Fourth Quarter 2015
A Newsletter for Gift of Hope’s Partners and Friends
A Celebration of Hope
Lifesaving Partners Awards
Laura Barajas Waits
Alternate type treatment for smaller usage
J. Kevin Cmunt
IN THIS ISSUE
Director of Communications
Gift of Hope honored 17 dedicated people,
hospitals and health systems with Lifesaving
Partners Awards at a special recognition
ceremony on Oct. 9.
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
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.
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 GiftofHope.org. We mail
Connections to people who have expressed an interest in Gift of Hope or the topic of organ and tissue donation. If you
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Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.
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
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
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
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
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 GiftofHope.org. 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
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 GiftofHope.org 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
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
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 illinoistransplantfund.org or call 630/433-3900 to learn
more about ITF and the application process.
Connections - Donation News
NIKKI’S GIFT: A LASTING LEGACY
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
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
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, 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
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 GiftofHope.org
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
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
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
“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
HOSPITAL PERFORMANCE METRICS*
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.
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
HOSPITAL PERFORMANCE METRICS
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
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
STATE OF DONATION
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
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
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
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
One donor can save or
enhance the lives of
more than 25 people.
Make a Difference!
REGISTER TO BE
AN ORGAN AND
Connections - State of Donation
425 Spring Lake Drive
Itasca, IL 60143
To learn more
about organ and
ADDRESS CORRECTION REQUESTED
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 Goteamillinois.org to learn more
about Team Illinois and Transplantgamesofamerica.org 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.