Darmecia Crane will never forget the day.
It was her son’s 18th birthday.
It was his high school graduation.
It was the day she got the call.
Seriously ill with end-stage liver disease, this once-active mother and teacher had barely been able to leave her bed for months. But on that day, she learned, she would get the transplant she desperately needed.
With her new liver, Darmecia was able to return to the classroom. She earned her master’s degree in educational leadership.
She got to move her son into college.
She celebrated her 40th birthday.
She’ll see her daughter graduate from high school.
Every day she reflects with gratitude on what her transplant has made possible.
For her family and friends.
For her students.
“A little teacher from Simsboro, Louisiana received this wonderful gift,” says Darmecia. “Being an organ donor is a simple and selfless act. You don’t know the huge impact you can have on someone’s life by just making that decision.”
If you want to know what a fighter looks like, meet Heather.
Born with cystic fibrosis, she received a double-lung and liver transplant at age 19.
She spent another 147 days in the hospital battling complications from the surgery.
She spent three years on dialysis, until she received a kidney transplant—for which her mom was her living donor.
Through it all, she pursued her education. At age 26, Heather graduated from college with the highest GPA in her major concentration.
Heather is close with her donor family and attended the weddings of both of her donor’s daughters.
“Transplant allows us to do the things we love and want to do in life,” says Heather. “You never know if you or your loved one is going to need an organ, and you are going to hope that someone out there has made the choice to be a donor.”
“We knew Juniper’s only option for survival was a transplant.”
Juniper was diagnosed with a life threatening heart condition at only two weeks old. She spent the next six months living in a hospital—five of those months hooked to a machine pumping her blood to keep her alive.
A heart transplant finally allowed Juniper’s parents to bring their baby girl home.
Now a spirited 8 year old, Juniper loves dogs and superheroes and “has a ton of energy that never wears out,” says her mom Joni. “You appreciate how normal everyday life can feel now.”
“We didn’t even know if we would have another day with Skylar.”
Rikki was pregnant when she and her husband Greg learned that their baby would be born with a life-threatening heart defect.
At four days old, Skylar had open-heart surgery.
At three months old, he nearly died while being evaluated for a second surgery.
Without a transplant, his doctors said, he would not survive longer than 10 days.
On the sixth day, Skylar received a heart.
Today Skylar loves travel with his family, cars and airplanes; he dreams of being a pilot one day.
“Just the fact that we continue to have another day together is special enough for me,” says his mom. “Every year adds more memories that we wouldn’t have had before.”
For Sejal, “Being able to give back ... that has been my calling.”
Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 11, Sejal received a kidney and pancreas transplant after graduating from medical school. She had a second kidney transplant 11 years later.
Today she is a doting aunt. She’s a researcher at the Mayo Clinic. And she’s pursuing an advanced degree in molecular pharmacology and experimental therapeutics.
“Without my donor’s gift I wouldn’t be able to do a lot of the things I am doing. Being able to give back to people like myself with rare diseases or transplant—that has been my calling,” Sejal says. “I am so grateful for my donor who helped me to fulfill that goal.”
Freddie’s diagnosis made no sense.
Freddie was young, fit, a lifelong athlete and a youth coach. He and his wife Cindy were expecting a baby to join their family.
But Freddie’s heart was failing.
By the time their son was born, Freddie’s kidneys were failing too, and his heart depended on a mechanical pump. Not long after the baby’s first birthday, only a total artificial heart and dialysis were keeping Freddie alive.
Then a heart and kidney transplant gave Freddie and his family the gift of time. Time for building memories with his children, family, and friends. Time for Freddie to train hard and compete in the Transplant Games of America.
“I want to live like my donor is watching,” he told Cindy.
But almost 7 years later, Freddie’s transplanted heart failed, and he died while waiting for a second transplant. Always a giver in life, Freddie gave the gift of sight at his death, donating his corneas and giving sight to two people.
Grateful for the years their family had together thanks to Freddie’s transplant, Cindy knows what a difference the gift of donation can make. “We cannot take our organs with us, we cannot take our corneas with us, we cannot take our tissues with us — donating those in passing we bless other families over and over again.”