Organ donations change lives
An 8-year-old’s insecurities about her mother came to an end when given the opportunity to listen to her mother’s heartbeat. That moment completely changed the young girl’s life.
Hannah Bogue-Grey lost her mother when she was 4 months old to a car accident.
“Our daughter Danielle Bogue, she was 22 when she was coming back from a bone specialist in (Fort) Lauderdale . . . a tire blew . . . vehicle rolled . . . she had a 4-month-old baby with her,” Bogue’s mother, Dana Grey said. “She didn’t make it.”
Although the news is something no parent wants to hear, the Grey’s instantly recalled one of their daughters requests – organ donation.
“She was 16 years old standing right there in the kitchen,” Grey said while pointing to the room. “She said, ‘When I die, I want to donate my organs. I want everybody to celebrate my life. I want everyone to remember me happy and smiling,’ so that is what we tried to do.”
Andrew Spehr was among one of five recipients that received one of Bogue’s organs – her heart.
“She (Hannah) had struggled with not remembering her mom. When she heard her heartbeat (with a stethoscope to Spehr’s heart), her eyes lit up and those insecurities about her mom are gone,” Grey said smiling.
The Grey family, who adopted Hannah, wanted to meet the recipients of their daughter’s organs.
“It made it more real. To us she is living on through others and that really brought it home and brought everything full circle,” Grey said.
The Greys have formed a close relationship with Spehr, who had the beginning stages of congestive heart failure before he received the phone call that a match was found.
“It’s just been very comforting to us to know that she lives on through others,” Grey said. “It really helped us get through that really difficult time. It has helped us turn tragedy into life and something positive. Instead of getting stuck in the grief and the loss, we have been able to move on. We have been able to meet great people and see how organ donation actually – up close and personal – how it changes lives.”
Bogue’s tissue was also donated, which Grey said helped in enhancing numerous other lives.
“In my eyes I think even tissue donations save lives because you may have a young mother who can’t pick up her child because of tissue, or bone and then she gets that and she is able to pick up her child. So, essentially it gave her a new life,” Grey said.
The act of volunteering has also helped the family through the trying time.
“We meet more recipients than donor families, so that makes you that much more passionate because you meet these people that actually received organs and you meet their family,” Grey said. “It makes it harder to understand why (does not) everybody make the decision to do it.”
The Greys, who live in Fort Myers, have operated John Grey Painting, a family-owned business, on Sanibel since the late 1960s. Until this year, Hannah, who is now 8 years old, attended the Sanibel School where many of the teachers rallied behind the young girl.
Grey said Hannah’s passion for spreading the word about organ donation is wonderful.
“She’s pretty passionate about it for being eight years old,” she said. “She has a really good understanding.”
Every year, close to the anniversary of Bogue’s passing, the Grey family holds a Celebration of Life on the Sanibel Causeway.
“It’s a get-together to remember her and remind people that there is life after death,” Grey said.
For Shamie Kelly, a Cape Coral resident who grew up on Sanibel Island with her mother Carlene Brennen, who is her caregiver, her life was touched and forever changed because of the selfless act of organ donation.
“I don’t want to say put your dreams on hold because that is not true,” she said. “You just learn to do different things. You still have one life and you have to live the life you have.”
On Feb. 5, 2008, Kelly received her first kidney transplant after the doctors diagnosed her with kidney problems Dec. 30, 2003. During the four years of dialysis, she received a minimum of three hours of treatment, three days a week.
After witnessing severe changes, the 45-year-old made an appointment with her doctor for fear of a bladder infection.
Kelly, who was born premature and experienced many childhood illnesses, believes that could have caused a weaker kidney.
“I was in law school and I came home for Christmas break and I was really tired,” she recalled. “I had an appointment already scheduled. Two days before New Year’s I was actually in the shower on the way out to have lunch with one of my friends. My mom came in and said, ‘The doctor is on the phone for you.’ I said, ‘Tell him I’ll call him back.’ She said, ‘No get out of the shower, you need to talk to him.’ They said sorry to inform you, you are in kidney failure and please come to the hospital. We expect you in the next two hours.”
Kelly said had she not scheduled that appointment and headed back to school, she probably would have ended up in the hospital within four days with congestive heart failure.
In December 2011, Kelly lost the kidney due to it fighting her body and allowing blood and proteins to pass through.
“It was much harder to match me for the second kidney because of all my heath issues,” Kelly said about having surgery to remove a fibroid tumor in her uterus that was causing hemorrhaging, resulting in seven blood transfusions.
Exactly one year after she was placed on the transplant list she received the call – a match was found.
Five months after stopping dialysis and having the second transplant surgery, Kelly now feels fabulous and less winded.
“Waiting for the transplant was harder than the transplant,” Kelly said. “I’m just so lucky, especially to have that second one. The second transplant was hard. It was really hard to hear that I had to go back on dialysis because you got a taste of freedom. The first kidney mentally was harder because the first kidney I got sick and it was shocking. We didn’t know anything about it and we just jumped in and did what we had to do and didn’t have any time to respond, or think.”
Since receiving her second transplant on April 3 of this year, Kelly has continued her volunteer work while spreading the message of organ donations. As a member of the Junior League, she is helping put together Taste of the Town, which is scheduled for Nov. 1. A Donate Life booth will be set up, Kelly said to help them reach the goal of registering 50 individuals for organ donations.
More than 122,000 patients are listed on the national organ transplant waiting list, which includes nearly 6,000 listed at Florida based transplant centers. While waiting for an organ donation, approximately 22 patients die each day nationwide.
Such organs as the heart, lungs, kidneys, pancreas and small intestines can be recovered for a transplant. Tissues – corneas, bone, skin, tendons and ligaments – can also be recovered.
Just one organ donor can save eight lives and enhance as many as 60 others through tissue donation.
The Tampa LifeLink Transplantation Immunology Laboratory has facilitated 10,000 organ transplants. Through clinical and scientific tests related to ABO blood group, infectious disease testing, tissue typing, transplant antibody detection, identifications, cross matching and research, the lab connects deceased and living donors with potential transplant recipients. Gulf Coast Medical Center is among the Florida transplant centers the laboratory serves.
Each year more than 1,000 patients and live donors are tested, as well as approximately 300 deceased organ donors. Within the 13 transplant programs served by the LifeLink Transplantation Immunology Laboratory, more than one organ transplant a day is made.
Individuals can register to be an organ donor by visiting www.DonateLifeFlorida.org.