According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), there are currently more than 120,000 individuals waiting for a transplant. One organ donor can save up to 8 lives, and sadly, 22 people die every day waiting for some type of transplant.
Alice Koone, an Emory lung transplant recipient was one of those individuals awaiting a life-saving transplant.
Alice was in desperate need for a double lung transplant due to severe complications with breathing. At a Talladega Superspeedway race in 2007, she remembers not being able to walk more than 20 feet without having to stop to rest because her lungs were so damaged.
In Jul 2007, Alice was place on oxygen, but her condition didn’t seem to be improving. On Sept. 13, 2007, three months after being placed on the lung transplant waiting list, she received a call that would change her life – she would receive a lung transplant that day with the Emory Transplant Center.
Neile Chesnut, an Emory heart transplant coordinator, said most people don’t understand how important it is to become an organ donor. Liver, heart, lungs, kidneys, pancreas and small intestine are among organs that can be donated.
Chesnut says one of the best parts of working with pre- and post-transplants patients includes getting to know the individuals as they wait, sometimes several months, for a transplant.
“I feel like they are my family,” said Chesnut.
A year after receiving her transplant at Emory University Hospital, Alice wanted to write a “thank you” note to her donor family, but she could not go through with it.
“How do you thank somebody for this?” she wondered.
But on her second transplant anniversary, she finally wrote that letter to the donor family. Alice, now 54, spends time with her baby grandson and volunteers as a mentor for the Georgia Transplant Foundation.
“I’m able to do a lot of the things I thought I would never be able to do again,” she said. “We are able to travel, camp, hike and just enjoy life. You are thankful for everyday that you get.”
*Blog adapted from story written by Marisa Stout. Marisa is a senior at the University of Georgia majoring in public relations. Her passion for transplant stemmed from her grandfather’s need for a heart transplant. He received his life-saving transplant at Emory in 2004, and is doing well today.
Marisa says, “I wrote this piece because I feel as a college student writing a piece on organ donation, I can send a message about this important cause to my generation.” And of course, Marisa is an organ donor herself.