Meet Team Transplant 2009

The following members of Team Transplant have been personally touched by organ and tissue donation. Whether they are transplant recipients, living donors, or donor family members, each of these inspiring team members has joined Team Transplant to raise awareness about organ and tissue donation.

Team Transplant proves that transplant recipients and living donors can lead healthy, active lives even after receiving or giving the Gift of Life!

Vienna, Liver Recipient

Vienna, Liver RecipientWhen Vienna was born in 2004, her parents were ecstatic. But their joy soon turned to worry when they found out their new baby girl had bilary artesia, a defect in her liver’s bile ducts. Doctors tried surgery to treat the condition but it failed. When Vienna was five months old, her parents learned that she would need a liver transplant to survive.

Luckily, just two months later, Vienna received the Gift of Life from a two year old boy. Because of this gift, Vienna is now a healthy, bright, bubbly, active little girl and a proud big sister to her siblings Millie and Paul.

Last year, Vienna traveled to the U.S. Transplant Games in Pittsburgh where she took home the gold medal in bowling and the silver medal in the Track & Field Championship’s 25 Meter Dash, also competing in swimming and cycling. This year, four-year-old Vienna and her two-year-old sister Millie will ride in the Elephant Rock kid’s race with Team Transplant.

Parents Paul and Traci marvel at their daughter each day. “We are so grateful to our donor’s family,” said Traci of Vienna’s donor. “Because of his gift, I get to kiss a miracle every day.”

Bryan, Kidney Recipient

Bryan, kidney recipientParticipating on Team Transplant at this year’s Elephant Rock Ride will be a personal victory for Bryan, for it was now four years ago—at Elephant Rock—when he realized that a lifelong kidney disease had finally taken its toll on his health and was threatening his life.

Before needing a transplant, Bryan averaged 3,000 miles on his bike every year, even with reduced kidney function.  But as time progressed, his health began to decline.

“I knew I was truly sick when I rode at Elephant Rock in 2005 and couldn’t keep my normal pace. Though I pushed hard, I just couldn’t keep up. I felt so sick that I cut my ride short.”

Bryan went to his family and friends to find a living donor, but he didn’t find a viable match. Feeling desperate, he consented when a friend asked to post his search for a living donor on a blog. It was only a few days later when Bryan’s hero, Kevin, saw the posting and agreed to be tested. Believe it or not, Kevin was a match, and on July 7, 2005, Kevin donated his kidney to Bryan—a man he had previously never met.

Bryan and Kevin, now great friends, will ride the Century with Team Transplant in celebration of the fourth anniversary of their transplant.

Read more about Bryan’s story.

Anne, Kidney and Pancreas Recipient

Anne, kidney and pancreas recipientAnne is a 4 ½ year kidney-pancreas recipient and an avid community activist for organ and tissue donation. Years ago, even with her Type-I diabetes and high blood pressure, she and her husband Kevin rode in the Seattle to Portland double-century together three times. But after nearly 40 years of struggling with her diseases, Anne’s kidneys failed and she needed a transplant. After making her way up through the transplant list and four disheartening mismatches, Anne finally received the Gift of Life in 2004.

“My pancreas transplant changed my life,” Anne says, referring to the fact that she no longer has diabetes, “but my kidney transplant saved my life.” Since her successful transplant, Anne has devoted much of her time to educating the community about the importance of organ and tissue donation. “My transplant gave me my life back. I’ve been able to celebrate my 20th wedding anniversary, to celebrate my mother’s 70th birthday with family, and to watch my only daughter graduate from college.”

Though Anne already maintains a healthy, active lifestyle, she plans to get back into cycling—starting with Team Transplant. Anne will ride with us in the Elephant Rock Ride to train for the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic, which she hopes to accomplish yet again within the next few years.

Marc, Living Kidney Donor

Marc, living kidney donorMarc’s older brother, Alexander, was diagnosed with kidney disease before he could walk. Though Marc did not realize just how precarious Alexander’s health was until he was much older, at the age of 12, Marc promised Alexander to give him a kidney if he ever needed one. Thirty-two years later, when Alexander’s health had deteriorated to the point of needing a transplant, he took Marc up on his offer.

“It was just a no-brainer,” Marc says about giving his brother a kidney. “If you see someone standing in front of a dangerous situation, you do something to stop impending disaster. It’s what we’re supposed to do.”

Aside from saving his brother’s life now 13 years ago, Marc’s own life has been more or less unaffected by the transplant. An avid cyclist and skier before and after surgery, he says nothing has changed in his life. Marc doesn’t think too often about his choice to give his brother a kidney. Occasionally, he’s reminded by the scar, but even in retrospect, the decision was simple. And he hopes others will consider doing the same. “If it can help someone, my goodness yes, do it. What’s the downside?” Marc says.

Read more about Marc’s story.

Michael, Liver Recipient

Michael, liver recipientMichael’s troubles started when he experimented with drugs as a teenager. He used the needle only a few times, knew it wasn’t the right thing to do, and stopped. He didn’t know then what those few times would lead to.

In 1994, Michael gained 61 pounds in only 1½ months. Knowing something was wrong, he went to the hospital and was diagnosed with cirrhosis and hepatitis C.

“It was not a comfort to find out I had an incurable disease,” Michael says. A liver transplant became his only option. In 1998, Michael was placed on the waiting list with an expected two to three year wait. Trying to remain positive, Michael recited a mantra to himself everyday—“Positive thought breeds positive action.”

After his condition worsened a year later, Michael was moved to the top of the list and received a new liver—and a new life—in December 1999. This year, he’ll celebrate the 10th anniversary of his transplant. “I’m one lucky human being. I get to get up in the morning and brush my teeth. I get to ride 62 miles for Team Transplant. I get to see my family more. I get to be alive.

“I am truly blessed to have received the Gift of Life,” Michael says. “I’ve never met my organ donor’s family, but I send them blessings everyday I take a breath of air.”

Robin, Donor Mother

Robin, Donor MotherRobin is riding with Team Transplant to honor her son Joe who gave the Gift of Life when he died at 22 years old of complications from a seizure.

“Joe decided when he was young that he wanted to help people in any way he could, Robin says. “Joe was a wonderful, athletic, happy, friendly, and generous young man.  I am his mother so of course I think so.” But his mother isn’t the only one who thinks so. Joe’s friends, family, and coworkers all knew him to be a man of character who lived his morals and convictions by example.

JoeJoe wasn’t done giving after he died. He wanted to be an organ donor so that he could help others even after he was gone. Joe’s gift saved five men’s lives and gave the gift of sight to two others. Joe lives on in his recipients John (double lung), Ken (heart), James (kidney), Marty (liver), one unknown man (kidney), and Marco and Scot (corneas).

“I knew as Joe’s mother that I had to honor him for his heroic decision and for the person he was,” Robin says. “Joe was one of the most selfless, giving and loving friends anyone could have, and we are truly blessed to have had him in our lives. In our grief we can also find comfort in realizing and appreciating all the gifts he gave us.”

Justin, Kidney Recipient

Justin, kidney recipientJustin has always been athletic. He competed in track and field in high school and went on to run at Colorado State University. But soon after going to college, Justin began to experience difficulty during training and wasn’t improving as expected. Blood tests revealed high red blood cell and protein levels, but with no other signs of problems, kidney disease was ruled out. After a couple of seasons without any improvement compounded by hip and knee problems, Justin quit running.

It wasn’t until a few years later that Justin began to feel sick. After several visits to the doctor, he was diagnosed with end stage renal failure. With his kidney function at 18 percent and dropping, Justin began dialysis and was placed on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. Fortunately, after a year of dialysis and just a few months on the waiting list, Justin received a kidney that matched his own perfectly.

“Since my transplant, I have focused on the many blessings in my life,” Justin says. “I returned to running and eventually started competing in triathlons. I also met a wonderful girl who became my wife.”  Justin has joined Team Transplant for the Elephant Rock Ride, where he will ride 100 miles. “I’m excited for this new challenge, and I want to demonstrate the success of organ donation through athletic achievement.”

Steve, Living Kidney Donor

Steve and Kelsey with Bruce Springsteen at a recent concertSteve is riding with Team Transplant in honor of his daughter Kelsey who is in need of a kidney transplant. Just after graduating from high school, Kelsey was diagnosed with medullary cystic kidney disease, a hereditary disorder that results in gradual and permanent loss of kidney function. At about 12% remaining kidney function, Kelsey began four-hour sessions of dialysis three times per week while the search for a compatible donor began. Steve was a match. He donated a kidney to Kelsey in 2007, and at first, it was successful. Unfortunately, her body rejected her new kidney, and Kelsey had to go back on dialysis. Despite the setback, Kelsey has maintained an incredibly positive and hopeful attitude. She’s currently undergoing evaluations at Mayo Clinic where she hopes to have a successful kidney transplant this summer.

Steve is riding with Kidney4KP, a sub-team of Team Transplant to honor Kelsey, but also to prove that he leads a normal, healthy, active life even with only one kidney. As Steve says, “A living donor can go forward and do those things they’ve loved and enjoyed their entire life, plus perhaps be an inspiration to others who might consider becoming a living donor for a friend, relative, or even a complete stranger.”

Chris Klug, Liver Recipient

Chris Klug, liver recipient and Olympic medalist. Photo credit: Tim MutrieIn 1991, professional snowboarder Chris Klug was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), a rare degenerative bile duct condition which required a liver transplant.

“The hardest part was the waiting game leading up to my transplant. It’s not like an injury. You can’t just…find out what’s up and get it fixed. You’re life is put on hold; you hope and pray daily for a second chance,” says Chris. After being placed on the waiting list, he carried a pager and phone every moment of every day, waiting for the call that would save his life.

After several years, Chris finally received the call. A liver was available. He rushed to the hospital, and on July 28, 2000, Chris received his new life. After just four months of rehabilitation, Chris was back on the World Cup Circuit. “That winter was one of my best seasons ever. I attribute that to a new perspective on life and feeling lucky to be doing what I love again.” Just 18 months after his transplant, Chris represented the USA in the 2002 Winter Olympics where he won a bronze medal in snowboarding, fulfilling a life-long dream, and became the first transplant recipient to win an Olympic medal. “To receive the gift of life is a humbling experience,” Chris says. “I will forever be grateful for my second chance.”

Keith, Kidney Recipient

In early 2006, Keith was a different man. Overweight and suffering from high blood pressure, he could barely get up the stairs to his office and was in and out of the hospital every few weeks. The medications he took to stabilize his blood pressure were hard on his lone kidney, and it started to deteriorate. Keith’s doctors told him that he needed a transplant.

Knowing that he’d have a long wait for a kidney, Keith went to his biological family to search for a living donor. No one was a viable match. Then Keith’s stepson Johny stepped forward.

“From day one Johny told me that he knew in his heart that he was the one who was going to give me a kidney,” Keith relates. “Johny is white, which made him a much less likely match, but he offered to be tested.” To the surprise of many doctors, Johny was a good match, so he shared one of his kidneys with Keith on May 4, 2006. Johny stayed in the hospital for two days, while Keith remained in the hospital for just three.

Since his transplant, Keith has dedicated himself to healthy living and has lost over 60 pounds. He’s run half marathons, relay marathons, and more—things he didn’t even do before his transplant. He’s riding 32 miles with Team Transplant to prove that recipients can regain a healthy, active lifestyle, or as in Keith’s case, can begin a healthy, active lifestyle.

Read more about Keith’s story.

Geoff, Supporter

Geoff, supporterSix years ago, Geoff’s father, Will McFarlane, received a lifesaving lung transplant. Geoff is riding 100 miles with Team Transplant in honor and memory of his dad who received five additional years of life because of the generosity of his donor.

“My father was beaten down by a tough fight with illnesses but he continued to get up, time and time again,” Geoff says. “When he was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, and then many other illnesses over eight years, he dealt with his illnesses head on and with fierce willpower that kept him alive beyond anyone’s expectations.  He took his illnesses as a challenge he knew he could win, and from my point of view, he did win.  One year ago he believed it was his time, he chose it was his time, he waited for his family, and then gracefully departed.

My father was my mentor. I’ve chosen to live his legacy by growing a company that he would love to be a part of, Jet Companies, and by being part of Team Transplant and the American Transplant Foundation to give thousands of others the opportunity to take on their illnesses head on and to live on, fighting for what they believe in.”

Steve, Kidney Recipient

Steve was a toddler when he almost died of kidney failure, but through some sort of miracle, he lived.  Steve went on to live a very healthy life full of sports, travel, family, and a successful career as a lawyer. His childhood illness became a distant memory.

Unfortunately, around 58 years later, his kidneys stopped functioning again. Steve found out that he’d need another miracle to survive—a transplant.

After several difficult months of considering his only options—going on dialysis while waiting for a deceased donor, flying to another country to purchase an organ on the black market, or receiving a kidney from his oldest son Gregg—he finally agreed to allow Gregg to be his donor.  While taking his son’s kidney was a difficult decision for Steve, a good family friend reminded him that he would be a better father to his son alive than if he were dead.  Their transplant was a great success and their bond is stronger than ever before.

As Steve says, his mother always told him that he was meant to do something special with his life.  It was only after his kidney failure and transplant journey that he found out what she meant. He founded the American Transplant Foundation soon after his transplant to aid the transplant community and fellow patients. He’s riding with Team Transplant as proof that his transplant gave him back his healthy, active lifestyle.

Chris, Future Living Donor

Chris found out about Team Transplant when he and his wife Stephanie went to see their transplant surgeon. Stephanie, who has kidney failure due to diabetes, will receive a kidney from Chris just one week after Elephant Rock. He’ll ride 25 miles with the team not only to help him get in shape for surgery later this month, but also to honor Stephanie.

“She’s a beautiful woman. She’s caring. She has a beautiful heart. She’s exceptional,” Chris says. “Hopefully, we can live a more normal life (after the transplant).” He never questioned whether he would donate a kidney, and isn’t too nervous about the procedure. He joked that he plans on getting a tattoo of kidney so he can feel as if he never lost one. After their transplant, they plan to travel—something they haven’t been able to do for a long time due to Stephanie’s dialysis treatments.

“God brought him to me,” Stephanie said. “He makes me complete.”

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