Posts Tagged ‘transplant’

Holiday Heroes: John Gailie

Monday, January 5th, 2015

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After receiving his kidney transplant on April 11, 2005, John Gailie wanted to find a way to give back. He decided that the best path was to become a firefighter.

“I used to hear all the time on TV, ‘You’ve been given the gift of life, give it back,’ ” Gailie said, referring to a past organ donation awareness campaign. “I took it literally: I decided at the age of 53 to join the fire department. I got medical approval. It was six months after the transplant that I joined the Cambria Fire Department.”

Gailie-Firetruck

“I started out as a utility firefighter, which is basically lighter duty,” he said. After receiving additional medical approval and more training, Gailie became an external firefighter – due to continued restrictions he can’t use an air pack or head inside a burning building, but there are many ways he does contribute. “Driving the trucks, running the pumps, handling hose, putting fires out from outside – I’ve had all the training,” Gailie explained.

Gailie-coupleA brief examination decades ago found that one of his kidneys was small but seemed to be functioning. Then in the late 1990s, Gailie was in a motor vehicle accident and follow-up tests showed that he had high creatinine levels, indicating that his kidney function was impaired. He worked with doctors to address the problems, but he eventually reached end stage renal failure.

His three children, co-workers at General Motors and his wife all volunteered for testing to see if they could donate a kidney to Gailie. “The best option at the time, according to my doctors, was my wife,” Gailie recalled. “We were a tissue match, we were a blood match, we were a four antigen out of six match. She’s half my size, but it worked out real well.”

John and Bev have been married for 40 years, and have known each other since they were young – they met when she was 14 and he was 16.

“It was easy for me, I was sick. My wife was the one who had the real courage,” Gailie said of the transplant. “You can imagine being totally healthy and walking into the hospital and going in for a major surgery as a healthy person.”

Bev is in excellent health and John describes his own health as “pretty robust.”

Gailie-kid“I think things worked out quite well. I feel very fortunate,” Gailie said. “It’s allowed me to continue to support myself and my family… I’ve gotten to see all of my grandchildren since the transplant.” Gailie’s oldest grandchild is 5 and the youngest is an infant. “There’s a whole life unfolding because of that transplant.”

For five years, John has worked as assistant welding instructor at Orleans Niagara BOCES, where he feels he has been able to connect with students and help them both personally and professionally. His role as a firefighter also allows him to give back to the community.

“There’s a whole lot of people I’ve been able to help. The gift you give multiplies itself over time,” Gailie said.

Police, firefighters and first responders from agencies across Western New York are working to give the Gift of Life by joining Unyts’ Holiday Heroes campaign. The agencies are hosting blood drives in December and January. The events include Donate Life Registry drives as well, where they’ll be encouraging the public to sign up to become organ, eye and tissue donors. 

The Cambria and Sanborn fire companies will sponsor a blood drive at Wendt’s Propane & Oil in Sanborn on Friday, Jan. 9 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Click here to find out more and make an appointment to give blood.

Holiday Heroes: Victor Morales

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

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VMorales2Victor Morales, the public information officer for Troop A of the New York State Police, shares the story of his kidney transplant to encourage others to give.

Morales was born with only one kidney, which was damaged during a cycling injury when he was a teen. In January 2001, he was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease and learned he would need a transplant. He joined the waiting list for a short time, but his cousin came forward as a living donor. Morales received a kidney from her on Oct. 4, 2001.

“It’s made me a new man,” Morales said of his transplant. “It gave me a new lease on life and I’ve tried to do what I can to make it worthwhile.” That new lease on life has enabled him to continue his service with the State Police, spend time with his wife and three daughters, and perform as an actor in Western New York theaters.

Morales calls his cousin his “earth angel,” and urges others to consider living donation or joining the donor registry. “I’ve talked to people about giving, signing the registry cards. I let them know how important it is, how many people have been saved, not only with kidneys, but with hearts and eyes and liver and tissue.”

Police, firefighters and first responders from agencies across Western New York are working to give the Gift of Life by joining Unyts’ Holiday Heroes campaign. The agencies are hosting blood drives in December and January. The events include Donate Life Registry drives as well, where they’ll be encouraging the public to sign up to become organ, eye and tissue donors. Click here to find out more and make an appointment to give blood.

Holiday Heroes: Tim Day

Saturday, December 27th, 2014

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DayFamily copyTim Day is waiting for a heart.

In October 2012, the veteran Town of Tonawanda police officer was diagnosed with hypereosinophilic syndrome, an autoimmune disease which first caused pneumonia then weakened Tim’s heart.

Tim was placed on the heart transplant list and waited at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester for four months, hoping that a match would be found. Tim and his wife Sherry Brinser-Day have three children, Erin, Clare and Henry. While Tim was waiting for a heart, his daughter Erin made her First Holy Communion. Since Tim couldn’t leave the hospital, a special ceremony was held at Strong Memorial’s interfaith chapel, so he could witness the rite in person.

Eventually, Tim’s heart became too weak to wait any longer, and no donor heart was available. In the summer of 2013, doctors implanted a mechanical heart pump to assist his own failing organ.

After a problem with the first pump, Tim needed a second surgery to implant a replacement.

He’s since been able to return home to the village of Kenmore and spend more time with his family, but Tim is still waiting for a transplant.

Fellow police officers and members of the community have shown their support for Tim and his family time and again. Law enforcement officials and friends have hosted events and conducted fundraisers to offset the Days’ costs, and have also worked to spread the word about the importance of organ donation. They hope that someday soon, a donor’s Gift of Life will bring Tim a new heart.

Police, firefighters and first responders from agencies across Western New York are working to give the Gift of Life by joining Unyts’ Holiday Heroes campaign. The agencies are hosting blood drives in December and January. The events include Donate Life Registry drives as well, where they’ll be encouraging the public to sign up to become organ, eye and tissue donors. 

The Town of Tonawanda Police Department (1835 Sheridan Drive) will host a drive on Tuesday, Dec. 30 from 1-5 p.m. Click here to find out more and make an appointment to give blood.

 

Holiday Heroes: Robert Rhodes

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

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Rhodes-eRobert Rhodes’ career with U.S. Customs and Border Protection began in 1987. He is a paralegal specialist in the Fines, Penalties, and Forfeitures Office of the Port of Buffalo. Rhodes is also the recipient of a kidney transplant.

In 2008, Rhodes learned that he was in need of a new kidney. “That was due to diabetes and stress,” he explained.

He was added to the waiting list for a kidney from a deceased donor. The need for kidneys is high but the number of donors is much lower, meaning that it may be years before a matching organ becomes available. In Rhodes’ case, the wait lasted about 2½ years. “During the time I was waiting it was stressful, my energy levels were down, my creatinine level was up and I would tire easily,” he recalled.

In 2011, a matching kidney became available. Rhodes underwent transplant surgery at Buffalo General Hospital. (Buffalo General no longer performs kidney transplants, and those doctors now work with the transplant center at ECMC, Rhodes noted).

“My health has improved dramatically,” he said. “I’m still able to do many of the things that I used to do before the surgery, except heavy lifting and a few other things, but my overall health has improved dramatically.”

Rhodes does not know the identity of his donor, but he is grateful. Asked what he would say to someone considering organ donation, Rhodes replied, “It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give someone.”

Police, firefighters and first responders from agencies across Western New York are working to give the Gift of Life by joining Unyts’ Holiday Heroes campaign. The agencies will host blood drives in December and January. The events will include Donate Life Registry drives as well, where they’ll be encouraging the public to sign up to become organ, eye and tissue donors. Click here to find out more and make an appointment to give blood.

 

Local athletes earn medals at Transplant Games of America

Thursday, July 24th, 2014
The 5K Race/Walk for Organ, Eye, & Tissue Donation Awareness at the Transplant Games of America.

The 5K Race/Walk for Organ, Eye, & Tissue Donation Awareness at the Transplant Games of America.

Several Western New Yorkers participated in the Transplant Games of America July 11-15 in Houston, Texas. Local transplant recipients and living donors earned medals in the games.

Kidney transplant recipient Barbara Breckenridge, who has joined in national and world games, came home with six gold medals. Several of her fellow organ recipients also medaled, including Patti Merritt with two silver and two bronze, Michelle Tullett-Sosa with two silver, Timothy Thompson with two gold and Jacquelynn Skinner with a silver medal. Donor family member and living donor Darlene Aymerich earned a gold medal, living donor Aurelia Keaton earned a gold and a silver, and living donor James Thompson earned two gold medals.

New York athletes take a team photo before the games.

New York athletes take a team photo before the games.

The Transplant Games of America is a multi-sport festival event for individuals who have undergone life-saving transplant surgeries. Competition events are open to living donors, organ transplant recipients, bone marrow recipients, and a limited number of corneal and tissue transplant recipients. More than an athletic event, the Transplant Games of America highlight the critical importance of organ, eye, and tissue donation, while celebrating the lives of organ donors and recipients.

Patti Merritt of Grand Island received a kidney from her sister-in-law in 2001 and has been to the Transplant Games of America several times. Before leaving for the 2014 games, she told Unyts, “I’m going to the Transplant Games because it’s really a celebration of life… I’m grateful every day for the gift I’ve been given, but this celebration really intensifies the gratitude.”

Unyts hosts send-off for Transplant Games of America team

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

Local athletes and supporters gather at Unyts before heading to the Transplant Games of America.

Unyts hosted a reception on Tuesday, July 8 for members of the local team heading to the Transplant Games of America. The games will take place July 11-15 in Houston, Texas.

The Transplant Games of America is a multi-sport festival event for individuals who have undergone life-saving transplant surgeries. Competition events are open to living donors, organ transplant recipients, bone marrow recipients, and a limited number of corneal and tissue transplant recipients. More than an athletic event, the Transplant Games of America highlight the critical importance of organ, eye, and tissue donation, while celebrating the lives of organ donors and recipients.

Kidney transplant recipient Barb Breckenridge has earned many medals at the Transplant Games of America.

Kidney transplant recipient Barb Breckenridge has earned many medals at the Transplant Games of America.

Kidney transplant recipient Barbara Breckenridge is leading the local team. “The games are held every two years, and the purpose of these games is to show the importance of organ donation and transplantation,” Barb said. “It brings awareness and also shows how transplantation saves lives and changes lives. Most people here – myself included – were sick for a very long time. When we finally got transplanted, our lives were changed forever. We’re doing things we thought we would never do. We’re going places we thought we would never go.”

Barb received her lifesaving organ transplant at ECMC in 1999. She serves as community relations director for the Northeast Kidney Foundation of Greater Buffalo. Barb has participated in many U.S. and World Transplant games, and has won over 25 medals in track and field events.

The team of 11 Western New York residents includes five athletes as well as supporters, living donors and donor family members. “I’m sure most of the people here weren’t athletes, but they hold these games to bring awareness, so everybody goes. And once you go, you’re hooked,” Barb said. “You meet so many people. These games have babies, teenagers, middle-agers, older people, everybody. It’s all kinds of transplants – kidneys, livers, lungs, hearts, whatever can be transplanted, and we have all of these people there in one area.”

Local team members plan to join in events including the 5K, bowling, ping pong, and track and field events.

Barb concluded, “There are so many people waiting for transplants, and there’s not enough organs to go around. This brings the awareness of the need for [donation] and shows the people what happens when you do donate to someone, how you create a miracle for another human being.”

My Son, My Hero – Eric Michael

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Unyts is paying tribute to our heroes of organ, eye and tissue donation. It seemed fitting to call this endeavor “Honoring our Heroes”. We know that for the families of these donors, they really are heroes, and we certainly feel the same way.

We are truly honored to share these very touching personal stories each month. If you would like to honor a hero, please read below.

For the month of April, we honor…

Eric Michael Fontaine

-written by Eric’s Mom, Vicki

Eric Michael Fontaine was born on June 4, 1991. He was my only child and I miss him with all my heart. He became an angel on May 17, 2013. He was just 21 years old. He was in a motorcycle accident and died instantly.

Everyone that knew Eric loved him. He was such a fun loving, easy going young man. He always made everyone laugh and he had such an infectious laugh.

Eric loved cars. This started at a young age. Whenever his grandmother or I took him to the store, he went right to the hot wheels section and came back with several cars and of course we would buy them. As he got older, he would buy hot wheels, keep them in the package and display them on his bedroom walls. I also would find him in the magagzine section and he would be reading some car magazine. He knew a lot about cars and he learned about them on his own. Eric had a 2004 Volkswagen GTI and he loved that car. It was his baby. Eric also had a love for Michael Jordan sneakers. He was Eric’s favorite basketball player and he had at least 15 pairs of Jordan sneakers. He used to make me laugh because if it was raining out he would not wear them and if someone stepped on them, look out!!! He was also a Miami Heat and Detroit Red Wings fan. Eric’s two favorite dog breeds were german shepards and pit bulls. He had a pit bull named Paul. Paul was his buddy.

Eric joined the Air Force Reserves in June 2011 and left for basic training in April of 2012. He was in San Antonio, Texas at Lackland Air Force Base. He graduated on June 22, 2012, was an honor grad and his flight made honor flight. I was so proud of him! I went to see him graduate and I was in awe of him. He then went to Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas for tech school.  He came back home on Thanksgiving Day of 2012. That was the best Thanksgiving ever. He was a part of the 914th civil engineer squad at the Niagara Falls Air Force Base.

Eric chose to be an organ donor when he got his license at 17. He was unable to donate his organs but he was able to donate his tissue. I received two letters from recipients that received his tissue. It makes me proud that Eric was able to give someone a better quality of life, but at the same time it makes me sad because Eric isn’t here.

This past September, my family, friends and I participated in the Unyts Donate Life Walk in honor of Eric. On Eric’s 1st angelversary, May 17th, I’m going to hold a memorial blood drive at the Unyts Community Blood Center at Southgate Plaza.  I will honor Eric and his memory until the day we meet again.

I miss you and love you so much Eric and I’m so proud that you are my son. Rest in peace xoxox

 

Do you know someone who has been touched by organ, eye or tissue donation? We want to honor them. If you would like to nominate a loved one who gave the gift of life, please click here. Unyts will contact you when your loved one is chosen for the Hero of the Month.

 

Unyts Receives Gold Medals from World Transplant Games Athlete

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Barb presents her medals to: Tom Quatroche, ECMC;Kevin Gramlich, Unyts;Dr. Brian Murray, ECMC;Mark Simon, Unyts;Dr. Mark Laftavi, ECMC

14 years have gone by since Barb Breckenridge received her lifesaving kidney, and she doesn’t take one day for granted. This past summer, Barb competed in the World Transplant Games in Durban, South Africa. She won several medals competing in Track and Field events at the games and on Wednesday, October 9, Barb donated some of her hardware to ECMC and Unyts. Both ECMC and Unyts sponsored Barb to attend the games and she wanted to say “thank you” for helping her through her journey of healing and success.

Barb received her lifesaving kidney at ECMC in 1999.  She works tirelessly in the community, providing education on kidney diseases and prevention. She provides peer counseling for dialysis patients, transplant patients and their families and also facilitates a Kidney Support Group at ECMC.

She has participated in many US and World Transplants games, and has won over twenty five-medals in track and field events.

 

USA, USA, USA!

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

 

Barb prepares for Track & Field events at Delaware Park in Buffalo. Photo courtesy of Buffalo News.

Transplant recipient Barbara Breckenridge is in Durban, South Africa competing in the World Transplant Games. Before she left, she spoke to the Media about her experience as a transplant recipient and the Transplant Games.

Buffalo News

WGRZ

YNN

WBFO-Radio

Barb chats with a WGRZ News Photographer

Barb speaks with Reporters before she practices

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Barb:

Barbara Breckenridge served as Community Relations Director for the National Kidney Foundation Serving Western New York for many years. She was as employee with Sears for twenty-two years before having to take an early retirement due to illness. She is a 14 year kidney transplant recipient, having received a life saving organ in 1999. She volunteered for the Kidney Foundation and Upstate New York Transplant services for many years, even serving as Interim – Executive Director of the National kidney foundation of WNY for two years and a member of the Board of Directors for ten years.

She is currently Community Relations Director for the Northeast Kidney foundation of Greater Buffalo,  a local organization that replaces the National Kidney Foundation.

Mrs. Breckenridge is a strong advocate for organ donation and transplantation. She works tirelessly in the community providing education on kidney diseases and prevention. She participates in community health fairs, provides education at schools, churches, and community centers.

She provides peer counseling for dialysis patients, transplant patients and their families, especially newly diagnosed kidney disease individual and also facilitates a kidney Support Group at ECMC. She has done many radio, television, and newspaper articles promoting her cause. She worships at St Martin De Porres Roman Catholic Church and serves as a Lector, Eucharistic Minister and the Bereavement Committee. She serves communion at Mass, takes communion to sick in their homes, in hospitals and nursing homes. She also serves on the Pastoral Care team at the Erie County Medical Center.

She serves on several committees including The African American Commission for the Diocese of Buffalo, Board of Directors for The WNY Kidney Connection, Volunteer Board at ECMC and the Donor family Council at UNYTS. She is also a Life member of the Buffalo branch of the NAACP and the Buffalo Urban League.

She has received several awards for her endeavors, including the St. Joseph the worker’s award from the Diocese of Buffalo, Andy Mills Community Service award from St. Martin De Porres Church, The Gift of Life award from the National Kidney Foundation of WNY. Volunteer of the Year award from Upstate New York Transplant Services, St Phillip’s Women Builders of Communities and Dreams Award, Volunteer of the Year and Making Lives Better Awards from the National Office of the Kidney Foundation and the Buffalo branch NAACP Rufus Frashier Human Relations Award.

She has participated in many US and World Transplants games, and has won over twenty five-medals in track and field events. She has traveled to many cities in the US, Australia, Gothenburg Sweden.

Her Favorite quote is from Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who stated:

If you can’t feed a hundred People, then feed one

Serendipity

Friday, December 21st, 2012

Serendipity: the accidental discovery of something pleasant, valuable, or useful.

I think I’ve used this word more in the past month than I have since my SATs.

Yesterday was an incredible day that gave me the opportunity to stop and give thanks for the blessings of good health. Together with several members of the Unyts team, I had the privilege of meeting fellow ECMC patients who are in the midst of their medical journey, all waiting for “the call” to say that a kidney is available for them. I presented a red rose to each person as a way to say, “You are never forgotten; I know what you’re going through right now and will continue to advocate for organ donation until there no longer is a waiting list for organs.” While their backgrounds and stories are all diverse, we all share the struggles of kidney disease: one was a mom, like me; one was 23, the age when I received my first transplant; one shares my name: Amy Lynn. Serendipity.

On Christmas Day, my husband, Jerry, son, Nicholas, and I will be headed to California to begin our adventure to the Tournament of Roses Parade. I’m proud and deeply grateful for Unyts’ sponsorship of me on the Donate Life float. Riding the float with be a joyful, multi-colored exclamation point at the end of what has already been a 29 year journey through our health care system.

The theme of the parade is “Oh the Places You’ll Go.” As a big reader and lover of Dr. Seuss, it’s perfect for me. The Donate Life float theme is “Journeys of the Heart” and it’s massive: 55’ long and 30’ high, filled with soaring hearts. Perfect! I’ve collected red hearts since high school. Jerry and I love the band Genesis, and our dining room is decorated with album covers from the band’s entire catalogue. The theme song for the float was recently announced: Phil Collins, “You’ll Be in My Heart.” Serendipity.

If you happen to catch a glimpse of me on the float (or use your imagination if I’m on the non-TV-side of the float), you know I’m waving to say Thank You to my first donor family. After more than 26 years, I recently found my first donor and now know his name: Joseph Albers. His mother has given me a photo of him to carry on the float. I will also carry a photo of my childhood friend, Maureen Wirth, who donated a kidney to me four years ago. I’m waving to thank her and her family. I’m waving to my mom, sisters, relatives, and friends to say Thank You for their unending love and unwavering support during nearly three decades of renal disease. I’m waving to show that I’m thankful to God for giving me such a great medical team, keeping me alive to love my husband and son.

I’ll also be waving to draw the attention of strangers, saying, “Pay Attention! Nearly 120,000 Americans need an organ transplant and Organ Donation Works! Have the conversation with your family and sign the donor registry.”

As we begin packing our suitcases and wrap our Christmas gifts, I always think of two of my greatest gifts: my transplanted kidneys. That a 20-year-old man from Bath, New York could be a perfect six-antigen match for me and a friend, fellow cheerleader, hurdler, and National Honor Society member could also match me can be described simply…Serendipity.

 

 

Blog post by Amy Nash. Amy is a double kidney recipient, diagnosed with End Stage Renal Disease during her senior year at The University at Buffalo. She received her first transplant at age 23 from a 20 year old organ donor killed in a car accident. Years later, Amy was once again placed on the transplant list after her renal function fell below 20%. This time, an old childhood friend was a match.

Amy has been invited to Washington, D.C., to speak with Congressional staffers in an effort to ensure passage of the 2008 Medicare Health Act. Amy speaks to groups all over WNY, about the importance of organ donation.