All Stories

Becky Lenz – Double Lung Recipient & Sister of Liver Recipient

My transplant experience really begins nearly 18 years ago when my oldest sister, Diane, underwent a liver transplant.  She was very near death but, by the grace of God, a donor was found just in time. I had not signed my donor card prior to her transplant because I couldn’t stand the thought of being ‘cut up’ after death.  I realized, however, that when you die, your spirit moves on to greener pastures so your physical being can then become a second chance at life for someone else.

I just can’t imagine if my sister had died that day…there is so much she would have missed – her children growing into adulthood and seeing her three beautiful grandchildren topping the list. There is so much I would have missed out on from just having her in my life for those extra seventeen years. Sadly, my sister died in February of 2011. One month later, on March 25th, 2011 I, too, received the gift of life through transplantation.

I was diagnosed with Ideopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis in 2005, just after my 40th birthday. I began therapy to try to stop the forward progression of the disease and for nearly six years was able to keep it at bay. The day my pulmonolgist introduced my husband and I to the transplant specialist, he told us that a transplant was not as far away as we thought.

That was in October of 2010. I put the thought on a back-burner because, although I was on oxygen full-time, I was still working and was able to go about my daily life but maybe a bit slower than normal. By January I was finding it very difficult to work and applied for disability. I also scheduled my pre-transplant evaluation which took place the week of February 8, 2011. My sister became ill around that time and was hospitalized. She never came home. She ultimately died of respiratory failure on February 18th with me and other family members at her side. While she was in the hospital, she was so worried about me that she called me nearly every day against doctor’s orders (she was not supposed to remove her oxygen mask or try to talk). I was put on the transplant list on the transplant list later that month.

After just 27 days, I got the call that would change our lives forever: We’ve found you a donor. After telling our children and my Mom, my husband rushed me to Jewish Hospital. It was much like rushing to the hospital to have a baby…both signaled the beginning of a life.  Unfortunately, one of them also signaled the end of a life. We knew my donor was a young woman from Kansas.  My daughter-in-law and step-daughter did some research and discovered that a young man and woman, just 20 years old, were killed in a car accident the day before.  I’m not sure that she was my donor, but I have thought of her as just that since the surgery.

A letter I sent to her family via KODA was returned because the family had moved and left no forwarding address.  I told them how much their selflessness means to my family and me. Out of their tremendous loss also came tremendous joy.

Because of their generosity, I get to see my kids grow to adulthood. My son graduate high school and begin college. My youngest daughter turn Sweet Sixteen. My oldest daughter earn her Master’s Degree in education. And finally, my other daughter be a mother to her own sweet son, my precious grandson. Without my donor family, none of this would be possible.

What would you do to save a life? It’s as simple as saying “YES” and joining the Registry when you renew your license.  Or maybe, the life saved will be your own; or your mother’s; or sister’s; or child’s. If that young woman from Kansas had not been an organ donor, I would not be writing this to you today. Please join the Kentucky Organ Donor Registry today.