Fourth Quarter 2015

A Newsletter for Gift of Hope’s Partners and Friends


A Celebration of Hope

Lifesaving Partners Awards

Interfaith Outreach

Laura Barajas Waits

Alternate type treatment for smaller usage


J. Kevin Cmunt


Director of Communications

and Marketing

Gregory Alford


Lifesaving Partners


Gift of Hope honored 17 dedicated people,

hospitals and health systems with Lifesaving

Partners Awards at a special recognition

ceremony on Oct. 9.

Interfaith Outreach


Gift of Hope’s Interfaith Advisory Council guides

the organization on religious matters as they

relate to donation and serves as a resource

about donation for religious communities.

Manager of Communications

and Marketing

Therese Michels


Managing Editor

Tony Sullivan



Susan Cochran


Renata Krzyston


Donor Family, Recipient Meet


Six years after receiving a lifesaving transplant,

Wendie Ingle Johnson met Tasha Gatewood, the

mother of the young donor who gave her life, at

an emotional, first-time meeting in September.

The Wait: Laura Barajas


Laura Barajas waits for the phone call that

may help her overcome the health and lifestyle

challenges she faces as a result of her decadeslong

struggle with type 1 diabetes.


Faced with the tragic loss of her 18-year-old daughter, Nikki Smith, Vicki

Olds turned tragedy into triumph when she chose to donate Nikki’s heart to

lifelong friend Tanisha Basham. Nikki’s story and the lives she saved are the

centerpiece of Gift of Hope’s Lasting Legacy campaign, which seeks to boost

donor authorization rates among African-Americans.

Nesha Logan


Raiza Mendoza


Veronica Moreno


Diane Schmitz


Connections provides the Gift of Hope public and professional communities with news and information about Gift of Hope,

organ and tissue donation and the importance of being a registered organ and tissue donor. We encourage you to share

this newsletter with your friends and associates and learn more about donation by visiting We mail

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Marion Shuck


Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Donors, Donor

Families Honored

at A Celebration

of Hope Events

Nearly 200 donor families and their friends gathered

recently for two special events held to honor loved ones

who became organ and tissue donors. One tribute event

for donor family members whose loved ones became

donors in 2014 was held Nov. 7 at Gift of Hope’s

headquarters in Itasca, Ill., and a second event for

Hispanic families took place Oct. 4 at the National

Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago with the entire

event conducted in Spanish. At both events, attendees

heard inspiring stories and testimonies that celebrate

the selfless individuals who offered the gift of hope

through donation so that others may live.

Connections - A Celebration of Hope


gift of hope honors

2015 lifesaving partners

17 Individuals, Health Organizations

Recognized for Commitment to Donation

Gift of Hope honored 17 individuals, hospitals and health

systems for outstanding achievement in addressing the critical

need for organ and tissue donation in 2015 by presenting each

with a Lifesaving Partners Award at a special recognition

ceremony held Oct. 9 at the Hyatt Lodge at McDonald’s

Campus in Oak Brook, Ill.

a bridge to educate her religious community about the Islamic

perspective on organ and tissue donation.

“Our Lifesaving Partners Awards honor the ‘best of the best’ in

organ and tissue donation — those people and organizations

that have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help make

donation happen,” says Kevin Cmunt, Gift of Hope’s President/

CEO. “These are dedicated donation advocates who set the

standard — and so often surpass it — in making donation

possible. Through their selfless work, we give hope and life to

those in need of lifesaving organ and tissue transplants.”

Award recipients were nominated by Gift of Hope staff

members and selected by a review committee consisting of

Gift of Hope management team members. Here are Gift of

Hope’s 2015 Lifesaving Partners Award honorees:

Andy Agos, MD, Medical Director, Trauma Division,

NorthShore University HealthSystem – Evanston Hospital,

Evanston, Ill.: Dr. Agos has been committed to saving lives

through organ donation for many years. He is an outspoken

advocate and was the driving force in five successful organ

donation cases at Evanston Hospital in the last year, resulting

in the recovery of 14 organs.

Paul Crawford, MD, Nephrologist, FMC Neomedica, Chicago:

For 28 years, Dr. Crawford has worked to communicate the

message of organ and tissue donation to African-American

communities. He believes dialysis is a bridge to transplant,

and he champions organ and tissue donation by educating

his patients.

Karen Danielson, Outreach Director for the Muslim American

Society of Chicago, Bridgeview, Ill.: Danielson is a member of

Gift of Hope’s Interfaith Advisory Council. She has been instrumental

in opening doors and opportunities for educating Gift

of Hope staff about the Muslim community and has served as

Sara Danner (center), Transplant Financial Coordinator at Memorial Medical Center in

Springfield, Ill., was honored for helping people maneuver the financial landscape as they

wait for lifesaving organ transplants. Season Hammond (left), a Donation Coordinator at

Gift of Hope, nominated her for the 2015 Lifesaving Partners Award. With them is Ann

Coon, a family friend of Danner and mother of a multiple transplant recipient.

Sara Danner, Transplant Financial Coordinator, Memorial

Medical Center, Springfield, Ill.: Danner was honored for helping

people maneuver the financial landscape as they wait for

lifesaving organ transplants and by working beyond the hospital

walls to support donation and transplantation. For example,

she coordinates Memorial Transplant Service’s annual 5K Run/

Walk each September. The event raised $12,000 for Memorial’s

Transplant Fund in 2014. Danner also is involved in many other

outside activities to significantly advance the donation cause.

Monica Fox, Gift of Hope Advocates for Hope Volunteer and

African-American Task Force Member: As a person waiting for

a kidney transplant, Fox knows firsthand about the importance

of organ and tissue donation. She has been a self-directed,

driving force in promoting the donation message in her south

suburban Chicago community since 2013. Fox has galvanized

her social organization, the LINKS, and the city of Harvey, Ill.,

to advocate for donation.

4 Connections - 2015 Lifesaving Partners Awards

Eric Kellogg, Mayor, Harvey, Ill.: As the chairman of Gift

of Hope’s Mayors for Hope campaign, Mayor Kellogg has

united his fellow mayors, clergy, business partners and

community members on the important issue of organ and

tissue donation and how it disproportionately impacts

minority communities.

Alan Ginzburg, MD, Pulmonologist, Illinois Heart & Lung

Associates, Advocate BroMenn Medical Center, Normal, Ill.:

Known to colleagues and patients as a calming presence,

Dr. Ginzburg is a true advocate for organ and tissue donation.

Whether he is talking to hospital staff, Gift of Hope staff or the

county coroner, Dr. Ginzburg was particularly recognized for

having a genuine talent for navigating especially difficult

donation cases.

Courtney Stear, OSF Constant Care eICU Team, OSF Saint

Francis Medical Center, Peoria, Ill.: Stear led her team to

develop an education program to initiate a change to an electronic

medical record system that allows all ICUs at OSF Saint

Francis to work through the eICU to make referrals to Gift of

Hope when patients meet referral criteria. The end result of her

dedication has been a partnership which ensures that every

opportunity for organ and tissue donation is successful.

Elizabeth Gustavsen and Nancy Davis, AMITA Health St.

Alexius Medical Center, Hoffman Estates, Ill.: Gustavsen and

Davis were recognized for being staunch advocates for organ

and tissue donation in their hospital. Both women are co-chairs

for the Donation Committee at St. Alexius and are designated

tissue requesters and donation educators.

Jennifer Jalbert, RN, BSN, SNOR, and Gift of Hope OR Liaison,

Rockford Memorial Hospital, Rockford, Ill.: Jalbert was honored

for helping to build a strong relationship between Gift of

Hope and Rockford Memorial Hospital in order to help make

donation happen. She is a member of the hospital’s Donation

Committee and has instituted mandatory donation training for

all operating room staff at her hospital.

Janet Kimsey, Charge Nurse, ICU, Swedish Covenant

Hospital, Chicago: Kimsey was lauded for her proactive stance

on advancing donation at Swedish Covenant. She personally

ensures that her nurses call in all referrals, which has produced

astounding results at the hospital. Under Kimsey’s leadership,

the hospital has maintained a consistent pattern of making

timely donor referrals, and it has not missed a referral

opportunity since 2012.

Lisa Kuntz, Social Worker, The University of Chicago Medicine

– Comer Children’s Hospital: Kuntz was honored as a committed

donation advocate who has excelled at incorporating donation

into end-of-life options offered to parents and guardians.

In the most dire of circumstances and among traditionally

marginalized populations, Kuntz has succeeded in making

donation a real and meaningful choice for these families.

Troy Nelmark, Nurse Manager, Jesse Brown VA Medical

Center, Chicago: Nelmark overcame barriers to set up donor

education programs for nurses at the VA Center and helped

rewrite policies that promote organ and tissue donation referrals.

He has taken ownership of the entire donation process at

Jesse Brown and has inspired its Chicago-area sister facility,

Hines VA, to follow suit.

Elizabeth Gustavsen (left) and Nancy Davis (right), Nursing administrators at

AMITA Health St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates, Ill., were recognized

for being strong advocates for donation in their hospital. They are co-chairs of the

hospital’s Donation Committee and are designated tissue requesters and donation

educators. Lisa Palmer (center), a Donation Coordinator at Gift of Hope, nominated

them for the award.

LouEster Petty, Gift of Hope Advocates for Hope Volunteer

and Volunteer President of the African-American Task Force:

Inspired by a family member who became a donor 28 years ago,

Petty quickly became active in supporting donation by becoming

a Gift of Hope volunteer. She later became President of Gift

of Hope’s African-American Task Force and helped to recruit

more than 150 volunteers and establish seven African-American

Task Force chapters in Gift of Hope’s Illinois and northwest

Indiana service area. Petty also has guided organ procurement

organizations throughout the country on how to form their own

volunteer chapters for minority volunteers.

Julia Rietz, Champaign County State’s Attorney, Urbana, Ill.:

Rietz has gone above and beyond to support organ and tissue

donation in Champaign County. She has worked to bring donation

education to the local coroner and law enforcement agencies,

creating a bridge between those agencies and Gift of Hope

to produce successful outcomes on many donation cases.

Elizabeth Schupp, MD, Pulmonologist, UnityPoint Health

Trinity, Rock Island, Ill.: Schupp was honored for being

proactive about managing organ donors under her care.

She builds trust with donor families, and, through her

compassion and empathy toward the families she interacts

with, she supports the donation process to produce many

successful donation outcomes.

Connections - 2015 Lifesaving Partners Awards 5

Gift of Hope at Forefront of Interfaith Outreach

A phrase often used at Gift of Hope is, “Organ and tissue donation

transcends our differences.” It reflects that Gift of Hope’s

service area is home to an extremely diverse population with

donors, donor family members and transplant recipients of

every ethnicity and religion, all of whom are helping each other

unconditionally navigate through the complex organ and tissue

donation process.

Recognizing that reality, in May 2014 Gift of Hope formed an

Interfaith Advisory Council. The group includes representatives

from many different religions, Bahá’ism, Islam, Hinduism,

Buddhism, Catholicism, Sikhism and Judaism among them. The

Council is charged with educating Gift of Hope staff members

about how they can support families of faith throughout the

donation process and guiding the organization on how it can

enhance outcomes on cases where religious matters arise as

obstacles to making donation happen.

Gift of Hope President/CEO Kevin Cmunt recently hosted

Council members at his home for fellowship and relationshipbuilding.

At that gathering, Cmunt shared a recent experience

he had at an interfaith gathering in Toronto. “I realized after

experiencing diverse religious traditions that there are two

things that all religions have in common,” Cmunt says. “One is

be kind to one another, and the other is to do good things. This

simple philosophy is also what influences Gift of Hope.”

While the chief role of Council members is to guide Gift of

Hope on religious matters as they relate to donation, they also

serve as resources to provide outreach and education about

organ and tissue donation to their

own religious communities. To

that end, after months of research

and under the guidance of Council

member Karen Danielson, who

represents Islam on the Council,

Gift of Hope recently produced

Saving Lives Through Organ and

Tissue Donation: An Islamic Perspective,

an educational brochure

addressing the Muslim stance on

donation (pictured right).

“The Islamic Perspective brochure

will help us train Gift of Hope staff,

be a resource to hospital partners

and serve as a tool we can use

for outreach and education in the

Muslim community,” says Susan

Cochran, Communications and

Marketing and Interfaith Outreach

Coordinator at Gift of Hope.

The brochure is available at no cost to Islamic organizations

interested in educating their communities about donation.

Contact Gift of Hope’s Communications Department at

630/758-2799 to obtain copies. It also can be downloaded

from Gift of Hope is currently working on a

second brochure offering the Catholic perspective on donation.

It will be available in the first quarter of 2016.

Hospital Professionals Learn How

Donation Turns Tragedy into Hope

More than 150 hospital professionals from Gift of Hope’s Illinois

and northwest Indiana service area learned how donation can

transform tragedy into hope and the role they play in making that

transformation happen at the organization’s annual donation

education seminar for hospital professionals. The seminar, From

Tragedy to Hope: Rewriting the Story, was held Oct. 29 at Gift of

Hope’s headquarters in Itasca, Ill.

“This year’s seminar told the start-to-finish story of the organ and

tissue donation and transplantation processes and underscored

the critical roles that hospital professionals play in writing — and

sometimes rewriting — the donation story to help honor the

donation decision and transform tragedy into hope,” says Kathleen

Abhalter, Regional Manager of Hospital Development at Gift

of Hope.

A group of donation and transplantation

experts led seminar

participants through the organ

and tissue donation and transplantation

processes chapter by chapter, from how people get on

the transplant waiting list to how donor authorization is obtained

to how medical and clinical professionals recover and place organs

with waiting recipients. A donor family representative and a

transplant recipient put a human face on donation by sharing

their stories about how donation has affected their lives.

Visit the Hospital Professionals section of to

download speaker presentations from the event.

6 Connections - Donation News

Mothers Celebrate the Gift of

Life at Emotional Meeting

“Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Six years to the day after receiving a lifesaving kidney and pancreas

transplant, Wendie Ingle Johnson whispered those words

into the ear of Tasha Gatewood as the two — one, the mother of a

selfless organ donor, and, the other, a transplant recipient grateful

for the opportunity to continue being a mother to her children —

embraced at an emotional, first-time meeting on Sept. 6 at the

New Beginnings Church in Peoria, Ill.

In 2009, Wendie learned she needed a kidney and pancreas

transplant to save her life due to the toll diabetes had taken on

her organs. She was very sick when the call came bearing the

promising news that a kidney and pancreas were available for

transplant. “I know I should have felt joy and excitement, but

what I felt was grief, especially when I discovered my donor was

a 12-year-old child,” Wendie recalls.

Many hours earlier and more than 150 miles away Tasha, of

Country Club Hills, Ill., was also feeling grief, a very profound

and deep grief because she had to say good-bye to her son,

Jarvis Pickett, in a pediatric intensive care unit at The University

of Chicago Medicine. Jarvis had been playing outside with his

brother and some friends when he rushed inside struggling

to breathe. The young boy with the infectious smile and

mischievous sense of humor suffered an asthma attack that,

days later, claimed his life. After holding onto hope for as long

as she could, Tasha finally let Jarvis go.

“I needed some

help to make

the decision to

donate Jarvis’

organs,” she recalls. “It was difficult for me to accept that my son

was brain-dead, and my first response to the request about organ

donation was ‘no.’”

During that very challenging time, Tasha’s oldest son, Antonio,

gave her clarity. “I would often say to my sons, ‘Don’t be selfish.’,”

she says. “Now, Antonio was saying that to me. My ‘no’ became

a ‘yes.’”

In addition to saving Wendie’s life, Jarvis saved three other lives

by donating his heart, liver and right kidney.

After connecting through Gift of Hope’s Donor Family Services

Department, the two mothers communicated via mail and phone,

but they never met in person. Wendie made that happen on

Sept. 6 by inviting Tasha and her family to attend her church to

celebrate the life of Jarvis and the new life she had been given.

As Wendie entered the room where Tasha was waiting, she

couldn’t hold back the tears. The two embraced as if they were

lifelong friends. They both say they feel like they are family and

are already planning another meeting.

New Organization Targets Financial

Barriers to Transplantation

A new charitable organization has been established to give

people access to lifesaving organ transplants and the follow-up

care they need to help them live long, healthy and productive

lives. Called the Illinois Transplant Fund (ITF), the organization

provides financial assistance in the form of health insurance

premium support to qualified patients in need.

Most transplant programs require proof of health insurance

before adding a patient to the organ transplant waiting list. ITF

provides financial support for eligible transplant patients who

lack the resources to pay their insurance premiums, giving them

the health insurance coverage they need to be added to the

transplant waiting list.

“We believe transplantation decisions should be based on

health status, not insurance status, and that providing health

insurance premium support increases access to organ transplantation

and, in doing so, saves lives.”

Established in September, ITF has set a first-year goal of providing

support to 50 people who otherwise would not have access

to lifesaving organ transplants. Candidates must meet certain

eligibility requirements to obtain ITF funding, and financial

assistance is subject to the availability of funds in the ITF

funding pool. If someone is approved for support, ITF will pay

his or her health insurance premiums for up to three years

after a transplant.

“ITF shares our view that a person’s financial status should not

be a barrier to his or her ability to receive a lifesaving organ

transplant,” says Kevin Cmunt, President/CEO of Gift of Hope.

Visit or call 630/433-3900 to learn

more about ITF and the application process.

Connections - Donation News



Mother Saves Friend’s Life Through Daughter’s Donation

Faced with the tragic loss of her 18-year-old daughter,

Nikki Smith, Vicki Olds (right) turned tragedy into triumph

when she chose to donate Nikki’s heart to lifelong friend

Tanisha Basham (left)..

8 Connections - A Lasting Legacy

As a mother and a friend, Vicki Olds has a storehouse of love

that knows no bounds. Her actions are proof of that.

Faced with unimaginable loss at the unexpected death of

her daughter, 18-year-old Domonique “Nikki” Smith, in June

of this year, Vicki turned tragedy into triumph when she

made the decision to donate Nikki’s heart to lifelong friend

Tanisha Basham.

And while Nikki’s death would serve as the physical end to

her life, it was also the beginning of what would become her

lasting legacy because of her decision to become an organ

and tissue donor.

“Nikki was always there for anyone, especially when they

needed it,” Vicki explains. “She was the absolute best friend

anyone could have.”

“My daughter was on the right

path,” Vicki says. “She made a

difference in people’s lives, and,

through her gifts, she continues

to make a difference today.”

— Vicki Olds

Nikki Smith’s mother

Nikki gave her mother countless reasons to be proud. She

was a straight-A student, an actress, a loving friend and a

cherished daughter. As a small child, she enjoyed taking her

toys apart just to see how they worked. “Nikki had a passion

for learning and a passion for life,” Vicki says. “She was a

vibrant force wherever she went.”

A college student with a bright future ahead of her, Nikki was

extraordinarily accomplished despite her young age. She

was a tutor and mentor to fellow students. She spoke French

fluently. She listened to Andrea Bocelli and proudly sang

along in Italian at the tender age of three. And when she

took to the stage herself, she brought down the house with

her enthusiastic performances.

“People naturally gravitated to her wherever she went,”

Vicki says. “When Nikki came into a room, people wanted

to know who she was.”

More than anything, though, Nikki was a giver who made a

lasting impression on everyone she met. They include the

350 friends who crowded the hospital intensive care unit to

offer their prayers when Nikki stood at death’s door and the

hundreds more who filled her memorial service after she lost

her battle for life.

By donating her heart, Nikki Smith gave Tanisha Basham the chance to be there

for her two daughters, Christeena, 12, and Ashley, 19.

“My daughter was on the right path,” Vicki says. “She made

a difference in people’s lives, and, through her gifts, she

continues to make a difference today.”

A Lasting Legacy

Nikki’s story and the lives she saved are the centerpiece of

Gift of Hope’s new Lasting Legacy campaign, which aims to

boost donor authorization rates among African-Americans

by showcasing the circle of donation. The campaign features

poignant TV, radio, print and social media ads to inspire

African-Americans to say “yes” to organ and tissue donation.

The Lasting Legacy campaign addresses the fears and misconceptions

that many African-Americans have about organ

and tissue donation,” explains Marion Shuck, Gift of Hope’s

Manager of Community Affairs. “The campaign seeks to start

the conversation about the lifesaving benefits the selfless act

of becoming a donor can offer to people in need.”

Although Nikki is gone, her presence is with her mother every

day. It’s in the purple accents on the bracelet found around

Vicki’s wrist, the keepsakes in her bedroom and the stories

of selflessness that Vicki shares. “The impact of Nikki’s life

lives on through her family and friends,” says Gift of Hope

President/CEO Kevin Cmunt. “This is profoundly illustrated

through Tanisha Basham, Vicki’s close friend, who received

Nikki’s heart.”

Connections - A Lasting Legacy


Tanisha Basham keeps Nikki

Smith’s photo as a screensaver

on her smartphone as a constant

reminder of the person who gave

her a second chance at life. Nikki

saved the lives of four people as

an organ donor.


Tanisha’s Story

Tanisha, a 41-year-old mother of three from University Park,

Ill., was the picture of good health. Her sunny disposition and

radiant smile were a perfect match for her infectious zest for

life. A supervisor at a local grocery store, Tanisha juggled her

work and family lives with ease.

But in 2013, Tanisha noticed her energy levels weren’t what

they used to be. Then she developed breathing problems.

Eventually, Tanisha’s health problems affected every aspect

of her life and caught the attention of her manager. “I just

couldn’t take a deep breath,” she explains.

At her manager’s urging, Tanisha made an appointment to

see her doctor. Tests revealed she had congestive heart failure

— the same condition that took her mother’s life at age

48. Even worse, her heart was functioning at only 25 percent

of its capacity, which put her in the hospital multiple times

and caused serious complications such as dangerous blood

clots in her lungs and legs.

In December of that year, Tanisha was added to the heart

transplant waiting list. During one of her many hospitalizations,

her heart stopped beating three times.

With little heart function of her own, Tanisha was given a

left ventricular assist device, or LVAD, that pumped blood

through her ailing body. Although she was still alive, Tanisha

felt she wasn’t truly living. She couldn’t work, couldn’t care

for herself and couldn’t care for her children. She desperately

needed a heart transplant, but her frustration and worries

grew as she spent 18 long months on the transplant waiting

list without a match.

That all changed with a single phone call in June of this

year. Tanisha, who had just visited Vicki at Nikki’s bedside,

received word from her sister that Vicki wanted her to have

Nikki’s heart. “I was overwhelmed,” Tanisha recalls. “I told

Vicki, ‘I can’t accept this.’ But she told me, ‘Tanisha, you’re

like my sister. You’ll always have my baby with you.’”

Tanisha was the first person Vicki thought of when trying to

make some good come from Nikki’s death. “She has three of

her own children who need their mother,” Vicki explains.

“She needs to be able to live her life.”

A Perfect Match

Blood tests showed that Nikki’s heart was a perfect match

for Tanisha, and she was admitted to Advocate Christ

Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., to prepare for transplantation

surgery. As one mother was saying good-bye to her only

child, another was preparing to undergo surgery so she could

resume her role as mother to her own children.

kidneys in a second directed donation, an extreme rarity

in organ donation cases.

“With Gift of Hope’s help, we made it possible for Tanisha to

carry on my daughter’s legacy and be there for her children,”

Vicki says. “I carried Nikki for nine months, and Tanisha’s

going to carry her for the rest of her life.”

Gift of Hope unveiled the moving tragedy to triumph story

of Nikki, Vicki and Tanisha at the launch of its Lasting Legacy

campaign in October. The milestone event was attended by

both families, Ill. Secretary of State Jesse White and representatives

from Gift of Hope.

“Vicki and Nikki’s story was chosen to highlight the tremendous

good that can come out of a tragic circumstance,” Shuck

explains. “Lasting Legacy gives us the opportunity to share

African-American stories of organ and tissue donation with

the African-American community.”

Gift of Hope’s Lasting Legacy campaign aims to boost donor authorization

rates among African-Americans by addressing the fears and misconceptions

many African-Americans have about organ and tissue donation.

When Tanisha awoke after surgery, gone was the ever-present

humming sound of the LVAD’s battery pack that she had

grown accustomed to for more than a year. In its place was

the beating sound of a young, healthy heart inside of her.

“I heard this pounding sound, and I asked what it was,”

Tanisha recalls. “The doctor told me it was my new heart. It

was the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard. Right then, I

knew that I was going to be OK. It was an amazing feeling.”

Two weeks later, Tanisha was back home with her family.

And as she continues to regain her strength today, she looks

forward to resuming the many tasks her daughters took care

of during her long wait for a heart. She also plans to cherish

every moment as a mother, as a friend and as the keeper of

Nikki’s lasting legacy.

“Nikki was someone I knew and loved personally,” says

Tanisha’s daughter, Ashley. “If she were here today, I would

tell her how much I love her. I would tell her thank you for saving

my mom.”

Tanisha keeps Nikki’s photo as a screensaver on her smartphone

as a constant reminder of who gave her a second

chance at life. And when she goes to her frequent echocardiogram

appointments, Vicki accompanies her so she can see her

daughter’s heart beating in the body of her friend. “Tanisha

always called my daughter ‘niecy-poo,’” Vicki recalls with a

smile on her face. “I was truly grateful knowing she was a 100

percent match for Nikki’s heart.”

In all, Nikki saved the lives of four individuals as a donor,

including another family friend who received one of her

To register as an organ and tissue donor, visit


Lasting Legacy: The Why

The reality of organ and tissue donation in the African-

American community today is that more people receive than

give. The diseases and conditions that can lead to the need

for transplants are far more prevalent in minority populations,

creating a critical need for this segment of society.

Gift of Hope recognizes and seeks to address this through its

Lasting Legacy campaign. Here are several facts to know:

• Minorities represent 63 percent of the people on the

organ transplant waiting list in Illinois.

• African-Americans are at increased risk for high

blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease — all

of which can lead to organ failure and increase the

need for organ transplants.

• Kidney failure occurs more frequently among African-

Americans than any other ethnicity. The nearly 31,000

African-Americans awaiting kidney transplants make

up 34 percent of the people on the national kidney

transplant waiting list.

• African-Americans make up about 12 percent of

the total U.S. population, 29 percent of people

waiting for organ transplants, 16 percent of all

donors and 21 percent of all those who receive

organ transplants.

Connections - A Lasting Legacy


The Wait: Berwyn Woman

Hopes Next Call Is “The One”

Waiting is something Laura

Barajas has become very

good at. But not by choice.

Laura’s endless store of patience

— and her faith in a

brighter future — is borne

of necessity.

A decades-long struggle

with type 1 diabetes has

slowly deprived the loving

wife, sister and daughter of

the things most of us take

for granted: working, traveling

and starting a family.

Fortunately, Laura, a Berwyn, Ill., resident, has help with cooking,

cleaning and caring for herself. But they’re things she’d much

rather do on her own someday — when she has the strength.

Three times in the last six years, complications of diabetes

have placed the 36-year-old former bank supervisor on the

waiting list for an organ transplant. In 2009, when her deteriorating

health put her into kidney failure, she began dialysis

treatments and faced the first of many waits, this one for a

kidney transplant.

“I thought that was the end for me since, at that time, the

waiting list for a kidney transplant was about five years,” she

explains. But her brother, Raul, a marine, told her, “Don’t worry.

I’ve got your back.” In September of that year, he gave Laura a

second chance at life as a living kidney donor.

“He gave me the most priceless gift in the world,” Laura says.

Tragically, three months after Raul gave Laura a new life, he lost

his own when he was shot and killed.

But Raul’s selfless gift inspired Laura to share her story and

encourage others to become organ and tissue donors. As a

Gift of Hope Advocates for Hope volunteer and member of the

organization’s Hispanic Hospitals & Community Council, Laura

educates others about the need for organ and tissue donation.

Twice, Laura has received Gift of Hope recognition awards for

her tireless outreach activities.

A year after her kidney transplant, Laura was put on the waiting

list again, this time for a pancreas. In February 2011, she received

a pancreas, and, for several years, she enjoyed improving health

and continued her Gift of Hope outreach activities.

But a year ago, Laura developed a serious case of pneumonia

that landed her in the hospital for two months. For a healthy

person, pneumonia can be dangerous; for a transplant recipient,

it can be devastating.

“It damaged both of my transplants,” she explains. To her dismay,

Laura learned her transplanted organs were failing, with

her new kidney functioning at barely 20 percent capacity. As a

result, she resumed dialysis treatments and was put back on the

waiting list for a kidney and pancreas transplant in March 2015.

Unfortunately, Laura faces new challenges. Because she previously

received organs from two different donors, the risk of

organ rejection is high for any new transplant. So Laura has to

wait for a single, deceased donor to provide both organs. And

the wait isn’t easy.

Despite her calm exterior, Laura is frequently gripped with panic

attacks that leave her feeling like she’s having a heart attack,

especially when she’s alone. Anti-anxiety medication helps calm

her nerves while a regimen of other medications — as many as

30 pills a day — helps to support her failing organs.

Diabetes has also damaged her eyesight and resulted in many

laser surgeries to preserve her failing vision. While she has

adjusted by driving only during the day, she faces yet another

health crisis — Charcot foot syndrome, a potentially limb-threatening

complication of diabetes caused by nerve damage. For a

while, Laura used a wheelchair to get around. Now she uses a

cane or walker thanks to a special “astronaut” boot that

supports her deteriorating foot.

The only effective treatment — foot surgery — is out of the

question until Laura receives a kidney/pancreas transplant to

sustain her. Even short road trips to visit friends are on hold for

the foreseeable future. “I need to stay close to home,” she says.

“I never know if that’s the day they’re going to call me and tell

me a donor has been found.”

Some days are harder than others, but, through it all, Laura

hasn’t given up on the one thing that sees her through: hope.

She prays morning and night and keeps her Bible close at hand.

“I pray for myself to get the call, but I also pray for other people

worse off than me,” Laura says. “I tell God, ‘Call them if they

need it. I can survive with my 20 percent for now.’”


12 Connections - The Wait


Gift of Hope works in partnership with 180 hospitals

and nine transplant centers to meet the ever-growing

demand for donor organs and fulfill the organization’s

vision — that every opportunity for organ and tissue

donation is successful. Here’s a look at key donation

performance metrics for Illinois and northwest Indiana

hospitals that have had at least one organ donor

during the period noted and the contributions these

hospitals are making to give hope and life to others.


Organ Donors










Adventist GlenOaks Hospital 2 100 100 100

Advocate BroMenn Medical Center 4 71 100 86

Advocate Christ Medical Center 27 68 69 96

Advocate Condell Medical Center 5 80 86 100

Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital 4 67 86 100

Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center 7 82 78 100

Advocate Lutheran General Hospital 6 69 60 89

Advocate Sherman Hospital 1 33 33 100

Advocate South Suburban Hospital 1 100 100 100

Advocate Trinity Hospital 2 100 100 100

Alexian Brothers Medical Center 2 57 33 89

Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital 1 33 50 88

Blessing Hospital 6 67 75 90

Captain James A. Lovell VA Center 1 100 100 100

Carle Foundation Hospital 14 67 62 97

Centegra Hospital: McHenry 3 57 80 67

Centegra Hospital: Woodstock 1 75 67 100

Central DuPage Hospital 6 85 88 93

Community First Medical Center 4 71 67 100

Rush-Copley Memorial Hospital 3 100 100 100

Delnor Hospital 2 67 67 100

Edward Hospital 4 44 50 90

Elmhurst Memorial Hospital 2 33 33 100

Evanston Hospital 1 50 50 100

Franciscan St. Anthony Health 1 100 100 100

Franciscan St. Margaret Health: Dyer 2 67 67 100

Franciscan St. Margaret Health: Hammond 2 60 60 83

Glenbrook Hospital 1 33 33 75

Gottlieb Memorial Hospital 2 75 67 100

Holy Cross Hospital 2 67 67 100

Ingalls Memorial Hospital 3 60 60 100

John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County 7 53 67 80

Kishwaukee Community Hospital 1 100 100 100

Little Company of Mary Hospital & Health Care 2 67 67 75

Loretto Hospital 1 100 100 100

Loyola University Medical Center 13 67 68 82

MacNeal Hospital 3 60 62 73

*Hospitals with at least one organ donor through 10/25/15. Note: Data subject to change due to Gift of Hope’s quality assurance process.

Connections - Hospital Performance Metrics




Organ Donors










Memorial Medical Center 1 44 50 83

Methodist Hospital: Northlake 2 80 100 83

Methodist Hospital: Southlake 2 50 50 80

Metro South Medical Center 2 67 100 100

Mount Sinai Hospital Medical Center 9 64 64 100

Northwest Community Healthcare 2 67 67 100

Northwestern Memorial Hospital 8 67 64 90

Norwegian American Hospital 2 40 67 100

OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center 4 100 100 100

OSF Saint Francis Medical Center 32 75 76 100

OSF St. Joseph Medical Center 2 100 100 100

Palos Community Hospital 1 25 33 100

Presence Covenant Medical Center 1 100 100 100

Presence Mercy Medical Center 1 100 100 100

Presence Resurrection Medical Center 2 33 29 82

Presence St. Francis Hospital 4 57 50 100

Presence St. Joseph Hospital 1 33 50 67

Presence St. Joseph Medical Center 7 71 69 94

Riverside Medical Center 2 50 40 100

Rockford Memorial Hospital 6 71 67 100

Rush University Medical Center 15 55 55 92

Saint Anthony Hospital 3 100 100 100

Silver Cross Hospital 6 89 88 90

Skokie Hospital 1 67 50 100

St. Alexius Medical Center 2 43 33 88

St. Bernard Hospital and Healthcare Center 1 100 100 100

St. Catherine Hospital 1 50 100 67

St. John’s Hospital 7 71 71 94

St. Mary Medical Center 3 50 75 67

Swedish Covenant Hospital 4 67 71 89

UnityPoint Health: Methodist 3 100 100 100

UnityPoint Health: Proctor 1 100 100 100

UnityPoint Health: Trinity 1 50 NA 100

University of Chicago Medicine 8 45 67 70

University of Illinois Hospital 9 79 79 94

Vista Medical Center: East 7 100 100 91

West Suburban Medical Center 3 60 100 86

Total 315 65% 67% 91%

Glossary of Terms

Organ Donors

Donors from whom one or more organs were recovered

for the purpose of transplantation. This includes both

donation after brain death, or DBD, donors and donation

after circulatory death, or DCD, donors.

Donation Authorization Rate

The rate at which authorization for donation is obtained,

expressed as a percentage.

Donation Conversion Rate

The rate at which potential donors are converted to

actual donors, expressed as a percentage.

Timely Notification Rate

The rate at which hospitals contact Gift of Hope after a

death or within one hour after an individual meets the

criteria for imminent death and before the withdrawal

of life-sustaining therapies, expressed as a percentage.

14 Connections - Hospital Performance Metrics


2015 * 2014 * % Change

Organ Donors 321 267 22.22%

Organs Transplanted 914 816 12.01%

Organs Per Donor 2.85 3.06 -6.83%

Tissue Donors 1,456 1,581 -7.91%

Bone Donors ** 1,225 1,091 12.28%

Heart Valve Donors ** 141 178 -20.79%

Skin Donors ** 619 1,149 -46.13%

*Through Oct. 31

**Subset of Tissue Donors

Illinois Organ & Tissue Donor Registry


As of Oct. 31, 2015


in U.S.


in Illinois


in Indiana

The number of people waiting for

heart, liver, kidney, lung, pancreas

or small bowel transplants as of

Oct. 31, 2015.

* Based on data from the Organ Procurement and

Transplantation Network


Of adults (18 or older) in

Illinois are registered as

organ and tissue donors.


In 2014, more than 300

people registered for

transplants in Illinois died

while waiting.


An average of 22 people

die each day while waiting

for a transplant.


Every 10 minutes, a

new person is added to

the national transplant

waiting list.


One donor can save or

enhance the lives of

more than 25 people.

Make a Difference!




Connections - State of Donation




425 Spring Lake Drive

Itasca, IL 60143

To learn more

about organ and

tissue donation,



Team Illinois Rallies for 2016 Transplant Games of America

Gift of Hope hosted Team Illinois for a Nov. 8 kickoff event to rally the

group’s participation in the 2016 Transplant Games of America to be held

June 10 – 15 in Cleveland. The signature event of the team-building rally

was just that — a signature event — as Team Illinois members signed

the official flag of the 2016 TGA before it continued its trip across the

country to be signed by other participating teams. The flag will then return

to Cleveland where it will fly over the TGA’s main venue throughout the

six-day event. The flag-signing marks the official start of fundraising and

promotional efforts for the 2016 TGA. Visit to learn more

about Team Illinois and to learn more about

the 2016 TGA.

White Sox Recognize Gift of Hope at Summer Event

The Chicago White Sox recognized Gift of Hope and its ongoing work to

save and enhance lives through organ and tissue donation before and during

the team’s July 31 game against the New York Yankees at U.S. Cellular Field.

More than 100 members of Team Hope and their family members and friends

attended the summer outing and showed their purple pride by wearing something

“Gift of Hope purple” to the game. Gift of Hope President/CEO Kevin

Cmunt threw out the ceremonial first pitch, and several of the evening’s

honorees got a chance to go on the field before the game. The Sox took it on

the chin from the Yankees that evening, but Gift of Hope came out a winner

in its efforts to raise public awareness of the importance of being a registered

organ and tissue donor.

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