Emory Transplant Center patient Sherrell Gay was given a second chance at life, twice. On New Year’s Day, Sherrell was able to honor those who gave her the gift of life in the 131st Tournament of Roses Parade. Sherrell, the recipient of two life-saving heart transplants and a kidney transplant, honored her donors and their families by riding on the Donate Life Rose Parade Float.
This year’s float, with the 2020 theme of “Light in the Darkness,” highlighted the power of unity, light and love, as celebrated during Southeast Asia’s Diwali, or the Festival of Lights, a celebration of light shining in the darkness. The float honored 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.
Sherrell is thankful for her donors and their families, and has made it her life mission to be a passionate advocate for organ donation. She is an active volunteer with LifeLink of Georgia, a mentor with Georgia Transplant Foundation and the co-manager of Team Georgia.
“I live every day to the fullest and honor my donors with everything I do. Without them, I wouldn’t have had these bonus years. The experiences allow me to be the face of hope for those waiting for transplant. I am thankful to God for a great life,” says Sherrell.
Sherrell’s Road to Transplant
Sherrell Gay married her high school sweetheart, Tony, they bought their dream home in the country and welcomed three children into their world. She retired from nursing to become a stay-at-home mom – a job she took seriously. Sherrell was involved in every aspect of her children’s lives and was active in her church as the organist during services until she was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy in late 1994. Sherrell’s on-the-go lifestyle took a drastic turn as she no longer had the energy to do everyday tasks – let alone the long list of activities in which she was involved. A sudden cardiac episode at home, with only her children present, changed her life and that of her family.
After eight years of living with a sick heart, and six weeks on the national transplant waiting list, Sherrell received the gift of life – a heart transplant in August 2002. She quickly regained her strength and endurance and resumed her normal activities. She was thrilled to meet her donor’s family five years post-transplant, and they have remained in contact ever since. After 10 years, Sherrell’s heart began to fail due to chronic rejection, which also caused her kidneys to fail. She was reevaluated and listed for transplant again. After 17 months on the transplant waiting list, six of which were spent in a hospital, Sherrell received her second heart transplant and a kidney transplant in December 2012. Because of the young men who became organ donors, Sherrell witnessed the marriages of her three children, the birth of her grandchildren — who lovingly call her “Suga” — and now enjoys RV travel, attending music festivals, and family time.
About Emory Transplant Center
Emory Transplant Center offers a comprehensive organ-transplantation program providing clinical excellence and new transplant therapies for patients in need of heart, lung, kidney, liver and pancreas transplants. Based on Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network 2018 data, Emory Transplant Center ranks among the top 12 transplant programs in the nation for overall adult volume, performing more than 9,700 transplants to date.
For more information about the Emory Transplant Center, or to schedule an appointment at any one of our satellite locations, call 855-EMORY-TX (366-7989) or visit emoryhealthcare.org/transplant.