If you asked me in the spring of 1992 if I thought I would be alive today, I would have told you no. I was 30 and had always expected to have a short life.
All of that changed because of the selfless act of one young man I would never meet.
Type 1 diabetes nearly killed me. It ravaged my entire body for years. It almost blinded me, it destroyed my kidneys, and it was the catalyst for many life-threatening medical events. My health rapidly deteriorated to the point that my doctors prepared me for dialysis and I was placed on the kidney and pancreas transplant list.
It has been 25 years since an extraordinary team of transplant professionals in Philadelphia changed my life in miraculous ways. A kidney and pancreas were gifted to me after a man from the Gettysburg area, who was registered as an organ donor, died. With that double organ transplant, my health — and life — was immediately given back to me. I have not needed dialysis or insulin injections since that surgery.
Years later, with the support of the regional organ procurement organization’s social workers, I learned that my donor was a young man named Doug Shriver, who had died in a tragic car accident. Doug’s selflessness and generosity gave me new life because he made the decision to become an organ donor. I thank Doug and his family and think of them every day. Over the years, I met most of Doug’s family, and this has been another special gift to me. I am so pleased that they know how thankful I am and how their gifts have continued to bless me throughout the years.
My transplant provided me with great hope and excitement for the future. Wanting to learn more about organ donation and how I could help others be blessed with a second chance, I began to volunteer with Gift of Life Donor Program in Philadelphia (formerly called Delaware Valley Transplant Program) in 1993. I formally joined the organization as an in-house transplant coordinator in 1997. I became a research coordinator with the Transplant Pregnancy Registry International, which is part of the Gift of Life Institute, in 2008. The registry studies the outcomes of pregnancies in female organ-transplant recipients and those fathered by male organ-transplant recipients. Since my daughters were both born following my double transplant, our clinical data is included in the registry’s research.
I know from my work that there is so much more education we need to do to get more people to register as donors. Right now in our region — Eastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey, and Delaware — there are more than 5,400 men, women, and children awaiting a life-saving transplant. National surveys show that 94 percent of people support organ donation, yet only 48 percent percent of Pennsylvanians are registered to be organ donors. The need for more registered donors is critical.
I never could have dreamed of living a healthy and full life with my husband, or giving birth to two wonderful and healthy daughters who are now in high school. All of this was made possible because of organ donation.
July 7 was the 25th anniversary of my transplant. The prior weekend, my family was privileged to have had the opportunity to celebrate and honor the selfless gift of life that Doug gave to me, together with the Shriver family in Gettysburg.
I am so thankful to God and to Doug for telling his family that he wanted to be an organ donor. I want to let everyone know what a lifesaving difference you can make by registering to be an organ donor. It is truly an amazing gift.
Faith Carlin is a research coordinator with the Transplant Pregnancy Registry International, a part of Gift of Life Institute. email@example.com
For more information about organ donation, visit www.donors1.org.