Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Donate Life NW's Annual Lifesaver's Breakfast

It just happens to be good timing that Donate Life NW's annual Lifesaver's Breakfast always lands within days of my Transplantaversary. I attended my first Lifesaver's Breakfast five years ago, just a week before donation and I cried like a baby for the entirety of the event. I assumed it was my nerves making me so emotional, but again this morning every speaker evoked tears from yours truly. The MC was local news host Sally Showman had me crying five minutes into the event, followed by always touching words from Donate Life NW's Director Mary Jane Hunt. But the big crying spell came from the touching keynote presentation from Jennifer Browning.

It's important to remember that registering to be an organ donor doesn't only impact the person that could one day receive your organs - that simple act can impact dozens of people and in Jennifer's case - hundreds of people. She is doing lifesaving work everyday and making a difference for those facing organ donation in Oregon. Excellent presentation Jennifer - you are a stunning representative of the power of organ donation!


Friday, November 9, 2012

5 Year Transplant-aversary!!



It's astounding to me to think that our kidney transplant was five years ago today!!! Five years feels like a very substantial milestone, although in the world of organ transplants we need to treat every day as a blessing and not think about the years or how long your body will continue to accept this organ. 

First a quick update - Anna and her "new" kidney are best friends and doing exceptionally well. She's healthy and has great kidney function. Her Lupus seems to be kept in check by her anti-rejection meds and as such things are going well. And me, well I'm the same as always, no issues! 

In order to commemorate our five-year transplantaversary, I found Anna the perfect commemorative gift and because it's from Tiffany's I had to get one for myself as well! Let's face it - nothing says "I love you/You are appreciated" quite like a blue Tiffany box! And who would have guessed that Tiffany sold necklaces in the shape of a kidney? 

Today I offer good health and lifelong friendship to my best friend - skål!!!!





Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Making Organ Donation Fun!

It's summer in Oregon and that means another round of Portland to Coast fun for me! Portland to Coast is the walking side of the famous Hood to Coast Relay race that takes runners on an epic journey from Mt. Hood to Seaside Oregon. The Portland to Coast starts in downtown Portland and also finishes in Seaside Oregon. We have 12 walkers and walk all day and night until we finish only resting and eating for a few hours at a time before we jump out and race again. Once again I signed up to participate in the amazing event with an amazing group of people - all organ recipients, donors, or family members. This particular team - The Transplant Trotters - has been on the course for a decade and half, such a spectacular opportunity for us to spread organ and tissue awareness! And spread awareness we did - we handed out stickers and bracelets to racers, volunteers, and anyone along the course. And you know what? Most people had a transplant story of their own - listening and talking to these folks is really why I love volunteering for Donate Life NW. It's great to meet people and learn about their connection to organ donation.

This is my third year on the team and once again I was assigned to Van #2. As always my team rocked the course - we had to deliberately slow down in our final legs because we were coming in before the 2.5 hour window and did not want to be disqualified and kicked out of next year's event. But really, what do you expect when you have a walker on your team that just WON A GOLD MEDAL at the Transplant Games? You read that right, we had a gold member medalist for speed walking in Van #2! Talk about impressive!! Blake qualified for the Transplant Games by donating a kidney to his son. You can read about him here.

There were two parts of this year's Portland to Coast event that really stuck with me as a veteran of this event:

1. Our team captain Marie is a kidney recipient, receiving a transplant from her mother when she was only a teenager. Marie, although young, has been on the team since the very beginning and has been the only team member for all the year's the Transplant Trotters have been participating. This year, Marie learned she needed another kidney transplant. This time it was her brother that stepped up and saved her life. She received her new kidney in April. That means she is participating only a mere four months after her transplant! Talk about an amazing athlete! She truly inspired me and proves that with a little determination and hard work - transplant recipients are capable of amazing things!

2. This was an especially amazing Portland to Coast for me because MY kidney recipient joined us at the finish line this year. Of all the races I've run over my life, Anna hasn't been able to see me actually cross a finish line yet but this year she was there with her entire family and I have to say this was the most amazing year yet for me seeing them at that finish line. AND her father wants to join the team next year which would be really really really awesome!


 As always, we did a little publicity for organ donation before the race - here are two pieces that came out on our team and our stories. Enjoy!

A story on being an organ recipient A story on being an organ donor

And secondly, a story on being an organ recipient (this is one that I'm in)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Transplant Trotters have cause to savor Hood to Coast


Here is another article that came as a result of Donate Life Northwest's "Hood to Coast" PR blitz. I can't say enough how HONORED I am to be part of the Transplant Trotter team! Running is a passion of mine. Promoting organ donation is a passion of mine. Having an opportunity to combine running and organ donor awareness is like GOLD to me.


I've talked to so many people about the risks of becoming a living organ donor - I love to tell people that I am an even more dedicated runner post donation. It's so fulfilling to let people know that you don't have to sacrifice your passions to donate an organ -in fact for me it was quite the opposite situation. The entire process helped me prioritize my life and put even more attention to running. Plus - I was able to meet the founder of Hood to Coast this summer and I treasure the stories we shared about the very first Hood to Coast races. Most people think about the Hood to Coast as some crazy running experience, but Bob tells of stories of people, ordinary people doing great things (like running 200 miles!) Isn't that really what life is all about?

Anyways - here is the story that highlights Hood to Coast 2011 and my organ donation story: Transplant Trotters have cause to savor Hood to Coast

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Transplant Trotters


It's August again so that means I'm prepping for my 5th Hood to Coast Relay! This year I get to be part of the Transplant Trotter team again and I'm very excited. The entire team is made up of organ donors, recipients, family and friends. I'm still working on getting Anna to join the team. Maybe next year!

I was very honored yesterday when I was asked to do an interview with THE FOUNDER of Hood to Coast, Bob Foote. Bob is a two-time kidney recipient and is an amazing example of how you can lead a healthy active life post transplant. Here is the interview we did together on KOIN television. It was in front of a live audience so that was a little nerve racking, but still a lot of fun! Enjoy!



Here is the link for the video and story


This year our Transplant Trotter team consists of 4 Living Donors, 7 Kidney recipients, 3 Liver recipients, 3 family members of recipients & 3 friends of recipients ages 14-70. Should be an interesting journey once again this time around!!!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Moving forward...

Anna and I are now a year and a few months post kidney transplant. I’m often asked “how is Anna doing?” and it has come to my attention that I had a better answer to that question when she was in dialysis and awaiting a new kidney. The year that Anna’s kidneys shut down, I made it a priority to drive the three hours from Portland to Seattle to stay connected to Anna. We did little more those days than sip Chai Tea and talk; Anna often slept as she was in a great deal of pain. It wasn’t much, but I could tell you how she was holding up. But what about today? I simultaneously love and hate that I don’t really have a good answer to that question. You see, since the kidney transplant Anna has been healthy. She has been living her life, she has been out of the house and unconstrained by poor health. It’s a great problem to have. But unfortunately, I haven’t spent as much time with my best friend as I’d like.

 Anna and I did spend the weekend of our one-year transplant anniversary together. We had originally planned on having a girl’s weekend getaway somewhere fun and sunny but life got in the way and we opted for a weekend halfway between Portland and Seattle. Yep – there is a tiny little town tucked off of Interstate 5 called Chehalis. We stayed at the local McMenamin’s, shopped, watched movies, had pedicures, read tashy tabloids, played pool and caught up with one another. It rained the entire weekend (November in the Pacific Northwest after all), but we had a wonderful time – significantly less painful than the year before J 

 Since the surgery, I seem to be drawn to the notion of evangelizing organ donation. Just ask me one question about the process, and I’ll talk your ear off and then ask you if you are a registered organ donor. It’s my charity of choice (alongside food allergy awareness) that I promote over lunch, via twitter and even in Vegas nightclubs. I think my friends might be getting tired of it, but I feel like its something I should share. As such, I’m slated to volunteer for the local chapter of the Donate Life organization. This spring, I’ll be going into local area high schools to chat about organ donation.  As a PR professional, I find it amusing they won’t let me talk to the students until I go through presentation and messaging training. All those dozens of media training sessions and I’m still not trusted J

Looking back on this process, I am still humbled by the gracious gifts and words that friends, family and strangers offered to us. It's funny how this decision changed my entire outlook on life, but it was easily one of the most guttural decisions I’ve ever made. Yes, I would do it again in a heartbeat. Yes, even though it hurt (people always ask me if it hurt), yes it hurt worse than childbirth, but yes I’d do it again in a heartbeat. 

The fact this kidney transplant has given Anna more than a year of good health, makes me proud. Her body could easily reject this kidney next week but I would still not regret this decision. I get to see Anna next month at her cousin’s wedding in our hometown. The last time Anna and I hung out in our hometown was just weeks before her kidneys shut down, it seems almost like another lifetime. I’m looking forward to the wedding weekend, just as much as I am looking forward to sharing years of good health with my best friend. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Another perspective

Decision to Donate is an inspiring video story of a kidney donation between two friends. Basically, the video is a lot like this blog but significantly less winded - I mean condensed. The movie runs about 15-minutes and is a lovely example of how wonderful and rewarding organ donation can be, for both the recipient and the donor.
"Decision to Donate tells the story of two men, one in need of a kidney transplant and the other willing to donate a kidney. The film explores this profound, life saving decision and the emotional experiences of the donor, the recipient and their families."
This particular kidney donation story touches a soft place in my heart because the kidney donation occurred at the same hospital as our surgery, Virginia Mason Hospital. Even my surgeon, Dr. Kozlowski, makes an short appearance in this video.
Somewhere near the middle point, the film shows footage from the day of surgery. As the film follows down the hospital corridor, I could feel myself there again; smelling that horrendously clean antibacterial scent and experiencing a confusing whirlwind of emotions twisting through happiness, loss, concern and pride. Watching John Backus up and walking post surgery made me clutch my side, even though I haven't felt pain there in months. That footage brought my surgery back in an instant. If you have the time, I suggest a viewing, then click on the registration link for organ donation if you feel inspired.

We are now seven-months post surgery and I'm happy to report that we are both doing well. I have no complaints, everything is as it should be. Anna is HEALTHY, her tests continue to show excellent results and she has resumed living a normal life again. What can I say? Life is good.