After being given a second chance for a better, healthier life with a kidney and pancreas transplant in July 1992, I began to volunteer at my local OPO, Gift of Life Donor Program. It has always been my desire to help others receive the same amazing gift(s) that I am so grateful for by spreading the news about the miracles that happen because of Organ and Tissue Donation. Volunteering is so rewarding, and my friendships with many joyful, caring, and brave transplant recipients and donor families is a great blessing.
About five years after receiving my double transplant, I became an In-House Kidney Transplant Coordinator and met many Transplant Professionals including the late Vincent T. Armenti, MD, PhD, a transplant surgeon who started the National Transplantation Pregnancy Registry (NTPR) now known as the Transplant Pregnancy Registry International (TPRI). It was also around this time that I married my husband Alex and we had questions about the safety of me becoming pregnant. Alex and I met with Dr. Armenti and were happy to learn that it was safe based upon TPRI data, my health, medications, and length of time since transplant.
Our daughters were born via C-section in November 2000 and May 2003. We are healthy, happy and my transplant function is normal at close to 30 years now. Being given the chance to give birth to two children is another amazing gift of transplantation. My daughters have also met my donor, Doug’s family and I believe they know how thankful we all are to them.
When I was pregnant in 2000, a reporter from a large Philadelphia newspaper was interested in writing about the experience. She interviewed Dr. Armenti, Alex and me. Along with one of my transplant doctors, a photographer and all the normal staff in the Operating Room, the reporter was with us and later published a full two-page story. Following the Philadelphia Newspaper story, Family Circle Magazine, which at the time was a leading women’s interest publication, shared another great article. It makes me happy when I hear that others now understand the possibility of a healthy transplant recipient giving birth to a healthy child.
I began working as a Research Coordinator with the TPRI (a very professional, dedicated, and wonderful team) in 2008 and love speaking with recipients about our research, their experience and sometimes my experience with pregnancy post-transplant. Usually, I speak with participants by phone or at the US Transplant Games. The TPRI has had a booth at most US Transplant Games and it is a great opportunity to see some participants in person and meet new ones. One of my best memories at the Games was when a very happy and enthusiastic mother of a son born post-transplant approached me with a big hug and thanked me for our research. She heard my name announced to go on stage to receive my Gold Medal for Softball Throw and ran over to meet me. She told me how grateful she is for her son and felt he would not be here without the information shared by the TPRI.
I’ve been extremely blessed to volunteer and work for Gift of Life and the TPRI and be a part in their mission of helping others and improving lives.