April is National Donate Life Month. To help encourage people to register themselves as donors, we have decided to celebrate those lives that have been saved by the gift of organ donation. Here are two incredible stories that show the real value of an organ donation.
Father Receives Second Chance at Life from Daughter
It was 1994, and Chester Szuber, a father of six, had been awaiting a heart transplant for four years. His heart had been failing him for several years and the possibility of leading a full life was diminishing…Just as he thought his life could not get harder, it did. Szuber’s 22-year-old daughter Patti had been involved in a tragic car accident. Upon his arrival, Szubar was informed by the emergency room physician that his daughter would not survive the night.
Although Patti lost her own life that evening, she did give several other people a second chance with organ donation. Before her passing, Patti had indicated that she wanted to be an organ donor, so her liver, kidneys and bone marrow were all given to patients on the waiting list. Patti’s heart, however, was saved for someone special—her father. The coordinator for Tennessee Donor Services asked Szuber if he wanted his daughter’s heart.
Although the grieving father was hesitant at first, he soon realized that receiving his daughter’s heart was the right thing to do. Not only was this what Patti would have wanted, but it was a way to keep his daughter close to him forever. 20 years later, Szubar is alive and well at 80 years old thanks to his daughter’s gift. He lives on his Christmas tree farm in Alpena, Michigan.
Two Neighbors Share an Unbreakable Bond
In 2009, Renee Ly was diagnosed with a rare liver disease that attacked her heart, spleen and lymph nodes. The 39-year-old mother of two was told she had about a year to live unless she received a liver transplant. At the time, Ly had been living next door to 21-year-old neighbor Erica Tomlinson. Ly had known Tomlinson for about two years at that point.
Although Erica Tomlinson and Renee Ly are no longer neighbors, they do share an unbreakable bond: the same liver. Tomlinson said that as soon as she heard about Ly’s plight, she started thinking about donating part of her liver to her neighbor. Tomlinson said that she felt like she just had to do it. So, she had tests conducted to determine if she would be a match and when it turned out that Tomlinson was a match, she went through with the ten-hour surgery to donate part of her liver to her neighbor.
It has been nearly ten years since Tomlinson selflessly donated her liver to help save her neighbor’s life. Ly is forever grateful to Tomlinson for giving her a second chance. Tomlinson now owns a bakery in Canada called The Pastry Shoppe. Every month, Tomlinson provides bakery treats to people who donate blood to local area clinics. As Tomlinson explains, “the transfusion saved my life. If I didn’t have blood on demand, it’s safe to say that I wouldn’t be here today.”
There are currently 115,000 Americans waiting for a life-saving transplant and just one organ, eye and tissue donor can save up to 75 lives. National Donate Life month features a whole month of local, regional and national activities to help encourage Americans to register as donors and to celebrate those that have saved lives through the gift of donation. There are multiple ways to get involved with Donate Life America. Visit their website at donatelife.net to learn more about this cause.