30 Stories in 30 Days: Open-Hearted

April 30, 2013
Melissa and her daughter Chloe

Melissa and her daughter Chloe

“A heart transplant in 2007 brought me from my deepest, sickest day to feeling more alive than ever,” said Melissa Simon.  “This new heart has given me a life I never imagined possible.”

When Melissa was 14, she was diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart becomes enlarged and weakened.  For about a year Melissa was on bed rest and medications.  In time her condition stabilized.  “I learned to compensate for my decreased heart function and led a relatively normal life for many years,” she said.  She finished her education, got married and started on her career.

When she was 26, an echocardiogram showed that one of Melissa’s heart valves was leaking.  Doctors performed reparative surgery but Melissa’s condition worsened and she suffered from pressure on the heart that prevents it from functioning normally.  “I went downhill fast,” Melissa explained.  “Every day was a struggle.”  Melissa was placed on the heart transplant list on May 20, 2007.

Melissa's donor, Chloe

Melissa’s donor, Chloe

Fourteen-year-old Chloe Coleman died June 5, 2007 and the next day Melissa received her heart.  “I am so grateful to Chloe for giving me her gift that represents the highest level of compassion for others,” Melissa said.  “While her gift is my greatest joy, it’s at the expense of greatest sorrow for Chloe’s family.”

Melissa now has a close relationship with Chloe’s family and when she first did the 95-flight climb up the Hancock Building, Chloe’s parents were at the top to applaud.  Also to honor Chloe, Melissa and her husband Dave named their daughter Chloe after the generous girl whose last act of giving was to donate her organs.

For more about Melissa, visit her website at http://www.MelissaSimon.org.

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Happy Independence Day!

July 2, 2012

The Lefferts family celebrates their loved one, John, who helped others through organ/tissue donation.

Independence Day is almost here! This year, we encourage transplant recipients to celebrate a different kind of independence. We encourage you to celebrate freedom from countless doctor appointments, hours of dialysis, and the stress of waiting for a lifesaving gift.

We are asking recipients and their family members to share how organ/tissue transplants have provided independence in their daily lives. You can do this by posting/tweeting a photo of yourself or loved one running a race, swimming for miles, or living life to the fullest. If you don’t have any awesome photos, you can post/tweet about how organ and tissue donation has changed your life. Be sure to tag Gift of Hope on Facebook or tweet at @GiftofHope

Steve and Melissa are free to “Hustle Up The Hancock” after receiving lifesaving transplants.

Happy Independence Day!

– Josh Muller, Public Relations/Marketing Coordinator, Gift of Hope


Heart Recipient Interview, Mascots On A Mission Launch!

March 1, 2010

Heart Recipient Meets Donor Family

Following our post last week about Melissa Simon’s participation in the Hustle Up the Hancock event, we wanted to share the link to this CBS interview with Melissa and her donor family. It was quite the special weekend for Melissa and the Coleman’s!

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Mascots On A Mission Campaign Launch

Well, it’s finally here!  Mascots On A Mission has launched!

Start getting ready for National Donate Life Month by checking out the site and be sure to subscribe to the blog for daily post updates. It’s going to be good…

-Scott

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More Than Just a Climb…

February 25, 2010

This Sunday, some of our favorite supporters and organ donation advocates from the Revive Hope crew are going to get a little exercise climbing all the way to the top of the infamous John Hancock building here in Chicago. For Steve Ferkau and Melissa Simon, the annual Hustle Up the Hancock event is far more than an early Sunday morning workout – it’s a tribute to the individual’s that helped save their lives through the power of organ donation.

Last week, I shared Melissa’s post detailing her anticipation around meeting her donor family. Yesterday, Melissa also shared some insight into just how important the Hustle event will be this year with her donor family there to cheer her on.

Melissa Simon with Steve's Climbing Crew - Kari's Klimbers

We wish Steve, Melissa and all the climbers the best of luck this week!

-Scott

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“The Day” – Guest Post From a Heart Recipient

February 18, 2010

Heart transplant recipient, Revive Hope blogger, endless organ/tissue donation advocate and our dear friend Melissa Simon has allowed me to pull over a great post that she published on the Revive blog. Some of you may recall that Melissa received a lifesaving heart transplant in June 2007.

Soon, Melissa will be meeting her donor family for the first time and decided to share her thoughts, excitement and anticipation below.

Thanks Melissa,

-Scott

___________________________

“The Day”

The sun will wake us that morning as it peaks through the shades letting us know that this special day has arrived.  Dave will pull the bed cover over my bare shoulder, turning to me with a smile and the words “are you ready?”  I won’t have a response but will rise, feeling my blood travel swift and deep through my heart and to my body.  All of the possible preparations and plans have been tucked away for some time now.

We will do our daily routine even though today is extraordinary.  Sydney will have a sense about it like she does with all things related to feelings and she’ll wonder why she had to get a bath and why her mommy is so quiet.  I’ll busy myself around the house, doing odds and ends things to make the time pass.  I’ll search for ways to remember the sick times and try my best to put together all of the pieces.  Dave will help and he’s good at the “big” stuff.  It’s no wonder he made a heart transplant seem like a one block long walk in our life together.  Today that walk starts to get bigger.

The doorbell will ring and for the first time, I will lay eyes on the souls of struggling parents who did everything they could do save their dear Chloe, but when that wasn’t enough, reached beyond their pain to take away mine.  Their peach faces and southern smiles will compliment dime sized drops of tears.  In an instant, my quiet demeanor will turn to a quiet sob.  Our time together, our very first meeting, has just begun.  All of this because just one, 14-year-old girl, saved me when no one else could.

Chloe2_jpg

The tears will be therapy and the stories will be plenty.  We’ll show them how we live our lives and we’ll be proud.  The 94 flights of stairs in the John Hancock Center will be more momentous than ever before – knowing that they are on the other side, waiting, cheering and supporting me that day.  They’ll be thinking about how Chloe would have beat us all to the top.  Her heart and her life will be the highlight of our time together.  She is the highlight of our life.

Chloe’s dad said, “We have some good days and some bad days, but we are certain that the day we meet you, will be a good day.”  This post is dedicated to recipients and donor families who haven’t met but want nothing more than to experience “The Day.”

~ Melissa Simon
Heart Recipient

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Open-Hearted: A Heart Transplant Recipient’s Letter to Her Donor

August 13, 2009

Last month we posted some behind-the-scenes photos of our video shoot with heart transplant recipient Melissa Simon. Today, is the fun part. We’re excited to unveil our latest video, Open-Hearted.

Again, special thanks to Melissa for sharing her story and helping us pay tribute to Chloe.

The video is also over here on YouTube if you’d like to share the link.

-Scott

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Open-Hearted Video Shoot

July 13, 2009

Last month, we had the pleasure of meeting up with local heart transplant recipient Melissa Simon to shoot our forthcoming video, Open-Hearted. This whole video thing comes quite naturally to Melissa as she helped us out this past April with our “I Heart Organ Donors” video.

Melissa has quite the amazing story. June marked the two year anniversary since she received her lifesaving heart transplant. When Melissa received a letter from her donor’s parents, the letter was accompanied by a origami bird that included the words “open hearted.” Friends of Melissa’s donor, Chloe, had put together origami pieces for Chloe’s parents to help them remember her. The bird motivated Melissa to write a letter to Chloe expressing her appreciation for her new gift.

We’re currently editing the video and look forward to showing everyone the final product. In the meantime, here are some behind-the-scenes photos from the video shoot and be sure to check out Melissa’s post on the topic!

-Scott

Melissa

Melissa

Filming

Filming

Lights, camera...

Lights, camera...

Inspiration.

Inspiration.

Break in the action.

Break in the action.

Support.

Support.

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