Emory Transplant Center patient Amy Tippins was given a second chance at life. This New Year’s Day, she’ll honor the family that saved her life in the 125th Tournament of Roses Parade. Amy, the recipient of a life-saving liver transplant, will honor that gift by riding the Donate Life Rose Parade Float.
This year’s float, with the 2014 theme of “Light Up the World,” honors donors, recipients and their families who have been involved with organ, eye or tissue donation, and hopes to serve as a platform for inspiring others to heal and save the lives of those in need.
Amy is so thankful to her donor and her donor’s family, and has made it her life-mission to be a passionate advocate for organ donation. On December 17 at 11:00 a.m., Amy and other advocates for the cause will meet at the Georgia state capitol to put the finishing touches on decorations that will become part of “Light Up the World.” Amy, along with her donor’s family, will complete a floragraph of her donor’s image composed entirely of flowers and other organic materials. The floragraph will then travel to Pasadena to be placed on the float.
Amy will be joined at the capitol by Emory Transplant Center surgeon and surgical director of the Paired Donor Exchange Program, Dr. Nicole Turgeon, along with additional members of the Emory Healthcare team, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Grady Health System, Columbus Regional Health, Donate Life Georgia, LifeLink Foundation, the Georgia Eye Bank and many others involved in the organ transplantation process in Georgia.
April is when we as a nation recognize National Donate Life Month. To celebrate the gift of life and organ donation here in Atlanta, Emory is hosting a number of activities and events. We take this time to honor organ donors, the families who make the crucial decision to donate a loved one’s organs, and the relatives, friends and others who donate living donor organs to transplant recipients.
Here are the activities we have planned during Donate Life Month:
Book your favorite foursome in this benefit golf tournament and support the Emory Transplant Center and Georgia Transplant Foundation. Event info and registration >
(Kirk Franz, the recreation manager for the city of Johns Creek, and his family and friends first organized the Swing Easy, Hit Hard Charity Golf Tournament in 2010 to support his transplant fund. He had a lifesaving liver transplant at Emory to treat cholangiocarcinoma, or bile duct cancer. Now that he is fully recovered from his transplant, he and his family (pictured below) organized a nonprofit foundation to continue hosting the event annually to benefit other transplant patients at Emory and at Georgia Transplant Foundation. The foundation helps patients like Franz raise funds for escalating medical expenses following transplantation, which the organization matches up to $10,000 in the first year post-transplant. Last year’s golf tournament raised more than $2,000 each for the Emory Transplant Center and Georgia Transplant Foundation.)
• Week of April 22 – 26, 2013 — Emory Donate Life Week
Look for information tables with staff and LifeLink of Georgia volunteers answering questions about donation on Monday and Tuesday during lunch hour outside Emory University Hospital’s Asbury Court and in the mornings on the walkway between Emory Clinic buildings A and B.
This month also gives us an opportunity to recognize and thank our neuroscience and critical care colleagues dedicated to caring for patients at the end-of-life who are potential donors. They lovingly work with donor families during a stressful point in their lives. In addition, we commend the staff that work with individuals who make the decision to become a related or non-related living donor. The donation process can be a catharsis for these donors and families, who help make renewed lives possible through transplantation.
Not many people can say they’ve had multiple hearts in their lifetime, but one grateful Emory Transplant Center patient can and is now working to make it possible for others to say the same.
On Sunday, July 17, over 400 guests attended the first annual “Angels of Life” Hair and Fashion Show held by Three-13 Salon, Spa and Boutique of Marietta. The event raised over $31,000 for the Georgia Transplant Foundation and was planned by Lester Crowell, Emory patient and managing partner of Three-13 Salon, to help fellow transplant patients and to commemorate the salon’s 37th anniversary.
According to Crowell, Three-13 Salon has a strong history of philanthropic work, from donating to Ronald McDonald House to volunteering their time for the Cobb County School Systems. But after undergoing his second heart transplant, the business’s managing partner decided he ought to focus on something very close to home: transplant patients.
“It was fantastic for our first event,” Crowell said. “I think we raised a lot of awareness about transplants and organ donations.”
The event took place at the Cobb Energy Centre and consisted of a silent auction followed by a hair and fashion theatrical show featuring products sold by Three-13 Salon. Several transplant patients shared their testimony of how their lives were changed through organ donors. Both Dr. Andrew Smith, MD, Clinical Chief of Cardiology for Emory University Hospital, and Dr. David Vega, MD, director of Emory’s Heart Transplant Program, spoke on stage in support of Crowell, their patient, and his cause.
For Crowell, his own journey towards a heart transplant began when he was 13. What started as recurring chest pains grew into an illness called Idiopathic Hypertrophic Subaortic Stenosis (IHSS) with serious consequences. He began seeing doctors at Emory University Hospital when he was 19 and was told he had a runaway heart.
“My heart would speed up for no reason. It was a congenital defect,” Crowell said. Several family members have struggled with the disease, but not all have opted for heart transplants.
“I thought it was sort of a good thing I didn’t have to dress up for PE anymore,” Crowell said. “I didn’t have to run the laps…that’s all I thought about.” But his condition continued to worsen.
“If I didn’t eat anything, I wouldn’t have chest pains. I got very used to not eating all day long until the end of the day,” he explained. Doctors told him he had cardiomyopathy when he was in his 30’s. At age 40, he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.
“By the time I was 43, I couldn’t talk and breathe at the same time. That’s when I got my first transplant,” Crowell said.
Nine years later, his transplanted heart developed chronic rejection, a common occurrence in transplanted organs. After waiting almost a year for another heart, Crowell underwent a second transplant on December 4, 2010. This time around, he was more prepared.
“I knew what to expect, so it sort of seemed easier,” Crowell said. Since receiving his third heart, life has continued as usual. “I’m not in fear of having a heart attack every day,” he said. “I’m living a normal life.”
The two-time transplant patient said he was fortunate to have insurance to help pay for his transplants and treatment, but he knows that this is not the case for everyone. Through Three-13’s annual “Angels of Life” Hair & Fashion Show, Crowell hopes to continue gathering donations for the Georgia Transplant Foundation so the charity can continue to help others obtain a second or, like Crowell’s case, a third chance at life.
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