30 Stories in 30 Days: An Organ Is a Terrible Thing to Waste

April 23, 2013
Pam Carpenter and her husband, Donald.

Pam Carpenter and her husband, Donald.
Photo courtesy of the Chicago Sun-Times – Matt Marton

Pam Carpenter was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis in 1992. IPF is a debilitating lung disease that causes the air sacs, or alveoli, in the lungs to scar and harden. The cause of this chronic, progressive disease is unknown, and there is no known cure or medication available to improve the condition. The scarring of the lung tissue cannot be reversed, and, as the disease progresses, breathing becomes more and more difficult.

Statistics show that the life expectancy rate after IPF is diagnosed is two to five years. But Pam is quick to tell you she is not a statistic. “I have lived with IPF for 21 years,” she explained. “I am fortunate to have a caring church and a great family support system of sisters, aunts and nieces.”

Pam Carpenter continues to wait for a second chance at life. - Photo courtesy of the Chicago Sun-Time - Matt Marton

Pam Carpenter continues to wait for a second chance at life.
Photo courtesy of the Chicago Sun-Times – Matt Marton

Pam currently is on oxygen 24 hours a day and is waiting for a double-lung transplant. “Each day is a new challenge,” she said. “That is why organ donation is so important to me, my husband, my daughter, my mother and my four grandsons.”

Pam is an Advocates for Hope volunteer with Gift of Hope and is encouraged “because the world of organ donation has evolved, and there are many new lifesaving techniques being explored and used,” she said. “I am also encouraged because people will read these stories and, hopefully, will feel compelled to take action about organ and tissue donation. An organ is a terrible thing to waste.”

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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: Valerie’s Re-Birthday

April 4, 2013
Valerie struggled to breathe while waiting for a lifesaving double-lung transplant.

Valerie struggled to breathe while waiting for a lifesaving double-lung transplant.

“I celebrated my 15th re-birthday March 3rd after receiving a double-lung transplant,” said Valerie Batz. “Now, I can breathe!”

Valerie was born with cystic fibrosis, a progressive disease that scarred her lung tissue and clogged her airways until she had very little air space left. She struggled with the disease for 38 years before she went on the transplant waiting list at Loyola University Medical Center. “For all of those years, I had strong support from my parents and husband,” she said. “And I fought to live for my nine-year-old twins.”

Valerie with her twins on graduation day.

Valerie with her twins on graduation day.

 But Valerie’s condition deteriorated until her doctors said she had less than 24 hours to live. She wanted to go home to say good-bye, but she asked them to hold her room because “I didn’t want to die at home and have my children experience my death,” she explained. “That was the hardest conversation, telling my children how much I love them and that mommy’s going to heaven. I couldn’t cry because it would stop my breathing.”

Then the call came, and she was rushed back for surgery. “When I woke up, I could breathe!” she exclaimed. Valerie’s first question was about her donor. “I thank her for every breath I take,” she said. “She has allowed me to watch my children grow up. I hope my donor is proud of how I’ve taken care of our lungs and how I’ve given back by raising funds for CF and speaking on organ donation. I’m blessed and grateful, and I believe in miracles because I am one.”

Valerie can now live her life without worry... Thanks to a selfless donor.

Valerie can now live her life without worry… Thanks to a selfless donor.


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