My name is Jen Klouse and I am a liver transplant recipient originally from Millington, Michigan and now living in the Chicago area. On September 15th, I will be celebrating 12 years with my second chance at life and with my precious gift that I have been given. I have often been asked the questions: “what was it like to go through what you went through?” or “do you ever wish you never had to have a transplant?” my answer is no. Even though I was just hours away from losing my life, the good Lord above chose to leave me here to fulfill my purpose in life and to help spread awareness to others about the importance of organ donation. With my experience of having a transplant, I have learned to never take one single breath for granted and to find meaning in everything I do.
I first became involved with competing in the U.S. Games after a meeting at Caribou Coffee in Bolingbrook, IL. The meeting was for yPOD: Young Professionals for Organ Donation. The group was facilitated by Joslyn Osten and Scott Meis from DLI. I met a few other people there who had transplants as well, one of them in particular by the name of Jorie. Jorie was talking about going to Australia in a couple of years to compete in “the world games” which I had no idea what she was talking about. She began to tell me that every 2 years there are the World Transplant Games where athletes from all over the world represent their country and compete in athletic events. The significance of these games was that every athlete competing has had a transplant! She then began to tell me I should join Team Illinois for the U.S. Games that were to be held in Pittsburgh, PA. From the moment after that conversation with Jorie, up to the first day I stepped one foot onto the ground of the airport in Pittsburgh I was starting to understand why I had the transplant. I can guarantee you I will not miss the U.S. Games or World Games from this point on.
My experience with the U.S. Games in Pittsburgh in 2008 was one of the most incredible, life changing experiences I have ever had. To be in a room with thousands of other people that have gone through a similar experience that you have gone through is pretty amazing. I think one of my favorite parts of the Games was at the opening ceremonies where each state comes out waving to the crowd; each state being so different, yet the amazing part of it was we were all there for the same purpose. The people I met, the stories that were shared and the events that took place, such as the Donor Recognition Ceremony, are something you can’t really describe in words. The feeling you have when you are there is something so incredible, something so powerful. I urge you to bring a box of Kleenex with you, as you will be touched, especially when the donor families are recognized and walk out onto the floor.
As my journey to Madison continues, I will be posting blog entries along the way to share with you how I am preparing for the games and what is going on with Team Illinois!