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PHOENIX, AZ - Dec. 13, 2018 - More than 150 individuals impacted by organ transplant – including lung, liver and kidney transplant recipients – gathered at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center on Tuesday to celebrate life at the hospital’s tenth annual holiday transplant tea. This year’s gathering featured a “Polar Express” theme to symbolize the journey of faith all transplant recipients endure.
Lynn Stackrow, a double lung transplant recipient who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when she was 6 months old attends the St. Joseph’s event every year. Not only does she enjoy catching up with other transplant patients, she also uses the time to show her doctors a bit of gratitude.
“It is the least I can do because they changed my life - they saved my life,” said Stackrow. “Granted, my donor gave me the organ and I am so thankful; but, the team at St. Joseph’s are the ones who were physically able to put it in me and change my life, so I get to appreciate them today.”
St. Joseph’s Norton Thoracic Institute is home to the busiest lung transplant program in the Western United States. The hospital also has growing liver and kidney transplant programs.
“This tea is really a celebration of life,” said Ross Bremner, MD, executive director of Norton Thoracic Institute. “And, it provides us with the ability to show everybody the miracle of life that is transplant.”
Liver transplant recipient, Jim Bennett, who also attended the event, was diagnosed with liver disease in Oct. 2015. The disease progressed and Bennett was told the only true solution would be a transplant.
“This event is evidence of how involved the team here at St. Joseph’s is from the beginning, through the surgery and past the surgery,” said Bennett, who is just three months post-transplant. “I just have so much gratitude, to the donor, to their family, god bless them.”
Along with a dose of humor and a special visit from Santa Claus, St. Joseph’s holiday tea provides transplant patients the opportunity to rejoice and reflect. Many even set New Year resolutions with activities that weren’t possible before their transplants.
Stackrow said that although she had experienced multiple surgeries for cystic fibrosis, and had received nine lung embolization procedures throughout her life, her lung transplant was the hardest thing she had ever gone through. Now, she is in the best shape of her life.
“Three months after the transplant I was hiking,” said Stackrow. “I’ve done Vulture Peak, I’ve done Havasupai, I’ve done Camelback; but my current challenge is transitioning from part to full-time work. My ultimate goal is to be self-sufficient because I’ve had to rely on others so much of my life living with cystic fibrosis.”
As of April 2018, more than 114,000 men, women, and children were waiting for an organ transplant, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. One organ donor can enhance up to 8 lives.
“We are extremely thankful to our donors, and our donor families, because they are the people that actually give life,” Dr. Bremner added.
Arizona residents can register to be an organ and tissue donor at www.DonateLifeAZ.org.
Sara (Baird) Patterson