Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A New Life For Karen

Organ donation's been in the headlines a lot recently. The death of former Bengals player Ickey Woods' son is inspiring others to make the promise to donate their organs.

Sheila here.
I want to tell you a personal story about organ donation. I went to high school with a great person named Karen Paul. Our drama teacher used to call her "little, tiny Karen Paul" because of her small stature. But Karen has a big heart and a huge faith. And she has her life, thanks to organ donation.

Karen's last name is Range now, and she has a beautiful son named Sammy. In 2006, Karen developed a lung disorder called Bronchiolitis Obliterans. It's a pretty complicated illness, but the long and short of it is that Karen needed a double lung transplant. She couldn't breathe well enough to take care of her son, go grocery shopping alone, or even have a conversation without gasping for air. I remember her telling me that her son, who was only 2 years old when she was diagnosed, was helping around the house and taking care of her. It was heart wrenching to hear, and it was painful to think of the possibility that Sammy would have to grow up without her if there was no organ donor who matched Karen.

Karen never lost faith that she would get her lungs. She had quite a prayer network, and she had a strong belief that God would take care of her. Karen got the call from the Cleveland Clinic, not once, but twice, saying her lungs were on the way. Twice, she and her husband Jerry made the trip, only to find out the lungs were not the right match. I remember reading those emails from Karen. Even though she was devastated, she put others first. Karen would always tell her network of friends to pray for the family who had lost a loved one, a family who was consumed by grief.

Finally, the right lungs arrived. Karen underwent a double lung transplant on December 1, 2009. It was the day her life was renewed. You can't imagine the joy Karen experienced in doing simple things, like going out shopping or playing outside with Sammy. Karen says, "I think one of the greatest joys of having my life back is being a Mom to my now 6 year old son. He never knew his Mommy any other way but sick. Now we can spend as much time together as we want." She's even taking Zumba classes!

As you might imagine, Karen has become a vocal proponent of organ donation. An Ohio University student recently completed a video about Karen's experience. Here's a link if you're interested: Http://!/video/video.php?v=451552774119

Whether you watch the video or not, I hope you will consider putting your signature on your driver's license, indicating you would like to donate your organs, and talk to your family members about your wishes.
More than 100,000 people like my friend Karen are waiting. It's a decision that could save someone's mommy or friend. As Karen so aptly puts it: "The organ donation gives people a second chance and makes families whole again. I truly believe that organ donation is the greatest gift a human can give another human. It is a gift of love and life."

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