Our Stories

My Final Gift

It is now time for me to move on
Into the dusk, but also the dawn.

I will remain as the morning comes
As I've left behind a gift for someone.

So another may walk,
may talk, may see

Where their life was locked,
I offered a key.

I am a donor to someone in need,
My final gift, my final deed.

Sarah Todd, Ireland
Daughter of a Heart Recipient

Lynn Davis, Liver Recipient

Lynn Davis

In the spring of 2014, I suddenly began feeling ill, had a decrease of energy, and wanted to sleep all the time. Within 6 weeks, the situation was far worse. I could barely drive, my cognitive abilities were affected, and I no longer had the energy to do the things I loved doing or even get out of bed. My doctor ran lab tests and found that my liver enzymes were extremely elevated.

Two weeks later, I was hospitalized. A CT scan and Biopsy showed I was in acute (sudden & severe onset) liver failure. I was told that I only had 5% liver function and I that I needed to find a liver clinic. Two days later, I was at Mayo Clinic in Phoenix being evaluated for a liver transplant. Within a few days, I was diagnosed with Fulminant Hepatic Toxicity and admitted to Mayo Hospital. I was in disbelief and was sure there had been a horrible mistake. After all, I was young (52) healthy and active.

The liver is an amazing organ that has the ability to repair itself. The doctors at Mayo began treatment in the attempt to repair my failing liver. Unfortunately, my liver was too damaged and treatment was unsuccessful. The only alternative remaining was a new liver and without one, I would die in a very short time. I was placed on the “wait list,” joining over 120,000 other people in the U.S. who were also waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant. Approximately 15,000 were in need of a liver.

Over the next few days, my condition deteriorated. They moved me in to ICU and changed my status on the organ transplant wait list to “status 1A.” This status is reserved for patients with acute liver failure and a life expectancy of hours to a few days without a transplant. The survival rate for individuals with acute liver failure is less than 20% due to the sudden and rapid deterioration of the liver. The following morning on June 24, 2014 I received the news that a matching liver had become available and that evening I underwent a successful liver transplant.

On the second year anniversary of my liver transplant, I had the amazing experience of meeting my donor’s mother. My donor was a 20 year old incredible young man that was in college to become a doctor. His aspiration was to help others and save lives and he did, just that! I think of my donor every day and am forever grateful for his decision to become a registered organ donor. If you are not already a registered organ donor, please consider becoming one. If you are a registered donor, thank you!

Evelyn Rivera, Liver Recipient

Evelyn Rivera
I am Evelyn Rivera, 61 years old. On December 23, 2009 I was diagnosed with liver cancer and cirrhosis brought on by Hep C. January 2010 found me at UCHospital, Denver undergoing an evaluation for a liver transplant. Once I was placed on the list I began chemo treatments for the cancer and interferon treatment for the Hep C. July 26, 2011 I received my first transplant. That liver developed bile duct issues and my health declined. After much misery and a second interferon treatment I received my second transplant on February 25, 2015. I am alive again! Forever grateful to those who chose to be organ donors, I am now dedicated to increasing the number of donors so that others may have a shorter wait for a new life.

Robert Golding, Liver Recipient

Robert Golding is the recipient of a liver and kidney transplant. He was diagnosed with Hepatitis C in 2000. He received therapy to cure the virus in 2002, but his liver had gone into cirrhosis as a result of the many years that he had Hepatitis C. Robert contracted Hepatitis C from a blood transfusion in 1983 before there was a test to check for the virus. It is not possible to contract Hepatitis C from the blood supply now because of careful screening of blood and blood products. The complications from cirrhosis started in 2011 and things got worst until he was unable to work in 2013. He was admitted to Banner Hospital Phoenix in February 2014 for evaluation for a liver transplant. While he was there his kidneys failed. Banner could not perform the transplant due to portal vein thrombosis. Robert was then transferred to Mayo Clinic in Phoenix.They performed the transplant surgery for the liver and kidney at the same time. Robert received his transplant on May 23, 2014. He is grateful for the donor and her family for the gift of life. His passion is bringing awareness to the public the need to become an organ donor!

Cathy Walters, Heart Transplant Recipient

Cathy Walters

In 2010, at the age of 65, I was diagnosed with a rare and progressive heart disease by my cardiologist in Albuquerque. I had a type of cardiopathy which caused arrhymias, so was given an ICD (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator). This plus medications controlled the disease for a few years. But in late 2012 it was pretty clear that my heart was failing and the next step, much to my dismay and shock, was a heart transplant! I was referred to the Transplant Center at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, where my daughter lives.

On June 11, 2013, I was incredibly blessed to receive the "gift of life," a new heart! I am grateful to my donor and her family every day for making this possible. I also was very fortunate to be at an excellent facility, to have the support of many friends and family, and especially to have my daughter as an amazing caregiver! I stayed in California for four months and made many trips back to the clinic for routine follow-up doctor visits and tests.

It was SO very good to get back home to the mountains in Los Alamos in October, just as the fall colors were at their height! Thanks to this miracle, I literally have a new life! Instead of being depressed and thinking I had no future, I now have returned to an independent and active life, traveling, exercising, and helping others. One of my passions is increasing the awareness of the need for more donors and promoting organ, eye and tissue donation and transplantation. I hope anyone reading this has a heart on his/her driver's license!

My daughter and I were privileged to be part of Team New Mexico at the 2018 Transplant Games of America, held in Salt Lake City. The purpose of this biannual event is to celebrate life and to extend the legacy of donors through recipients' transformations to better health. The Games also demonstrate hope and promise to the thousands of individuals who are waiting for a life-restoring transplant and the games serve as a tribute to honor donors - both living and deceased - whose generosity has saved or healed the lives of individuals in need. Besides all this, the Games are a competitive exhibition of the determination, tenacity and spirit of transplanted patients - made possible by the generosity of donors and their families. I stepped out of my comfort zone and entered several swimming events - and the results are shown in the photo - eight gold medals! I hope to go back next year to New Jersey. Donor Services of New Mexico provides a lot of support, generously covering much of the cost to attend.

We have also been honored to be volunteers to decorate the Rose Parade Donate Life Float the past three years! We have met so many amazing people, both courageous recipients and generous donor families. Be sure to watch for the Donate Life Float next January 1st! They estimate 10,000 volunteer hours are contributed each year.

OTAP welcomes any transplant recipient or candidate, donor families, living donors, or anyone interested in our mission to join us! Come to a meeting or sign up to receive the monthly newsletter "Transplant Times."