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March 18, 2008     541 Words

Life After an Organ Donation: Living in Gratitude

CINCINNATI—Anne Hambrick of Cincinnati is thankful for the new life she enjoys after a double-lung transplant from Jamie Michelle, a 19-year-old college student. Anne needed a transplant because her lungs were ruined by cystic fibrosis (CF), an incurable hereditary disease that often causes premature death.

April is National Donate Life Month, which increases awareness about organ and tissue donations and thanks donors. In honor of organ donors and recipients, Anne’s story about her gratefulness for her new lungs and her struggle with CF is featured in the April issue of St. Anthony Messenger in “Organ Donations: The Gift of New Life,” an article by Assistant Managing Editor Mary Jo Dangel. After March 24, the article will be posted at: AmericanCatholic.org.

Anne and her husband, Walt, are especially “thankful to the family of the deceased young woman whose healthy lungs continue to give Anne the opportunity to breathe easier and live longer,” Dangel writes. They also feel sadness, however, that Jamie Michelle’s life had to end before Anne could receive this lung transplant.

An elementary school teacher with a passion for math, Anne has lived her entire life with CF. She tried to stay active and healthy, but faced hospitalizations, a lung hemorrhage and living with a oxygen tank as she grew older.

Anne had to make the difficult decision regarding a lung transplant. Only about half of double-lung transplant recipients are alive five years after surgery, according to statistics from the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. Anne weighed her options and, with the support of Walt and her family, decided to be tested to see if she was eligible for this transplant.

In September 1998, Anne successfully received a lung transplant from Jamie Michelle at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. During recovery, she received support through prayers, monetary donations and meals from family, friends and parishioners.

In September 2008, Anne plans to celebrate the 10th anniversary of her lung transplant to “honor everybody who has helped us.” Since the lung transplant, Anne has needed a kidney transplant from her sister Margaret. She still takes medication for digestive problems linked to CF and for diabetes, a common effect of the disease.

Throughout all the hospitalizations and transplants, Anne has always had a strong faith and says, “I pray a lot but I don’t really pray about my health. I pray to help me have a better outlook, to be a better person.”

Dangel, whose sons, Ritch and Tim, also had CF, includes a sidebar titled “When a Loved One Dies,” explaining the decision by her, her husband and her daughter to donate Ritch’s tissues after he died. This difficult decision allowed many other people to benefit from these tissues. She says, “I keep thinking that many people’s lives have been improved because a little bit of Ritch is living on in them.”

The Catholic Church supports ethical organ donation. In 1999, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) said that he is a registered organ donor.

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Permission is granted to reprint this release.

The second article posted will be “Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Legacy,” by Clarence Williams, C.Pp.S.

 


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