Because Democracy Lives, So Does Charles

April 14, 2014

Charles Kittles with Gift of Hope CEO Kevin Cmunt receiving a Lifesaving Partners award.

Charles Kittles with Gift of Hope CEO Kevin Cmunt receiving a Lifesaving Partners award.

Gift of Hope Advocates for Hope volunteer Charles Kittles might consider donating his body — minus its viable organs and tissue, of course — to medical science someday. That’s because this 73-year-old retiree, who was released from Loyola University Medical Center with his life-renewing kidney transplant on New Year’s Day 2006, is nothing short of a scientific miracle.

On top of the diabetes and high blood pressure Charles believes caused his kidneys to fail, from 2000 through 2005 he underwent neck surgery, received treatment for prostate cancer, had a cancerous kidney removed, had a three-month nursing home stay and suffered an infection that necessitated the removal of his colon. Yet Charles, a member of Gift of Hope’s African-American Task Force, remains remarkably upbeat and enthusiastic while spreading the good news of organ and tissue donation.

“My doctor used to tell me, ‘You don’t understand that you’re sick,’” Charles recalls. “Well, I never considered myself as sick through any of this. I was just in the shape I was in. You know, we all deal with things in different ways.”

His four children were tested as potential kidney donors. A long-distance blood sample revealed that his daughter, Peggy Jacobs, who­ lives in California, was an ideal match. “There was no discussion,” Charles says, laughing. “This all took place during the time my colon was being removed, and I was in a coma in the hospital. I knew nothing about any of this.”

Charles was concerned about his daughter. “But she told me, ‘You remember when we used to talk around the dinner table, and you always stressed that we live in a democracy and the majority rules? Well, we outvoted you! You have to accept this!’ The best part was that we were in the same room together at Loyola.”

Charles became involved with Gift of Hope after speaking at Loyola’s annual candlelight ceremony in 2006. “Prior to my transplant, I had no idea this world existed,” he says. “Volunteering has given me the opportunity to meet so many truly caring and dedicated people.” While he says he rarely tells his own story anymore — “Truth be told, it gets boring after a while.” — he shares an important message of prevention.

“When you’re told something is wrong with you and your doctor gives you a plan, follow the plan, period,” says Charles. “Don’t groan and moan about it. If you’re told, ‘You can do this, but you can’t do that,’ then don’t do that.”


Kelvin’s Big, Loving Heart

January 27, 2014

Kelvin Martin is many things. He’s a deejay (DJ Flash … watch out for him), a father, a husband and a heart transplant recipient.

Last summer, Kelvin burst through the front doors of Gift of Hope for his first Advocates for Hope training. Since then, he’s inspired the Gift of Hope team with his boisterous, loving personality. He has reminded us of why our work is so vital to countless people across Illinois and Indiana.

On January 27th, Kelvin walked out of Rush University Medical Center as a new man with a new lease on life. We thank the selfless donor that allowed Kelvin to keep his beat going.

You can make a difference for others, like Kelvin, by registering as an organ and tissue donor at http://www.GiftofHope.org!


30 Stories in 30 Days: A Father/Daughter Donation Journey

April 17, 2013
The Taylor Family

The Taylor Family

“There aren’t many people who can say they grew up knowing they would be an organ donor,” said Quinetta Taylor. “For me, even as a little girl, I knew that, not only was organ donation important, but it was something very special that would mean a lot to someone. At that time, that someone was my father.”

Quinetta’s father was diagnosed with kidney failure before she was born. She grew up watching him go to dialysis three times a week. When she was 16, she saw the toll that long-term dialysis had taken on him and decided to give him one of her kidneys. “When I made this decision, my father was already listed,” she explained. “Before I could give him the gift of life, someone else did.”

Then things changed in Quinetta’s life. While at college she was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. “I was entering a world I knew plenty about, but this time I was on the receiving end,” she said. “I could no longer help my father because somehow his lifestyle had now become my own.”

In November 2009, her father’s transplanted kidney began to fail, and he returned to dialysis. Two months later, Quinetta joined him. “When transplantation was first introduced to me, I needed to lose a little over 150 pounds,” she said. “After three years of hard work and losing 120 pounds, I was officially listed in March.” Her father is also going through the process of meeting eligibility requirements to being listed.

“That’s why National Donate Life Month is so special to me,” she explained. “Someone has the opportunity to give my father and me the gift of life.”


30 Stories in 30 Days: Answered Prayers

April 16, 2013
The D'Agostino Family

The D’Agostino Family

The prayers of an entire community were answered on October 24, 2011, when Julie D’Agostino had her successful double-lung transplant surgery. On the one-year anniversary, family and friends gathered for a special rosary of thanksgiving at Visitation Church in Elmhurst, Ill., where hundreds of the faithful had gathered to pray for Julie many times during her life-threatening ordeal with cystic fibrosis, a progressive disease that clogs the lungs with mucus, makes it difficult to breath and causes lung infections.

Julie is alive today because a selfless donor said "Yes" to donation.

Julie is alive today because a selfless donor said “Yes” to donation.

“My daughter was prayed to good health,” said Mary D’Agostino. “She didn’t have a lot of life left in her. Those lungs were brought to her by prayer.” Julie had been on the transplant waiting list for two years. When her health took a dire turn, a donor came to her rescue. “We were celebrating, but another family had lost their loved one,” Mary said.

The D’Agostino family knows nothing about the donor who changed Julie’s life, but Julie and her family are so grateful that they have chosen to give back by advocating for organ and tissue donation. Today, they are all Advocates for Hope volunteers with Gift of Hope.

In addition to the family’s efforts to make people aware of the opportunities for organ and tissue donation, Julie’s neighbor, Giancarlo Iannotta, has made a movie, “Miracle on South Street: The Julie D Story.” His project began when he filmed Julie’s homecoming after her transplant surgery. He posted the two-minute segment on Facebook and was amazed at the interest.

This inspired him to tell Julie’s story by creating a 40-minute documentary that has been broadcast on WTTW Channel 11 in Chicago and on Comcast On Demand. It also has been featured at the York Theatre in Elmhurst and is now available on DVD.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/32631619″>MIRACLE ON SOUTH STREET: The Julie D Story (Trailer)</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/giannotta”>Giancarlo Iannotta</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>


30 Stories in 30 Days: Liver Transplant Creates a Bright Future

April 10, 2013
Tim and Donna Battershell

Tim and Donna Battershell

When Tim Battershell emerged from a week-long coma in August 2006, he learned that he had liver failure. “This was the beginning of a journey that was very difficult for my family and me as we waited more than a year for the call that would save my life,” Tim said.

During the next 14 months, he was in and out of the hospital for procedures to keep him alive. “Many procedures were done to help keep me alive, with the hope of eventually receiving a liver transplant. I was eventually referred to Kovler Organ Transplantation Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago to be screened as a liver transplant recipient.”

In August 2007 Tim suffered a serious bowel obstruction and was flown from Carle Hospital in Champaign to Northwestern Memorial. “As I recuperated, I knew my body was struggling to keep going,” he explained. “Without a liver, I would not survive past Christmas.”

Tim prior to transplant

Tim prior to transplant

In the following months, Tim endured more hospitals, doctors and procedures. Then, at 5 a.m. on October 14, 2007, he received a call that would change his life. They had a liver for him. “I remember going into surgery at 2:30 that afternoon to receive a new liver and a second chance at life. My mind was filled with anticipation, but also with sadness, knowing that another family would be grieving the loss of their loved one.”

It has now been more than five years since his transplant, and Tim is living a full life. “I am back playing golf, taking longs walks and enjoying my family,” he said. “My wife, Donna, and I take nothing for granted. The future is bright with endless possibilities. But without my donor and his family, I would not be here today. I consider them heroes for selflessly helping someone they didn’t know.”

Tim is now an Advocates for Hope volunteer for Gift of Hope, urging others to become registered donors. “I encourage everyone to register today at GiftofHope.org,” he said.


30 Stories in 30 Days: The Ecstasy of Giving

April 2, 2013

Advocate Amber Sanders and her mother

Amber Sanders had planned to be an organ donor but not a living one. Things changed when her mother went into kidney failure.

Amber said she was raised knowing family is the most important thing, and if someone in the family is in need, “You do everything you can to help.” When it was clear that her mother needed a kidney transplant, Amber said, “I instantly knew I would be her donor.”

Amber thought of donating her kidney as an act of giving back. “I never looked at this as me giving Mom my kidney,” she said. “This was always her kidney. I was holding onto it for this exact moment.”

Sheila&Amber

Amber and her mother prepped for transplant

Although it is uncommon for a parent/child to be an exact match, the tests were positive. “To have us be a perfect match confirmed this was the right thing to do,” Amber said. “I was ecstatic!”

The donation process was tedious, but in the end Amber said, “Every bit of it was worth it to see my mom healthy.” She pointed out that having the support of her family, friends and church community helped.

“The best part is that now my mom says she no longer feels like she’s 63,” Amber said. “Now that she has a 30-year-old kidney, she’s found the fountain of youth.” Amber is now an Advocate for Hope for Gift of Hope. “I want people to know that living organ donation is truly a gift. And to be a blessing to someone else is the best way to live your life.”


2012 Morgan D’Organ Summer Tour

June 8, 2012

Hello Friends!

It’s Morgan D’Organ, your favorite liver mascot, here to let you know about my statewide tour to promote organ and tissue donation! This is my FAVORITE time of year. I get to meet thousands of Illinoisans at fairs, festivals and concerts with the goal of building awareness for donation and encouraging people to become lifesaving organ and tissue donors.

Last year was amazing (more than 3,700 people said “Yes” to donation at our events), but I have a feeling that 2012 will be even better. Here’s a list of where you can find me, Mr. Morgan D’Organ, throughout the summer:

  • Saturday, June 9thBrad Paisley Concert at Wrigley Field
  • Friday, June 22ndStrawberry Days in Long Grove
  • Sunday, June 24thSugarland Concert in Tinley Park
  • Saturday, June 30thOakfest in Oak Forest
  • Friday, June 29thNaperville Ribfest in Naperville
  • Saturday, July 7thKenny Chesney Concert at Soldier Field
  • Friday, July 13thLoopFest at Toyota Park
  • Wednesday, July 25thDuPage County Fair in Wheaton
  • Thursday, July 26thFiesta Del Sol in Chicago
  • Saturday, July 28thRascal Flatts Concert in Tinley Park
  • Saturday, August 18thJason Aldean Concert in Tinley Park
  • Friday, August 18thUrbana Sweet Corn Festival in Urbana
  • Sunday, August 26thQuad Day at University of Illinois
  • Thursday, August 30thOn the Waterfront in Rockford
  • Friday, August 31stNaperville Last Fling in Naperville
  • September 14th & 15thNASCAR Weekend at Chicago Speedway
  • Friday, September 28thLong Grove Apple Festival
  • Friday, October 5thScarecrow Festival in St. Charles

If you’re at any of these events, stop by the Gift of Hope tent to say “Hello”, take a picture and receive a FREE Gift of Hope drawstring bag!

You can follow the tour on the Gift of Hope Facebook page where we’ll post pictures and updates from across the state. Also, follow Gift of Hope on Twitter (@GiftofHope), which I occasionally take over to share news and updates from the road.

I’m ready to hit the road!

See you soon!

Your Friend, Morgan D’Organ


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