The People Who Inspire Us
PNTB is honored to work on behalf of those who choose selfless giving and those who accept the gift of life with tremendous gratitude and courage. We are continually inspired by the altruistic gift of life donors give to others; their families who think of strangers in need as they face personal tragedy; living donors who risk health and safety to save the life of another; and recipients who face each day with grace and appreciation.
Organ and tissue donation is a profoundly unique experience and it is the personal stories shared by donor family members and recipients that give the rest of the world a glimpse at the heroes whose lives have been forever changed by donation. The following stories are just a few inspiring examples of the purest act of human kindness.
We would be honored to include your story if you are interested in sharing it with us. To submit your story, please email it along with a picture to Erin at firstname.lastname@example.org or mail it to: PNTB, Attn: Website Inspiration Stories; 2611 SW Third, Suite 320; Portland, OR 97201.
"It’s been one of the saving graces that my husband and I have – knowing that our son is still alive, and he is alive in four people."
My name is Alissa Indra. I live in Monmouth, Oregon. And my son, Daniel, donated two kidneys, a liver, and a heart on September 22, 2014. He was eight years old.
I’ve always been a huge fan of organ donation. Since I was fifteen, I have had it on my license. Parents don’t always think about it…. I wish as a new parent, we would have had more information, more understanding, more warning that while this is not something you want to think about, it’s something that you need to think about. If your child dies, what is going to happen? What are you going to do?
That Saturday, I went to work. My husband went to a wedding. And Daniel went to his grandparents’. He was eight, full of energy, very outgoing and loving. He played soccer and baseball, and he loved building; he LOVED Legos. And that Saturday, he was really excited because he was going to hang out with Grandpa and help fix a hole in the floor of the second floor of my Dad’s barn. A bee came through the window and it scared Daniel. He fell through the hole – 18 feet – and had major head trauma.
The brain doctor came in and said, “There’s nothing we can do.” And I said, “I am very adamant about organ donation, so please, whatever you do, don’t ruin his chances to save someone else.”
We were able to give his heart, his liver, and two kidneys. Daniel saved four people. It’s been one of the saving graces that my husband and I have – knowing that our son is still alive, and he is alive in four people... to know that my son may not be here next to me, but I prevented another family from going through the same grief and the same pain I’m going through.
Sarah Asmus, 18 years young, always was an organ donor because she has always been compelled to help others. Sarah was a beautiful red head, green eyes, hard working, fun loving, validictorian of her class. First semester at the University of Idaho, she was majoring in Premed. Sarah completed one of her math classes in 3 weeks. She was a member of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. Sarah was also hired over a large pool of applicants to a position in student government at the U of I. All of this in 2.5 months of her first semester at college.
Sarah could not wait till thanksgiving when she would be reunited with her sister, Dad, and Mom (me). She was a passenger in the front seat of a car, wearing her seatbelt. Sarah's family was waiting to meet her in a town halfway home, she never showed. Sarah's family drove 2.5 more hours to the hospital. Sarah never gained conciousness. We held her hand, stroked her brow, sang and talked to her. We were there with her.
The only comfort in the hospital those 24 hours was learning that there were two recipients already who would benifit from her kidneys. This is our family’s story. Christmas is here. I hope the two kidney recipients are living every moment to the maximum, both for their sake and for our family.
Evan was blossoming into a very loving, caring, fun person. One of his friends called him the “mayor” of Ashland because he seemed to know everyone, or at least the person they were with. He enjoyed people. He loved to be out of doors, hiking, bike riding, skiing, skateboarding, playing Frisbee, whatever would get him outside.
He lived at full throttle. He was a fabulous, very creative, artist. His vision of the world was tuned to a different frequency than most people’s perception. We have gotten to know 4 of his 5 identifiable recipients. We feel, and I am sure Evan would agree, what draws them together is love. We love knowing his recipients. Our family has increased exponentially.
How do you sum up the short life of your beautiful son, as well as share the love and pride for him in just a couple of short paragraphs? This is something I’ve been struggling with for just over a year now, and have finally come to terms with, and wanted to share it with the world.
Justin was a happy, healthy, radiant 17 year old young man who enjoyed the outdoors, as well as the love of his close family and friends. He was an avid ice hockey player, bmx-ing, skateboarding, guitar playing, beat-boxing class clown that had the biggest, most loving heart. He would be found wearing crazy Christmas and Halloween sweaters, regardless of what time of year it was, just to get a smile out of his peers. He was especially adored and admired by his younger sister Emily, and will forever be adored by his family and friends as we honor his life. Justin loved going to the coast with family, camping, hiking, anything that would get him outdoors and moving! Although he lived for just 17 short years, those years were completely filled with love, life and laughter.
Justin’s decision to donate came from him acquiring his driver’s permit in January 2012. I couldn’t have been more proud to know that our son, once again, would think of others should something detrimental happen to him. Sadly, the following month, we lost Justin in a tragic accident. He couldn’t have known the many lives he would save and improve through his selfless decision, but we have been blessed to get to know a few of them, and I am proud to call them family. Thank you to the staff at PNTB for helping our family navigate through our grief, and to help us become acquainted with the families our son is living on in. We will continue to share Justin’s legacy for the rest of our lives.
"Brian Jack my son, to me he was truly a miracle...born nine months and five days after I welcomed his older brother Colin (age four months) from Korea. "0" to two...1985 was quite a year! Brian was sweet and fun and even wise beyond his young years. He loved baseball, he loved to watch it and he loved to play. Even at age 3 he was able to throw the ball up and connect with the bat sending it sailing.Brian was very compassionate always concerned about others, he was going to be a(fireman)"fierman" when he grew up...but the growing up part never happened, Brian died when he was just seven, taken suddenly one day without warning in a terrible accident. And so he became special in yet another way, a tissue donor corneas and heart valves.
I will always miss him, but am so very grateful for our years together and his ability to be a donor."
Leslie Coefield, Brian's Mom
[caption id="attachment_576" align="alignright" width="180" caption="Jim and Lucile Burke, (left) Evan's Parents"][/caption]
I was diagnosed with Primary Biliary Cirrhosis (PBC), an autoimmune disease of unknown origin, when I was 36 years old. The doctor discovered it while doing routine labs. Sixteen years later, in 2004, the morning after my birthday party, I was rushed to the hospital, and given an hour to live. I had a ruptured blood vessel in my esophogus and I had lost a third of my blood. After surviving this episode, I told I needed a new liver, and needed to be added to the national waitlist. After a grueling few months of testing I was on the list by October 2004.On March 6, 2005, a young man named Evan died tragically while skateboarding in Ashland, Oregon. His family fought to get him to the hospital in Portland. Once they knew Evan would not survive, Evan’s mother fought to donate his organs so her son would live on in others.
I was at work on March 7, 2005. After putting in over seven hours at work, I went home and was very tired and just wanted to go to bed when I got a call that there was possibly a liver available for me. I was told there was some damage to the liver and asked would I be interested? I wasn’t sure. I asked my doctor, “What would you do if it were you?” He paused for a second and said, “I think I would take the liver.” I received my new liver at midnight on March 8, 2005.
Dr. Levy later told me this liver was a perfect match and he was right. I just celebrated my 6 year "Liverversary." I met Lucille and Jim Burke about a year after my transplant. It was such a wonderful, sad meeting. They are amazing people. Because of Evan and his parents, Evan was able to help over 100 people. He is truly my Guardian Angel.
Eric died on May 15, 2008 from a brain aneurysm at age 37. He adored his 7 yr. old son and looked forward to dirt bike and quad riding activities when his son got older. Eric had a strong, dedicated work ethic and in his spare time enjoyed fishing and camping. He loved to cook and regularly entertained his friends and family with BBQ gatherings. Eric loved mowing his lawn and obsessed over having the best looking lawn in the neighborhood. Friends called him the “Martha Stewart” of yard work. Life was never boring around Eric. He didn’t know to relax because his days were full. He had a smile, laugh and and energy for life that was exhausting to anyone around him. And he was always willing to make time to help anyone in need. His decision to become an organ, eye, and tissue donor is a testament to his caring nature. We are very grateful that many lives have benefited from his gift of life. We’ve been honored and blessed to have developed a relationship with Eric’s liver recipient, Billy, and have plans to meet this summer 2011. We love you and miss you, Eric, and look forward to our reunion in Heaven.Our Eternal Love, Mom, Dad, Chris, Julie & Trystan
Gary Lodge is my son. He was my best friend. But other than that he was a great human being. He was funny, kind and a great listener. Some of his favorite things were camping, especially snow camping, astronomy, reading, coffee, his friends and family and having a small impact on our world. He loved the outdoors. Gary was also a writer. He had almost finished his first novel. He had written many short stories and some poetry. He thought poetry was the hardest. Gary was humble. I found after his passing that a great many of his friends found in him many of the same qualities that I did. For me to hear about the wonderful way that he helped, usually by listening, was comforting. I have always been very proud of him. I am glad that he was able to assist others and of the giving of himself. He felt that relationships are what we leave as a legacy. So do I.
Two mothers, on opposite ends of an emotional organ donation journey, meet for the first time in this Emmy Winning News Feature for Donate Life Northwest by KOIN TV. Watch video
Dear Donor Family,
How do I say thank you and have it express what your generosity means to our whole family.
Thank you to all of you for being able to share in spite of your sadness.
And thank you for giving us a picture of a wonderful, loving, and giving man and his family.
There are so many things we would like to say, but so few words to adequately express those things.
The transplant experience is beyond anything I could have ever imagined and makes me thankful everyday for the fact that I am here to write you this letter.
I want you to know that each day of this new life you have so generously given me, I will strive to make meaningful and important.
We perhaps were a match without ever having met. I love to read, I love words and humor, the outdoors and my family and people of all kinds.
I know that Gary will live on in your hearts as well as you will alive on in mine.
Thank you and God bless you for everything.
February 2, 1998 seemed like a normal day, started like a normal day; that is, until I looked in the mirror. The whites of my eyes were no longer white, but had an unattractive yellow glow. Something was not quite right. My stomach had been irritated lately, but I attributed it to stress; you know, the familiar stuff, holidays, end of the year, end of the month, the impending audit. It turned out to be a little more complicated than stress.
Just over a month after discovering my odd colored eyes, I boarded a plane headed for California to have a liver biopsy.
Over the weekend my condition deteriorated rapidly. By Monday I had slipped into a coma. I suffered from “fulminate liver failure of unknown etiology”, (unknown complete liver failure). Without a liver transplant, my days were now hours and the hours were few. My family and friends had nothing to do but wait and pray.
Wednesday morning, by God’s grace, I received the most precious gift, life. I believe I am truly blessed; one of the fortunate.
There is of course another side to my story that is most important to share. The story of a young man only nineteen years old, much loved and full of life. Terry Snow suffered a tragic motorcycle accident on March 2, 1998. After two operations and many days in a coma, his family made the difficult decision to remove him from life support. In the midst of their own unimaginable grief the Snows made another critical decision. They decided to donate Terry’s organs. This decision provided life to the heart recipient, lung recipient, kidney recipient and I, the liver recipient. In addition, two more individuals received sight as a result of Terry’s donation. On March 12, 1998, my family grew by five. My donor, Terry Snow, his parents, Kathy and John, and his sister, Lynn Paulsen.
I’m afraid we found cancer, Mr. Klahn. Three tumors located in both lobes of your liver. As we discussed before, your best option is transplant, and now your name will be moved to the top of the list.” I cried for about five minutes.
I could barely walk up a flight of stairs, but I found peace of mind in swimming laps. Through it all I could still swim from one end of the pool to the other, easier than I could walk. My buoyancy made my movements effortless. Not confined by gravity, I found energy in the water, and felt as if I was flying.
My wait for a liver was short, only a couple of months. The surgeons told my parents after 14 hours of surgery everything had gone perfectly. The fourth day after my surgery the doctors told me to go home. “I can’t go home, I just had a liver transplant,” I argued to no avail.
Three months later, I was in the pool again. After about four months I had a minor setback. It was acute rejection, which was controlled by three days of intensive IV therapy that reduced my immune system so that my body could accept my new liver.
After I recovered I hit the pool again, with a vengeance. Three months later I won a gold medal in 50 meter breastroke at the U.S. Transplant games. I also placed second in the 100 meter breastroke and the 50 meter butterfly, along with playing on Team Iowa’s gold medal winning basketball team.
It has now been over two years since my transplant and not a day passes without realizing how fortunate I am to be alive. I recently competed in a Masters swimming Championship in Cedar Rapids. I really didn’t swim as well as I had hoped, but at the meet I met a wonderful woman named Jo Leah, whose 23 year old daughter Sarah, had died and was an organ donor. Sarah saved my life. Her liver was now my liver, still alive inside of me.
Jo Leah and I had been in contact by mail for several months and she came to see me swim. Jo Leah sent me a card and in it she wrote, “thank you so much for the gift you gave me the day we met. Seeing you, visiting with you, and watching you swim was truly an honor and a blessing.”
She thanked me for the gift of simply meeting with her and sharing with her part of my life. Sarah gave me the gift of life. There is not a more precious gift.
On December 10, 2012, our 16 year old daughter Shauna was in a car accident that left her in a coma. She had suffered from a traumatic brain injury and blunt force trauma. While in her comma, we talked to her, prayed with her, and read her Christmas stories. Her miniature schnauzer Buddy lay by her side hoping to see her wake. Shauna went into surgery December 18th and expectantly passed away. In the deepest sorrow of our lives and just a week before Christmas, the loss of our daughter was the catalyst in the decision to donate her heart, pancreas, kidneys, and liver. Our thought being that another family receives a gift of life during the holiday season. Shauna’s funeral was December 23rd, and she was buried December 26th. The road where her accident had occurred was overdue for changes and following Shauna’s accident, changes were made that would have prevented her death. Shauna was a very special spirit in our family, and left profound and deep love in our hearts so much so, that we found it important to help remember her with a legacy of love and compassion for others.
Shauna was the most inspiring person I have ever met not only because she was my daughter and I her mother, but because she wanted to change the world. Shauna had the wisdom of someone with years of life, was loved by everyone who knew her, and after her passing by those who did not know her. Her smiling eyes were a window to her kind and sincere soul. She had the virtues of tolerance, kindness, understanding for others different than her, fortitude, and counsel. She smiled constantly and her laugh hearty. Her attitude so fabulous, she could have been a life coach for all of us. She would play her violin to calm the nerves of her adopted neurologically damaged hamster. She left behind her three hermit crabs with us that we care for with same passion and love she gave them. Shauna was an environmentalist loving animals, the earth, and educating others about energy conversation. She dreamed of attending Stanford University. This quote was written by Shauna and a reflection of how she lived her life even though only through adolescence. “You are born with a heart of gold, and some hearts rust and deteriorate, but a rare few gold hearts beat strong for a lifetime, and die as a diamond”
Her school accomplishments were National Honor Society, and a member of Key Club which is a mentorship program that introduces new students to friendship opportunities. Shauna was also a self-taught violinist who became a member of her high school orchestra that eventually played in New York City at Carnage Hall. Shauna was recently awarded a Congressional Youth Bronze and Silver Medal for several hundred hours of community service, personal development, physical fitness, and exploring or adventure. Her community services included volunteering for the City of Boise teaching in the Learn to Skate program, 2009 World Special Olympics, and the Idaho Special Olympics. She worked at the Salvation Army Food Bank during the holidays, stocked shelves for the Eagle Food Bank, and volunteered at the Eagle Public Library where she spent much of her time reading.
Shauna was also a competitive figure skater, a proud member of the Boise Figure Skating Club, and placed at two US Figure Skating Regional events in 2009 and 2011. She qualified for and competed in a 2012 National Qualifier, and that same year she qualified for and participated in the US Figure Skating National Solo Ice Dancing Championships. She earned two of US Figure Skating’s highest testing awards which were Novice Freeskate Bronze Medalist, and Junior Moves in the Field Silver Medalist.
Shauna's end of this life became a bridge to five new lives. For our family, organ donation was the last act of love in the name of our loved one. For those who were recipients of Shauna’s organs, our hope for them is that they live a long, healthy, and happy life.
May 22, 2006 started out like most days. In a hurry, what is the kid’s schedule, are we traveling this weekend? On this day I also had a conversation with my son Rocky about his intentions of moving to Louisiana to help in the rebuilding of that State after Hurricane Katrina. We talked about his daughter who at the time was only 8 months old and why did he need to move so far away? That evening he hopped on his motorcycle to take a ride with friends. Little did we know that the next phone call we would get was to tell us he had an accident and was not moving. I thought about my son all day and felt the need to continue our conversation.
The phone ringing would be from those friends saying get to the hospital now! What I remember most was the doctor telling me he was brain dead- he had hit the back of his neck where the brain stem is. There was no hope of recovery and his body would not last long either. Our decision became when [not what can we do,] do we decide to let him go. His sister, father, and others were on the other side of the US so the task became telling them and getting them home. I could not think, function, just wondered why. Then Rocky’s in-laws asked me if I had thought about organ donation? At that point, the answer was “no,” and “what is that, organ donation?” After my quick education and discussion with family, we did decide to allow him to be an organ & tissue donor. Though I was still feeling skeptical, our discussions with the great staff at PNTB, the hospital, and family helped seal our decision that we were allowing Rocky to do the right thing. My son always lived every day to its fullest. He raced motocross, snowmobiled, hunted, fished, he lived the Idaho life. He would always tell me, “mother, we can die today crossing the street. If we always live in fear of dying, we never live”.
In making this decision, Rocky was able to give the gift of life to 7 people and sight to 2 others. Our hope is that countless others have also benefited from his gift of tissue donation. Rocky was always about helping the underdog, so in allowing him to become a donor, he was able to help the underdog one last time and leave behind a wonderful legacy for his daughter Monique. I will not tell you that this is an easy choice, but certainly one after reading the letters we have received from the recipients, a right choice that has made a difference for many families including ours. We could not change that fateful day for my son, but we were able to allow him to change that day for several others. Take the time to have this conversation as you might one day be in our position to change the course of one’s life. I believe the words my son would say to you is this…Pass it Forward.
I never thought in a million years that I would go through something like this. I went from being a healthy 21 year old, to a patient in the ICU experiencing fulminate liver failure. What had been a routine checkup, soon turned into a life altering experience. I was fortunate, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
I was at the Cleveland Clinic for a totally unrelated appointment and my mom noticed that my eyes were yellow. She asked my doctor who had my liver enzymes tested- when the test results came back, I was immediately admitted to the hospital. I have little recollection of the events that took place after being admitted in those early days, until I woke up nearly a week later, with a new liver.
Apparently, doctors discovered that my liver only had 20% function and my only option was a transplant. I was moved to the top of the national waiting list and miraculously, a liver became available in only 8 hours. I was transplanted with no time to spare. Without my amazing donor, I would not be alive today.
I seemed to recovery quite quickly at first, but just 5 weeks after my transplant I started rejecting my new gift. Thankfully with heavy dose IV steroids for 2 weeks my body accepted my liver and I have been healthy ever since.
Because of my transplant, I have been able to resume my previously active life, and have even had the opportunity to compete in two U.S. transplant Games. I am so proud and grateful everyday that I am able to do all of the things that I could do before I got sick. The Gift of Life is so amazing, every day is a true gift, and I appreciate each moment. I am so happy to be alive and forever grateful for my donor! Donors are true heroes.
Robert Ayers barely witnessed the birth of his daughter in October of 2005. Just hours after bringing his wife, Jennifer, and their baby home from the hospital, Robert was hospitalized with further complications from the liver disease that plagued him for two years. Before his liver transplant, Rob Ayers feared he would not be alive to watch his newborn daughter Lauren grow up. Because of the generosity of his donor, Rob was able to receive a second chance at life. This has allowed him to remain a father to his daughter and also celebrate the birth of a son. Robert has also been able to return to an active lifestyle involving outdoor activities that he enjoyed prior to his illness. Exactly four months after transplant, Rob hiked to the summit of Mt. Adams with his wife.
In 2003, I received the biggest surprise of my life. I was diagnosed with Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis, or PSC, a terminal liver disease. The cause is unknown, it results in cirrhosis, and the only cure is a liver transplant. I felt fine at the time of diagnosis, but three years later, I became very ill and required hospitalization. Soon after, a liver biopsy revealed end-stage cirrhosis. The reply to every social invitation was “definitely maybe” because my husband Tom and I never knew if I would be too ill to attend. For the next 1 1/2 years, our lives were on hold.
On May 10, 2007, I received my liver transplant. Now I’m rounding the corner of my 4th transplant anniversary, and fast approaching my 36th wedding anniversary with Tom. I feel great, and I’m able to do everything I could do before my transplant. But what I really value are the things that can’t be measured. Tom and I grew closer together in our marriage. My sisters and I have grown closer together, strengthened so we can be advocates for our mother, who is in the late stages of dementia.
In fall, 2010, I had the privilege of meeting my liver donor’s family and learning about my donor, Monica, who died from a brain aneurism. Her kidneys saved two other lives. When our families met, we celebrated the lives Monica saved. I shared my passion for speaking to young people about the importance of registering as organ donors. A fellow liver recipient and I now facilitate a liver transplant support group for pre- and post-transplant patients in the Portland area. I couldn’t be more blessed, and every morning, I’m thankful for yet another day to live.
I won. Three months into my recovery from a heart transplant, and I can say with confidence that I won. My battle with Hypertrophic Cardiomiopathy, a life-threatening genetic heart disease, took a toll not only on my own health, but has also plagued members of my family. My mother passed away from the same disease, and I was diagnosed three months before my brother passed away while waiting for a heart transplant. Before I became ill, I worked as a nurse and hospital administrator. I dealt directly with grieving families who needed to make decisions regarding eye, organ and tissue donation for their loved one who had recently passed on.
This is a multi-layered and complex battle, I fought against this heart disease the only way I knew how…with my brother's optimism, and through opportunities to educate the public about the pressing need for organ, eye and tissue donation.
My personal battle to beat Hypertrophic Cardiomiopathy has finally ended, thanks to one individual who registered as an organ donor. As a wife and dedicated mother, my recovery begets hope. Hope for a healthy and long life with my family, and hope that through my story, others will realize the importance of registering as organ donors. Now, I will be able to watch my son succeed in basketball, graduate from high school, and continue to develop into a young man. Soon, my family and I will be able to take trips to the East Coast again, a place I hold dear and have missed deeply.
While an entirely new battle of post-transplant recovery has begun, my wisdom and strength continue to grow. I often place my hand on my chest, feeling the beat of my new heart. This new heart of mine, it beats so powerfully. It is so strong.
Bobby's heart was one of the first transplanted in Oregon. He was a loving father of 4 children: Tamisha , Malicka ,Shannon and Bobby Jr. He loved his family. He enjoyed music, basketball and fishing. His personality was radiant.