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In This Issue of DFQ The Donation of a Lifetime - For most donor families, the heart transplant recipient holds special significance. The Jernigan family's story is filled with uncommon compassion and coincidence. Tree of Remembrance Ceremony - Donor families gather for the holidays Donation Matters - National Donor Sabbath is a time to recognize the life-affirming gift of hope made possible through organ, tissue and eye donation. A New Friendship - Nervousness melts away at family meeting of donor mom and kidney recipient. Healing Tears by Dr. Lani Leary - Grieving widow wonders if she can ever move forward. The Thrill of the Games - A transplant story from LifeNet Health Florida New Grief Companions - Trained volunteers are matched with newly bereaved. In Celebration & Remembrance - Save-the-Date for LifeNet Health's "In Celebration and Remembrance" 2011 Ceremonies.
The Donation of a Lifetime Phillip Jernigan died on October 26, 1997, following a motor vehicle crash. Phillip was just 21 years old, far too young to leave this world. A young man who loved to volunteer for community organizations, Phillip had long-before identified himself as an organ donor. His parents, Dean and Craig Jernigan, honored his wish on that tragic day.
As a result of their compassionate decision, two people received life-saving organ donations the very next day. The Jernigans had the rare opportunity to meet both recipients. About a year after Phillip's donation, they met the kidney recipient and have kept in touch with his wife after his death a few years following the transplant. There was also a transplant recipient who received Phillip's heart, Wayne Dudley from Indiana. A husband and father of two sons, Wayne too received his transplant on October 27, 1997. For most donor families, the heart transplant recipient holds special significance. Dean wanted to meet this man, even though he lived nearly 1,000 miles away.
Wayne Dudley, pictured with wife Kathy and sons David and Jon, lived to see his sons graduate, thanks to the Jernigan family. (Click here to read full article) With assistance from LifeNet Health, Dean and Wayne spoke over the phone and the Jernigans subsequently drove to Indiana to meet Wayne in early 2000. There, they met the Dudley family and their friends at a most enjoyable cookout. They also toured a playground memorial dedicated to Phillip by the Dudley family. The warm relationship between the Dudley and Jernigan families continued for over ten years. "We had become like extended families and I talked with Wayne nearly every week after we met," said Dean.
On October 26, 2010, Dean learned from Mrs. Dudley that Wayne died exactly thirteen years to the day that his heart donor, Phillip, died. On October 27, exactly thirteen years to the day that Wayne Dudley received his gift of life, he and his family donated his corneas for transplant so that others may see. "I've lost a very special friend, but I'm happy to have had a nearly 11 year relationship with a wonderful man," recalled Dean. "Wayne always said that he wanted to see his two sons graduate from high school and begin exciting careers and lives. Because of Phillip's gift, Wayne was able to make that milestone."
Tree of Remembrance Ceremony Over 150 donor family members and staff gathered at LifeNet Health's corporate headquarters on December 2nd for the fifth annual Lighting of the Holiday Tree of Remembrance. In a moving ceremony, donor family members spoke of their loved ones and expressed gratitude for the support and comfort provided by LifeNet Health. In turn, donors and their families were recognized for their gift of helping others live a better life.
Makaylah Alexander, age 4, hangs an ornament in memory of her father, Vernon Nelson, on the Holiday Tree of Remembrance in Virginia Beach.
by Christina Pierce, LifeNet Health Donor Family Advocate An annual tradition at LifeNet Health is the observation National Donor Sabbath in November, a time for members of faith communities to focus on the life-affirming gift of hope made possible through organ, tissue and eye donation. Surely faith and hope are central to the donation and transplant process, so it follows that communities want to recognize, honor, and support the miracle of donation. This year, National Donor Sabbath was quite busy in western Virginia. On a crisp autumn evening, Rockingham Memorial Hospital in Harrisonburg hosted a lovely program and reception, followed by a candle-lit "Donate Life" flag raising ceremony.
The next morning, Centra Lynchburg General Hospital honored donors by raising the "Donate Life" flag in a dedication ceremony. After the outdoor ceremony, an elaborate reception, complete with Tribute Tables and fellowship was offered to all to celebrate donors and their families. (Click here to read full article) Winchester Medical Center also held a National Donor Sabbath celebration. Robin Cowherd, LifeNet Health's Donor Family Services Director, shared some comforting words with the staff and families attending. The hospital then honored donors and their families by unveiling an incredible "Tree of Life" sculpture inscribed with the names of some local donors. Many donor families chose to go one step further during National Donor Sabbath by bringing their personal stories to their local churches. These brave people publicly shared stories of their loved ones, bringing their experience closer to home and enabling communities to heal. Having opportunities like these to meet donor families face-to-face is an incredible privilege to me. Thank you for allowing me to do be a part of this sacred time in your lives. It is truly an honor to serve each of you who have endured the deep pain of losing a loved one.
If you would like more information about National Donor Sabbath or the "Donate Life" flags, please contact Tina at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-847-7831 ext. 4903.
A New Friendship On Saturday October 30th, 2010 Delores Elliott, mother of organ donor Darius Powell, and members of their family met Darius' left kidney recipient Brenda Faison at LifeNet Health's Richmond office. Both Delores and Brenda were nervous before the meeting, but that seemed to melt away quickly as they embraced each other for a few precious minutes, and then spent an hour or so looking through the photo albums that Delores had brought with her. After the meeting, both families went off to have lunch together. They have since become fast friends.
Donor mom Delores Elliott (left) proudly shows kidney recipient Brenda Faison photos of her son Darius.
HEALING TEARS by Lani Leary, PhD (Reprinted from the spring 2008 issue of Donor Family Quarterly)
I feel overwhelmed and paralyzed by the death of my husband. I doubt that I will be able to face the future and don't know how to wake up in the morning without him. There are no manuals to help me get over these feelings and I am stuck. Please help me. --"Stuck" Dear "Stuck": There is a difference between FEELING overwhelmed and BEING overwhelmed. The reality and shock of your husband's death leaves you
with thoughts, questions, and concerns that shake your foundation. The past life of security that you trusted has changed and made you look at your world in new ways. It is normal that your sense of self, sense of belonging, and sense of safety would be disturbed. One of the tasks of your grief work is to find a way to be in this world in a new way without him. That requires feeling, thought, and action. (Click here to read full article) Distinguishing the feelings of being paralyzed from the experience of being paralyzed is key to being able to regain a sense of balance and control in your life. You can begin to feel more confident and less overwhelmed in the midst of your grief by acknowledging your feelings, but separating them from your experience. You can feel afraid even while you step out and accept a challenge. You can feel hopeless even while you attend a support group. In fact, your letter to me demonstrates that in the face of feeling paralyzed you gathered the energy and focus required to ask for help. Somehow, despite feeling paralyzed, you imagined that there might be a way through this; you asked the question; and you acted upon it. That is personal power in the middle of tragedy. Anger, guilt, or other negative feelings can exist at the same time as more positive feelings about the person who died. In the same way, you can at the same time feel overwhelmed while able to act in a powerful way. What needs to be done? What would you do if you were not feeling overwhelmed? If you can name what needs to be done, and break it down into steps then you can begin to move forward. You do not have to do it all, but if you can do one thing differently today you will begin to feel more powerful and less paralyzed. You can begin to write your own personal manual. I am not suggesting that you not feel your sadness and emptiness. I am suggesting that you can hold your feelings and act in your best interest, even if you don't feel like you want to. Ask for help; be with others who have also lost a loved one; find a companion to shepherd you. You can move through this, Lani Dr. Leary is a psychologist and certified grief therapist who consults with LifeNet Health. Her responses reflect her professional opinion to general questions. Individuals struggling with complicated grief are encouraged to seek the care of a professional. Please submit your questions to Robin Cowherd, LifeNet Health, 1864 Concert Drive, Virginia Beach, VA 23453, or visit Healing Tears at our website www.healingthespirit.org.
The Thrill of the Games A Transplant Story from LifeNet Health Florida by Candace McIver, Community Education Coordinator, LifeNet Health Florida In June 2007, when my 9-year-old son, tissue recipient Nicolas McIver was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer called Ewing's Sarcoma, little did he know that one day he would become a silver medalist. Three years later, Nicolas did just that ….and more. When a family begins their journey with donation, often it's not a joyous occasion. Being told that our young son had bone cancer and would face two years of aggressive chemotherapy and surgery was the saddest day of my life. Imagine the thoughts of a donor mother losing her child, or a recipient family waiting for that glimmer of hope to save theirs. These are our most trying times, those that are supposed to make us stronger if we survive them. When we do, it is a joyous occasion beyond measure, spoken beautifully in one of my favorite phrases related to donation….Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away…. I have experienced many such moments since beginning this journey over three years ago. During one very special week in August, I had the opportunity to meet many other families who have experienced this joy as well, at the US Transplant Games, sponsored by The National Kidney Foundation. For anyone who has been touched by donation, this is truly an experience like no other. Thousands of athletes, who received either an organ or bone/bone marrow are eligible to compete, in age categories beginning at five and under, up to recipients in their eighties.
Nic McIver won Silver for Team Florida at the 2010 US Transplant Games (Click here to read full article) This year's games were held in Madison, Wisconsin with most of the events held on the campus of the University of Wisconsin, or close by, drawing athletes from across the country to compete for their state. Hospitality suites were set up in all of the area hotels, where the athletes could go to meet, grab a quick snack between competitions, and check in at the end of each day to see the medal tallies….what a thrill! During the Opening Ceremony, we watched as the teams marched in, bringing the crowd to their feet, as Larry Hagman lifted his shirt and encouraged every recipient to "show your scar," and be proud of what you've received, and your second chance at life. From the athletes, to the donor families, to the living donors, we never sat down the entire evening. We were on our feet, clapping, cheering and singing, in awe of what was before us. That feeling from the Opening Ceremony remained with us the entire week, as we watched Nic compete and cheered him and Team Florida along. Every person that I met had been touched by donation in some way. And each story that I heard was more remarkable than the last. There could never be a gathering quite like this one, and I was humbled to be a part of it all. Following the Opening Ceremony, Nic was off….time to show his stuff, beginning with the 5K run and silver medal #1. Day two brought us to the pool for the 100 meter Freestyle and bronze medal #1. Then it was off to the track again for the 100 meter dash and the long jump….silver medals #'s 2 &
3. The grand finale was 3-on-3 basketball. Each night, after long days of competition, the kids would play for four hours, starting with 8 or 10 teams, narrowing it down as we went. On the final evening there were two teams left. Our boys played their hearts out, just as they had done all week. Nic's teammates were Reese, a heart recipient at five months of age, and Trevor, who received intestine. At the end of the night, with Team Florida cheering them on, our boys brought home the silver medal, losing the gold to Philadelphia by two baskets. It was truly a glorious moment as our team captain, kidney recipient Scott Sorrells placed the silver medals around our boys' necks, as they stood on the medal stand with Team Philadelphia and the Bronze medalists, Team Alabama. In the 20 years since the start of the Transplant Games, Florida had never medaled in basketball…until now! Nic medaled in every event he competed, for a total of four silvers and one bronze. Now he's hungry for the gold. We're in for the next games, to be held in 2012. Once you're hooked, you're hooked for life. Just like donation…. once a believer, always a believer. I couldn't be more proud of what I do everyday, and Nic couldn't be more proud to be an Ambassador for LifeNet Health of Florida. So, look out 2012…we're going for the gold!!!
LifeNet Health Inducts Ten New Grief Companions LifeNet Health's Grief Companion Program matches trained volunteer donor family members with newly bereaved family members to talk with about their journey through grief and loss. Grief companions mostly listen with compassion and understanding, but also can share their experiences and ways to handle those difficult anniversaries and holidays. On October 16th, ten new LifeNet Health Grief Companions were certified following a rigorous training course: Laura Costen-Todorovic, Donna Crowell, Terri Fleet, Carri Funk, Lori McCoy, Amanda Mowbray, Terren Peterson, Donnetta Reese, LeeAnna Sasse and Mary Shall.
If you would like to be matched with a Grief Companion, or would like to volunteer to be a trained Grief Companion, please contact Michael Reilly
at 1-800-847-7831 ext. 4412 or 757-609-4412 or email email@example.com. For more information about our Grief Companion Program, visit our website
Save-the-Date for LifeNet Health's "In Celebration and Remembrance" 2011 Ceremonies Each year, organ and tissue donors and their families help others live a better life. In conjunction with National Donate Life Month, we at LifeNet Health invite you to join us as we celebrate this precious gift, and honor those who were so compassionate in giving it. Tables will be provided at each of our ceremonies for donor families to display pictures or special memories. Save the date for the ceremony nearest you. LifeNet Health (in Virginia) Roanoke – Sunday April 3rd at Vinton War Memorial Richmond – Sunday April 10th at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens Virginia Beach – Sunday May 1st at Sheraton Oceanfront Hotel Formal invitations with directions will be mailed in March. All events begin at 2:00 p.m. Call 800-847-7831, ext. 4351 for more information.
Visit LifeNet Health’s website for more grief and loss support www.healingthespirit.org