Celebrate National Donate Life Month

April is National Donate Life Month, which spotlights organ, eye and tissue donations and how those in great need can receive a second chance at life through these generous donations. April 17 marks National Donate Life Blue & Green Day (http://donatelife.net/blue-green-day/); on this day, the public is encouraged to wear blue and green, hold events and fundraisers and otherwise spread awareness about these life-saving transplants within their own communities.

Meet Julie

Nancy Jenkins, left, pictured with daughter Lori Jenkins.

Nancy Jenkins, left, pictured with daughter Lori Jenkins.

She could barely walk from one end of the house to the other. Taking a shower left her exhausted. Even reading to her children or grandchildren wiped her out due to energy-draining coughing spells. Such was the life of Julie Braun, a non-smoker, who developed pulmonary fibrosis in 2002. “My breathing got worse and I was on oxygen 24 hours a day,” said Braun, who lives in Fort Wayne.

After trying drug therapy for six months Braun was placed on the transplant list in 2003, and received a bilateral lung transplant nearly a year later in May 2004. “After being removed from a ventilator several hours after surgery I immediately noticed a difference in my breathing,” Braun said, “and the color of my skin, which was formerly a grayish tint because of lack of oxygen. My skin was pink again!”

Mother-Daughter Duo

Nancy Jenkins, a retired teacher, donated a kidney to her daughter Lori 25 years ago. “The doctor said it should last 15 years and it ended up lasting about 17 years,” said Jenkins. “Then Lori developed a blood problem and had to go back on dialysis because her antibodies didn’t even allow her sisters to match their kidneys with hers. So, she is going to be put back on the transplant list this year, and the new federal law says that when she is put on this list now, it will count back to when she started the dialysis eight years ago, so it will look like she’s been on the list eight years…. And someone could be number one on the transplant list for a long time, but not have a matching kidney available.”

So Jenkins and her daughter, an EACS elementary school teacher, are now hoping for a second kidney transplant. “It was a very positive experience, especially when you figure that Lori was in high school when she got the first one, which took her through high school, college and the beginning of her teaching career,” said Jenkins.

A Teenager, Too

Noel, a 16-year-old Wayne High School student just received her new kidney in Indianapolis as this went to press, according to her mother Liz Resor, adding that her daughter had been diagnosed in 2013 with FSGS (focal segmental glomerulosclerosis). “Noel came through the surgery very, very well,” said Liz, “and is still in the hospital recovering from the transplant.”

Noel’s parents, Mark and Liz, take turns driving to Indy so a parent is always with Noel at the hospital. Thanks to a fundraiser by the community and also the Children’s Organ Transplant Foundation (http://www.cota.org/), many of the medical expenses are taken care of.

Communities helping those in need. And those in need getting a new lease on life—certainly a cause for celebration.

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