three years, she endured three more repair surgeries and countless hours of rehabilitation. In August of 2015, Lori and her doctor decided to move forward with a meniscus transplant from AlloSource.

Because meniscus tissue is transplanted from a deceased donor and needs to be matched for size, Lori’s doctor placed her on a waitlist for the transplant. Her doctor prepared Lori to wait several weeks or even months to receive a meniscus match. To her surprise, she received the call within two weeks.

My initial reaction was shock, followed by fear, and then sadness,” Lori explained. “The reason I was getting this call was because someone passed away. My heart broke for the family.”

Though her donor’s life ended, their decision to donate tissue created a new beginning for Lori.

I know my transplant was different than a heart, liver or lung, but to me this is as important as any of those,” she said. “I can honestly say without this transplant, I would not be up and walking. I wouldn’t be able to get out at all and watch my kids play soccer and run around the playground or even go to the store.”

As she progresses through her recovery, Lori is grateful for the donated tissue she received and wonders about her donor.

I have such respect for my donor,” said Lori. “They were unselfish and saved or improved another’s life because they made the decision to be an organ and tissue donor.”

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Donor Sister Shares Personal Experience  |  January 7, 2016

Julie's family Photo courtesy: ESPN

Julie’s family
Photo courtesy: ESPN

You may remember ESPN The Magazine’s high-profile article about Carson Palmer, Julie De Rossi and tissue donation. The story’s impact was huge and thousands of people learned about Julie’s life and how the donation of her tissue impacted an NFL quarterback.

Julie’s sister Karen also shared their story at the annual American Association of Tissue Banks conference in 2015 and now has another venue to talk about her sister and the impact of organ, eye and tissue donation.

Karen started a blog called Pique and her first post details her heartbreaking and life-changing personal experience with donation.

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Sternum Allograft Recipient Looks Forward to New Beginning  |  October 27, 2015

As Freeda herself says, she has “had an interesting life.” Now she’s able to write a whole new chapter because of a unique type of tissue donation – a sternum allograft.

One of Freeda’s former jobs was working as an ordained minister in a hospital. She counseled people going through unimaginable circumstances and worked with families who were considering organ, eye and tissue donation for their loved one.

I worked with many families who were faced with horrible situations,” she said. “It is so hard to lose someone, but the decision to donate can and does matter to so many people. They need to know it’s going to be a blessing for someone who might be without hope.”

Freeda could never have imagined that one day she would be the recipient of a stranger’s generosity.

After undergoing open-heart surgery, the bones and fixation wiring in her chest were fragile. About a year after her surgery, she fell and broke some of the wiring in her chest. She took another serious fall and pulverized the remaining bones and wiring.

I became wheelchair-bound for five years because there was nothing to protect my heart,” she said. “My back was healing, but it started to twist because the front of my body wasn’t stable. I went to see so many doctors and they told me there was nothing that could be done.”

Freeda went to see Dr. Archibald Miller, who presented a solution. He wanted to perform a sternum transplant using an allograft to help provide stability on the front side of her body, as well as protect her internal organs. Because of her previous experience with donation, Freeda was immediately grateful to her donor and donor’s family.

After waiting for nearly six months for the allograft, Freeda underwent surgery.

I went from having a pain level every day of eight, with pain medication, to basically a zero when I came out of surgery,” Freeda said. “Now I’m working on rebuilding my strength.”

No longer wheelchair-bound, Freeda is able to enjoy a life with few restrictions.

I feel so blessed because I’m truly starting my life over again. I feel doubly blessed because I’ve seen both sides of donation. I hope my story can help educate people about the potential of donated tissue.”

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AlloSource and Mercy Ships Partner to Change Lives in Madagascar  |  September 30, 2015

The Africa Mercy, a private hospital ship operated by Mercy Ships

The Africa Mercy, a private hospital ship operated by Mercy Ships

AlloSource, one of the nation’s largest providers of cartilage, cellular, bone, skin and soft-tissue allografts for use in surgical procedures and wound care to advance patient healing, donated tissue allografts to Mercy Ships, a nonprofit organization using hospital ships to deliver free, world-class healthcare services to those without access in the developing world, to help save and improve lives through medical procedures.

Doctors onboard the world’s largest private hospital ship, the Africa Mercy, owned and operated by Mercy Ships, performed maxillofacial surgeries using bone allografts donated by AlloSource to change the lives of patients with tumors and other facial conditions. Mercy Ships will continue to use grafts from AlloSource during its current service in Madagascar.

“Through the incredible work of Mercy Ships, the gift of human tissue donation is able to help change lives across the world,” said Thomas Cycyota, AlloSource president and CEO. “We are proud to support this organization’s efforts to provide free surgeries to patients and honor donors by continuing their legacy of generosity.”

Continue reading here.

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Arizona Cardinals QB Carson Palmer Shares Gratitude for Tissue Donation  |  September 29, 2015

“It felt like receiving a pass from an invisible stranger.”

Check out this video from Arizona Cardinals QB Carson Palmer discussing how the gift of tissue donation changed his life!

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Donation Comes Full Circle for Tissue Recipient Turned Doctor  |  September 2, 2015

2As a soccer player for the University of Illinois, Rachel constantly pushed herself. Being active was crucial to her lifestyle both on and off the soccer field. She was also passionate about medicine, but didn’t know yet that she would eventually be on both sides of the operating table.

After a partial lateral meniscus tear put her on the sidelines, she underwent an arthroscopic partial lateral meniscectomy. She returned to soccer and her pre-injury level of play until she tore her remaining meniscus.

Her pain subsided after an arthroscopic procedure to have the non-viable tissue removed, but then her knee issues returned.

Being unable to remain physically fit, or lead an active lifestyle, became a huge problem for me,” she said. “As sports and fitness, particularly soccer, were such huge components of my life, I was extremely frustrated with my knee.”

When Rachel met with Dr. Brian Cole of Rush University Medical Center, she learned she was a candidate for a meniscus transplant. Since donor meniscus tissue is matched to the recipient by size, she was placed on a waiting list. Three weeks before starting medical school, she received her match.

In addition to balancing her recovery and a strict physical therapy regimen, Rachel focused on medical school. She also began running again and completed the Chicago Triathlon in 2008.

Throughout the course of medical school, Rachel’s experience with allograft transplantation stayed with her and would eventually help shape the course of her career.

As a direct reflection of my fascination with musculoskeletal function laid against the backdrop of my own patient experiences, I pursued a yearlong Orthopaedic Research Fellowship within the Division of Sports Medicine in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Rush University Medical Center,” she explained.

During her research year, Rachel started training for and subsequently completed the Hawaii Half-Ironman. While she was preparing for the race, some of her knee symptoms came back. After the race, she required a revision of the meniscus allograft and received a lateral femoral condyle osteochondral allograft.

Ever since the revision surgery, I have been functioning at an incredibly high level,” Rachel said.

Now an orthopedic surgery resident at Rush University Medical Center, Rachel works alongside Dr. Cole, the surgeon who helped her heal. Many of her research projects involve allograft applications and her experience as an allograft recipient provides a unique connection to her patients in need of a tissue transplant.

The allograft has allowed me to be a surgeon, permitting me to stand for over 12 hours in the operating room without thinking about my knee because I have literally no pain or swelling,” she said.

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Before the allograft transplantation, there is no way I would have been able to do this. I am incredibly grateful for my tissue donors and their families. This gift has inspired me to pursue my passion for orthopaedic and sports medicine and to help my future patients the same way Dr. Cole and his team helped me.”

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Innovative Cartilage Allograft Helps Inspire New Possibilities for Recipient  |  August 5, 2015

Ashley PhotoFor Ashley, a certified nursing assistant, being active is a crucial part of her busy job. After two four-wheeling accidents and two subsequent knee surgeries, she hoped she could get back to normal. However, a constant, nagging knee pain landed her back in the doctor’s office and on the receiving end of medical care.

The pain obviously made my job difficult, because I’m always running around and on my feet,” said Ashley. “By the end of the day, the pain was exhausting.”

The cartilage under her knee cap had degenerated and it became clear that Ashley’s best option was surgery. After talking with her surgeon, Dr. Vishal Mehta, she learned about ProChondrix™, a new cartilage product.

AlloSource’s ProChondrix is a fresh osteochondral allograft that helps deliver the necessary components for cartilage restoration.  This next generation of cartilage therapy provides live cells and other biological components, which are necessary for repair and regeneration of damaged cartilage tissues.

Being in the medical field, I was curious. I trusted Dr. Mehta and knew if he was confident in using the product, I was confident too.”

Dr. Mehta is a fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine and was involved with the development of ProChondrix.

 “Ashley came to me with knee pain that was destroying her life,” said Dr. Mehta. “She couldn’t work, ride a bike and really just was not enjoying herself any more. She was at the end of her rope and looking for options. We had a long discussion about cartilage restoration and breakthroughs on the horizon. I thought she was a good candidate for ProChondrix and so did Ashley.

Ashley underwent surgery in December of 2014 and is recovering very well. Though she originally planned on being out of work for 12 weeks, she was able to return after eight weeks. She also started biking and has lost 30 pounds since her surgery.

She now has her life back,” said Dr. Mehta. “It is the ability to help patients like Ashley that makes my job so special and I am ecstatic that we have new options like ProChondrix to help the patients who put their trust in us.”

Since the cartilage allograft is derived from a deceased human donor, Ashley is grateful for the generosity of the person who helped make it possible for her to heal.

I’ve always been a donor since I knew it could possibly save someone’s life,” said Ashley. “I’m even more glad I’m a donor now, knowing that I could impact people in more ways than I ever knew through procedures like mine.”

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Bone Allograft Helps Relieve Pain for Recipient  |  July 6, 2015

Cindy

Cindy suffered from spinal stenosis, a condition causing the open spaces in the spine to narrow, which can put pressure on the nerves. The condition can cause pain, numbness and muscle weakness. She already endured one spinal surgery, but it didn’t correct the issue.

The spinal stenosis greatly affected my life,” she said. “I had to lay down most of the day, and still was in incredible pain, even though I was on pain medication. I had no quality of life.”

She was unable to work or do many things without help. Because the pain was so severe, she underwent a second spinal fusion procedure.

During the surgery, her doctor used cancellous chips, a type of bone allograft that can be used in a variety of orthopedic procedures.

“The recovery following surgery was difficult, but it was all worth it in the end,” Cindy said. “I went from being unable to function to being able to do anything I want to do. I have no pain and no limitations.”

After her surgery and recovery, Cindy took time to reflect on what it meant to receive donated human tissue in the procedure.

“I feel incredibly blessed that a donor was available to help me in this way. I am sorry someone lost their life, of course, but I am very glad that the donor and the donor’s family were unselfish enough to donate.”

She also thought about what she would say to her donor, if she could.

I would tell my donor how much they changed my quality of life for the better, and how I would never forget the sacrifice they made. My life has changed 180 degrees because of the transplant made available to me.”

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Donor Alliance Wins National Award for “My Hero Said Yes!” Commercial  |  June 29, 2015

Donor Alliance, the organ procurement organization serving Colorado and most of Wyoming, announced today that it was named a Bronze winner in the 35th Annual Telly Awards for their “My Hero Said Yes!” television commercial. With nearly 12,000 entries from all 50 states and numerous countries, this award recognizes the best in video production nationally.

You can read more about this award here.

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Double Arm Transplant Recipient Shares Story of Gratitude, Perseverance  |  June 18, 2015

After an aggressive infection, Will Lautzenheiser lost all four limbs. Though he was devastated by the loss, he was determined to accept his new reality and move on with his life. His motto became “figure it out.”

When a doctor approached Lautzenheiser about the possibility of a double arm transplant, he weighed the pros and cons of the extensive procedure. In October of 2014, he endured a nine hour surgery and became one of the few double arm transplant recipients in the country.

He recently shared an update on his progress and how grateful he is to the donor and donor family who made it all possible.

“This is an individual who has a family who is grieving and all I can hope for is that they will consider this a way for their loved one to make a huge difference for me.”

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Amniotic Tissue Donation from One Mother Helps Another Mother Heal  |  June 4, 2015

Ashleigh DealFifteen years of dancing left Ashleigh with a painful bone spur and degenerative arthritis in her first metatarsophalangeal joint, which made it difficult to keep up with her young son, Beckett.

As a dancer, you’re really hard on your feet,” said Ashleigh. “Sometimes you power through an injury when you should be taking care of it, so I’m sure at some point I injured my foot and then it just got progressively worse.”

As her foot condition made it more and more difficult to stay active and chase Beckett around, she knew she needed to see a doctor, who then suggested surgery to help correct the problem.

During the procedure, her surgeon removed the bone spur and then used AlloWrap® DS to cover the cartilage degradation on her joint. AlloWrap® DS is derived from human amniotic membrane from a donated placenta directly following an elective C-section.

Amniotic membrane is rich in growth factors and can be used as a protective barrier following surgical intervention.

One of her most memorable moments throughout this process came when Ashleigh received her Pathways Card, which is a way for tissue recipients to send letters of thanks to their donor family. Since Ashleigh received tissue from a living donor, she can send a letter of gratitude to the woman who donated the tissue.

Ashleigh is still in the process of recovering from her surgery, but she is back on her feet and keeping up with Beckett.

Though she won’t return to dancing, Ashleigh’s surgery helped alleviate her pain so she can be more active. She looks forward to running, biking and enjoying time outside with her family.

“It was inspiring to know that someone made a decision to help me without knowing me, which speaks to the selflessness and generosity of all donors.”

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Face Transplant Recipient Meets Donor’s Family  |  June 1, 2015

Two families forever changed by horrible accidents recently met to see firsthand the incredible possibilities of donation.

After a shotgun accident disfigured Richard Norris’ face, he became depressed and reclusive. He endured surgery after surgery, each an attempt to give him a chance at a normal life. Finally, one surgery offered him some hope, and it happened because of the generosity of strangers.

Joshua Aversano’s family was devastated when the 21-year-old died after a traffic accident, but they made the brave choice to donate Joshua’s face. During a 36-hour-long surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center, 150 doctors and nurses honored Joshua’s gift and helped give Richard new hope.

Joshua’s sister, Rebekah, recently had the opportunity to meet Richard and see for herself how her brother lives on through donation.

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Tissue Transplant Offers New Possibilities  |  May 12, 2015

IMG_0957After a terrible car accident nearly took her life, Kristina began the long process of healing her broken arms and legs, as well as a broken ankle and neck.

Though her arms, legs and neck healed, Kristina’s ankle remained a huge source of pain. Despite years of surgeries to correct the damage, the pain was so insistent that it forced Kristina to leave her teaching career.

I taught for six years, but eventually had to leave in order to focus on getting my health in order,” she said. “While teaching, I never really got to rest my ankle and was always in a lot of pain. I would come home every day in tears because all I could focus on was the pain.

Since numerous procedures on her ankle failed to heal the injury, Kristina decided to see a new doctor. Her new doctor recommended the use of a Tri-Cortical Ilium Wedge, a bone allograft, in the ankle fusion procedure.

Before her tissue transplant, Kristina already understood the importance of donation: her brother received two kidney transplants.

“I have always known I wanted to be a donor,” she said. “If I am no longer alive and able to use my organs and tissues, someone else who could benefit from donation should certainly get that chance.”

Kristina’s recovery was lengthy, but she worked hard to give herself the best chance to heal. She was determined to have a better quality of life.

After countless surgeries without good results, I was doubting whether I would ever feel any better,” she said.  “I believe the tissue transplant, combined with many other factors in the surgery, gave me the chance to heal properly.”

Kristina’s healed ankle didn’t just alleviate her pain, it also gave her the chance to start the life she’d always imagined.

“I always wanted to start a family, but knew my injuries and pain were not going to combine well with a pregnancy,” Kristina explained. “This experience finally enabled me to feel confident that my body could handle being pregnant and being more active, which is obviously hugely important to me.”

Getting back on her feet proves all the more important as Kristina and her husband await the arrival of their first child, due in June 2015. Kristina also hopes to return to teaching in the future and is looking forward to spending time with her new baby.

She also reflected on what it means to be a tissue recipient and what she would say to her donor, if she could.

“I am sorry you are not here, but I am so grateful you decided to be a donor. Your gift has helped me achieve a higher quality of life than I thought I would ever reach again after my car accident.”

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Donor Family Shares Story of Hope  |  April 22, 2015

Cameron Chana (2)Cameron Chana was a born leader who focused on making an impact in lives of others. He was very involved in volunteer work, his church, and went on mission trips across the world. No matter where he was, he encouraged positivity and spread his caring, upbeat energy.

The Chana family’s world was turned upside down when twenty-two-year old Cameron was killed in a bus accident in 2009. During a time of unimaginable grief, his parents and three siblings honored his wish to be a donor.

Cameron’s legacy of hope and love lives on through the gift of organ and tissue donation. He saved five lives through organ donation and impacted as many as 50 lives through tissue donation. His family recently shared their experience with WGN Radio. Listen to their moving interview here.

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Honoring Donors in National Donate Life Month: Addison Parker  |  April 21, 2015

Addison Parker (2)Addison Parker was a happy, healthy four-year-old when undetected Type 1 diabetes took her life.

Despite the heartbreak of losing their child, Micki and Darrell Parker chose generosity in the face of grief and donated Addie’s organs, eyes and tissues.

Addie was able to give her heart, liver, kidneys, corneas and knees. Her vibrant, joyful spirit and boundless love have touched the many lives she saved and transformed.

Addie’s legacy of hope and healing has given her family peace. Through her amazing gifts of organ and tissue donation, Addie’s story lives on.

 

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Honoring Donors in National Donate Life Month: Gary Wall  |  April 13, 2015

Gary_Wall origGary Wall was healthy, active and always lived life to the fullest. To know Gary was to know a smile because he had such a great sense of humor. The proud father of 18-year-old twins absolutely loved life. When he died suddenly from an aneurysm at the age of 69, his family and friends were devastated.

But in the midst of their heartbreak, they knew Gary would want to help others and they consented to donation. Gary was a musculoskeletal tissue donor who helped heal up to 50 people and he gave life to three people as an organ donor.

“As I’m losing the person I most cherish, I found the gift of peace in knowing that my husband’s gift will give life to others,” said Gary’s wife, Maureen. “This is absolutely the only thing that has given me any comfort in this tragic loss. I want to thank you for giving my wonderful husband a final way to give to others.”

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Honoring Donors in National Donate Life Month: Kayla Porter  |  April 9, 2015

Kayla PorterKayla was outgoing, nurturing and loving. She often volunteered her time to help adults and children with disabilities and her family knew she would do anything for anybody.

She enjoyed taking advanced classes in school and spent time in the Navy. Kayla wanted to pursue a career in emergency medical services to continue her commitment to helping people.

Kayla made the decision to register as a donor, so at the time of her death her family knew what she wanted. So far, her gift of life has helped 48 people.

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The Lasting Impact of Donation  |  April 8, 2015

Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Inquirer

Photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Inquirer

Sarah Gray and her husband, Ross, received devastating news early in her pregnancy: one of her twins had anencephaly and would not survive long after birth. She carried both twins, Thomas and Callum, to term and Thomas passed away six days later.

But his story didn’t end there.

Sarah and Ross donated Thomas’ liver, eyes and umbilical cord to research. The Gray family began a new journey to find out how Thomas’ donation will have a lasting impact, visiting researchers and labs who worked with his tissue.

Read their incredible story of hope and generosity here.

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Honoring Donors in National Donate Life Month: Michael Collins  |  April 7, 2015

Michael CollinsMichael’s family remembers the 22-year-old as a vibrant combination of focus, fun and faith. He was a senior exercise science major at Illinois State University and worked as an assistant baseball coach with his father on the University High School baseball team.

Michael passed away from injuries he sustained after a drunk driver crashed into the car he was riding in. He had already made the decision to register as a donor, and his family is proud that his decision will impact many lives.

His family started The Michael Collins Foundation to support causes and initiatives important to Michael, his faith, and his family. They celebrate his life by encouraging people to perform random acts of kindness and share their stories using #MCStrong. Hundreds of people have shared stories of paying off a stranger’s medical bill or restaurant tab, buying toys or food for underprivileged children, leaving a bucket of tennis balls at a dog park, and encouraging people to register as organ, eye and tissue donors.

His family hopes that through each act of kindness, their son’s legacy of generosity will live on.

The Michael Collins Foundation is hosting the MCstrong 5k Classic Run/Walk on April 18, you can register here.

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