This month I want you to think about LIFE and living it to the full, and how you can give life to others. I want you to hear from my sister-in-Christ, Doni Bell and her LIFE journey, living, giving, sharing, receiving, donating LIFE.
April is Donate Life Month. This month is special for me as I received one of my transplants during this month. My transplant journey started when I was 26 years old. I was a Type I insulin dependent diabetic since the age of 9. I struggled for years keeping my blood sugars under control. In 1999, I was diagnosed with End Stage Renal Disease and had less than 10% function in both of my kidneys combined. In January 2000, I started dialysis three days a week, three hours a day. I was also listed at University of Maryland for both a kidney and pancreas transplant. My dad went thru the testing to be a living donor and on June 15, 2000 I was one of five patients at UMMC to receive a simultaneous living kidney donor and cadaver pancreas transplant. I ended up having some complications over the next several months, was relisted for another kidney transplant in February 2001 and started back on dialysis. A close friend of the family volunteered to be tested to be a living donor. He was approved and I received my second living kidney donor transplant on April 6, 2001. I still have that transplanted kidney and it is working like a champ. After my transplants, I became interested in the medical field. My background is computer science. I wasn’t sure if I would even like being involved in the medical field. I joined my local volunteer fire department, obtained my Emergency Medical Technician license for Maryland and started working at GBMC ER as an ER Technician. In the process, I met several people who worked for The Transplant Resource Center (as it was formally called) or had a connection with the organization. I connected with the people I met who worked for the organization, applied for the Donor Service Technician position, and was hired in May 2006. I worked as a DST/OBT for almost two years before transitioning into the Donor Services Center. During my time at LLF, I have also been an interim member of the Human Resources department. My pancreas which I received in 2000 ended up failing/rejecting in 2013. I was relisted to receive another pancreas. While waiting for the phone call, I was unable to work in DSC and was transitioned into a role in HR. After 7 months in HR, I received the amazing phone call early on a Wednesday morning that a pancreas was being brought in for me and I needed to make my way to the hospital. I was so excited and I knew this was going to be the one, since I had been called in twice before and the offer/transplant fell through. I received my second cadaver pancreas transplant on September 24, 2014. After my recovery, I returned full time to DSC. Being on the waitlist while working in DSC definitely brought the whole process and what we do full circle for my department and I am sure many others. Being a recipient has really impacted how I work as I have a prospective that no other person in DSC has. I personally know what it is like to get that call in the middle of the night, told to come into the hospital, get prepped for surgery only for it to fall through and go back home. I understand how it feels to wait for the call or wait in the hospital. Being a recipient inspires and motivates me every day in my job, my home, my relationships, and my life. I want every person on the Waitlist to have the same life changing experience I was blessed to go through. I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else and get the same joy and satisfaction as I do work at The LLF. Give LIFE, be a donor. Because of organ donation, lives are changed. God has given us the gift of life. We can pass on that gift. Will you be a donor? Will you change a life/lives? Bless someone in a mighty way, be a donor. Blessings, Karen