A Tale of Hope By Sharon Lupo

I started having stomach pains when I was 46-years-old. I brushed it off as a case of too much pre-holiday indulgence. But the pain persisted, landing me in the local emergency room. Many tests, scans, and biopsies later, I was shocked to learn the source of my pain: an extremely rare type of liver cancer. This type of cancer affects the lining of the blood vessels within the liver and strikes only 200 to 300 Americans each year.

Because of the nature of this rare cancer, my entire liver was not affected, and therefore my MELD score – the criteria by which priority for liver transplantation is determined – was low. That meant I was unlikely to receive an organ from the national organ waitlist any time soon. Yet ironically, waiting meant that the cancer could spread beyond the liver, which would disqualify me from eligibility for transplantation.

Sharon Lupo

Sharon Lupo with her brother, Mark Miller

I knew that living donor transplantation was a potential option, but I did not ask anyone in my family to consider it. I remained on the extended criteria waitlist, all the while undergoing frequent scans and injections of chemotherapy. I also underwent lung surgery to remove several cancerous tumors during this time, completely unrelated tumors detected during one of my many PET scans.

After the third of the chemotherapy injections, my liver suddenly began to fail. I was in excruciating pain, I couldn’t eat, and I was losing weight.

My brother, Mark, called after learning of my situation. Having been out of touch with him for some time, I was utterly floored that he wanted to donate part of his liver.

The surgeries occurred in October.

“The first few days after the operation were the most difficult of the recovery,” Mark says; noting he was well enough to leave the hospital; only a month later, he was back to work.

Mark attributes the speed of his recovery to the fact that he was fully at peace with his decision to donate. To future donors, he advises preparing oneself both physically and psychologically for the surgery. Being mentally comfortable with the decision, he says, will make the surgery easier to undergo, and the recovery much smoother.

My recovery took longer, but today I am cancer-free, back at work, enjoying my family, and very grateful to be alive.

This taught me to live in the moment and enjoy every day. I am completely grateful to Mark for saving my life. It takes a really special, selfless person to do what he did.

Happy National Donate Life Month!

Hey everybody! Happy National Donate Life Month!

I have been running around in my pumps all month, and things are not slowing down! I am so excited to share with you all of the exciting things happening at NJ Sharing Network and in the state of NJ. Boy, have our staff and volunteers been busy spreading the word about organ and tissue donation. Here’s a quick taste of what April has been like so far:

Ms Pumps

Me and Mr. Pumps with the NJ Devil! What a night!

April 11th – NJ Sharing Network celebrated National Blue and Green Day at the NJ Devils Game! What a fun night that was. I was lucky enough to participate in this event along with Mr. Pumps! I even got to dance with the devil… The NJ Devils’ mascot, of course, hehe.

April 12th – We celebrated National Volunteer Week and the upcoming 5K at our 2nd Annual Volunteer Conference and 5K Kickoff! With over 200 people in attendance, the day was nothing short of inspiring and exciting. I think its is fair to say we are all PUMPED for what’s ahead! Are you interested in volunteering at the 5K? Email my friend Amanda over at NJ Sharing Network and she’ll give you more details. You could hang out with me all day, woo hoo! Bring your friends, family and coworkers for an amazing day. If you haven’t registered yet, visit www.NJSharingNetwork.org.

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Me with NJSN Volunteers at the annual conference! Congrats Dorothea (on the left) on your recent kidney transplant!

April 15th – Yesterday, the Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno came to visit us at our HQ. What an amazing lady! She could not have been more supportive of our mission and was truly moved by what we do each and every day.

April (all month long) – Special thanks to Raymond Martinez, chief administrator of the NJ Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC), for taking time out his busy schedule to celebrate National Donate Life Month with NJ Sharing Network and the MVC agencies around NJ. Chief Martinez is visiting every agency again this year to personally thank his team for encouraging customers to register as organ and tissue donors. AWESOME!!

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Chief Martinez visiting the Newark Motor Vehicle Agency. Shout out to Steve Sims (right), a NJSN Volunteer, for joining the Chief and thanking the MVC employees. Woo hoo!

Whew, there was a lot of sweat and tears that went into celebrating and planning these events. Shout out to all of NJ Sharing Network’s staff and volunteers for their hard work and dedication! You guys rock! BUT… April is not over yet! Donate Life Month is still in full swing and I encourage you to get up and out in your community and raise awareness for the nearly 5,000 people in NJ waiting for their second chance at life. Download your Resource Kit today and get going! And, always remember to rock your blue and green! You didn’t forget, did you? :)

 

Wish I could stay and chat, but duty calls! Man am I one busy lady! Don’t tell everybody, but I do make special appearances! If you would like to have me at a special event of yours to support organ and tissue donation and/or celebrate your 5K team, contact my agent, Eneida, and I’ll do my best to get there!

TTYL, XOXO

Ms. Pumps

PS: April is also Stress Awareness Month! Healthy habits can protect you from the harmful effects of stress. Here are 10 positive healthy habits from the American Heart Association that you may want to develop:

  1. Talk with family and friends more often.
  2. Engage in daily physical activity. 
  3. Accept the things you cannot change.
  4. Remember to laugh.
  5. Give up the bad habits.
  6. Slow down - plan ahead!
  7. Get enough sleep.
  8. Get organized. 
  9. Practice giving back – volunteer your time!
  10. Try not to worry.

A Tale of Hope By Edith Baker-Jackson

I was admitted into Newark Beth Israel Medical Center (NBIMC) on March 22, 2009 with a diagnosis of Congestive Heart Failure. I was later seen by a nephrologist and after a blood test the nephrologist informed me that my kidneys were functioning at 15%. On March 26, 2009 the surgeon inserted a catheter in my chest and later that day, I received my first dialysis treatment. I was diagnosed with End Stage Renal Failure (ESRD).

From March 23, 2009 until sometime in August 2009 I had a melting pot of emotions. From anger, confusion, to disappointment, but more so anger! This anger exposed itself in everything I did and said and in everyone I met. I had explained this to my nephrologist, during a monthly visit, that I hated dialysis and I didn’t think I could continue to do this every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

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Edith Baker-Jackson, kidney recipient and NJ Sharing Network Certified Volunteer Ambassador

When he heard this, he sent me to the Renal and Pancreas Transplant Unit at NBIMC. He thought I would be a good candidate for a transplant. One year later I was placed on the transplant list.

In January of 2011, during a routine mammogram, the results came back inconclusive. After a diagnostic mammogram and a sonogram, it was determined that I had NCIS which is Stage 0 breast cancer. I had to be inactivated on the transplant list in March 2011. After a partial mastectomy and radiation treatment due to breast cancer, I was re-activated on the transplant list in June 2011.

On Sunday, February 12, 2012 at 6:10 p.m., after I returned home from church, I received a phone call from the transplant staff at NBIMC. They said they might have a kidney for me. They gave me all the information they could about the donor. They told me not to eat a heavy dinner, stay near the phone and they would call me back in about 12 hours. Now after four phone calls, I thought this was not going to be the call I’ve been waiting for, so I wasn’t as excited as I was with the first two calls. On Monday, February 13, 2012 at 6:20 a.m., I received that final call asking, “How fast can you get to the hospital?” My response was, “As soon as I jump in the shower and throw on my clothes.” I got to the hospital at 7:30 a.m. and I went straight upstairs to the transplant inpatient floor (D-7). There, I was admitted and the doctor said I needed a dialysis treatment because I hadn’t had one since Saturday. At 9:30 a.m. I went to dialysis and at 2:00 p.m. I was being taken to the surgery holding room.  I actually got to see my kidney, which my daughter, Tracee, affectionately named “Kenny,” as the surgeon (Dr. Sungh) was cutting the fat away from the kidney.

I was told that the surgery would take 8 to 10 hours. Well, I was going in for surgery at 4:00 p.m. and when I woke up in the recovery room it was 8:15 p.m. The surgery and recovery only took 4 hours and 15 minutes.

I thank NBIMC Transplant Team (Doctors, Nurses and Coordinators), NJ Sharing Network, my daughter, Tracee and my family and friends and especially my donor (Unknown) and His family. May God bless all of you.

A Tale of Hope By Mark & Terry Meade

On June 4, 2008 Princeton Junction resident Mark Meade received the “gift of life”….a new heart from an anonymous donor.  At the time of the heart transplant, Mark was in end-stage congestive heart failure and was being kept alive on machines for four months at Hahneman University Hospital in Philadelphia. That amazing day when notified that there was a match after such a long wait was a mix of emotions. At that moment when our family was at our highest, another family was at their lowest. There are few words to say to the donor family…except thank you!  We send update letters and cards, however, there has been no communication back from them but we understand how painful this must be. We hope that one day they might be comfortable enough to want to make contact with us….we would welcome it! We honor the donor in everything we do…every day. Donors are our heroes!

Since the transplant we are committed to raising awareness of the critical need for organ and tissue donation and give back for our miracle.  We are trained and certified volunteers for NJ Sharing Network, Gift of Life Donor Program, Gift of Life Family House, American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, New York Organ Donor Program and sit on many of their Advisory Boards.  We speak on behalf of these organizations and give presentations on the transplant process from the perspective of recipient and caregiver.

Mark and Terry Meade spreading the life-saving message of organ and tissue donation at Newark Airport.

Mark and Terry Meade spreading the life-saving message of organ and tissue donation at Newark Liberty International Airport.

We will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary in May, 2015 and Mark is alive to see our three grandsons become fine young men and to continue to be a part of their lives. When his beloved NY Giants were in the 2008 Super Bowl (Mark has had season tickets for 49 years) he was desperately ill at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, NJ. Now almost six years post-heart transplant we were able to be volunteers for the Super Bowl XLVIII Host Committee and be part of history. We were volunteers at NJ Sharing Network’s Annual 5K Walk & USATF Certified Race last June and will be there again in 2014.

We know how lucky we are to have had this outcome, many others are not as fortunate.  Please sign your license to register as an  organ and tissue donor and encourage others to do so as well! Without our receiving the ultimate gift none of this would be possible for the Meade family!

A Tale of Hope by Jaime David de León

Jaime David de León’s reason for joining the NJ Sharing Network Foundation Board is simple: “I received a gift and I want to give back.”

His extraordinary story begins more than a decade ago, when laboratory tests discovered high levels of a protein in his blood that showed he was in renal failure. He began kidney dialysis and went on the transplant waiting list at Saint Barnabas Medical Center.  He remained on dialysis for four years.

JD de León (right) pictured with his living kidney donor, Ken Wenger.

JD de León (right) pictured with his living kidney donor, Ken Wenger.

But JD’s blood type put him at a disadvantage. He was a type O, which means he can only accept an organ from someone with this rare blood type. However, people with blood type O can be universal donors and, as a result, their blood is in high demand.

“It seemed everyone was getting a kidney except me,” he said.  His chances of finding a match were so slim doctors considered him for an experimental procedure that allows recipients to receive a non-compatible kidney. His wife, Theresa, came to the hospital to be tested as a possible non-compatible donor. But doctors quickly ruled her out because her blood pressure was too high. Despondent, she shared her story with a colleague at PNC Bank, where she works as a Vice President of Wealth Management.

The colleague was Ken Wenger, a Sr. Vice President. He soon offered his kidney. Theresa and JD were amazed by Ken’s generous offer. And it turns out that Wenger was a perfect match, a statistical improbability.

“Ken told me his brother was born with just one kidney,” JD recalls.  “He always expected that he would donate his kidney sometime in his life.” JD said Ken discussed the donation with his brother after his brother had just beaten him in a basketball game. “His brother said, ‘I beat you with one kidney. Go ahead and give your kidney to someone who needs it,” JD recalled.  Since the 2007 transplant JD has been healthy and wants to share the lifesaving message of organ and tissue donation. “It’s my way of saying thanks,” he said.

Happiest of Days!

Hi all, Ms. Pumps here!

Today is such a wonderful day for me – good thing you can’t see me as I am typing… I might get a little emotional! This day, February 14th, marks Valentine’s Day, my birthday, and most importantly, National Donor Day, where we celebrate all life-saving donors who have given organs, tissue, marrow, platelets, or blood. I hope you will take some time today to thank the donors who have touched your lives. They are the true meaning of a hero!

Valentine’s day is extra special for me this year, as I get to spend it with my one and only heart – Mr. Pumps. We are busy planning our small and romantic ceremony and as promised I have hired a photographer so I can share the photos with you. Stay tuned!

This year, I’ve asked my friends and family to make contributions to my 5K team in lieu of birthday gifts! BTW…I am part of Team NJ Sharing Network, in case you’d like to join our team… all are welcome! I can’t think of a better birthday gift or way to celebrate National Donor Day! I also think this is a wonderful idea for those of you who are looking for fun and creative ways to raise money for your teams. For more fun ideas on how to get involved in the 5K, make sure you check back often! AND if you haven’t registered yet, what are you waiting for?? Register today at www.NJSharingNetwork.org! While you’re there, check out the Team Captain HQ for fundraising tips and various 5K materials.  See you on the race route on June 8th!

Well everybody, it was great catching up… Time for me to throw on my dancing shoes and celebrate my birthday, Valentine’s Day and National Donor Day!

XOXO Stay Warm,

Ms. Pumps

Check out my birthday crown! Mr. Pumps and I were vacationing in Florida... as you can see NO SNOW!

Check out my birthday crown! Mr. Pumps and I were vacationing in Florida last week… as you might have guessed, we are tired of all the snow!

Up Close

“You can impress people at a distance, but you can impact them only up close.”-Howard Hendricks

Most of us work with people. I know, you must be saying, “Jay, please be a bit more deeper than that today.” Just think about it for a minute. We work with people. Not robots, not machines. People. People are not perfect. Just like you and I, they can be annoying, but they are not perfect. They make mistakes. So how can you influence someone and guide them in your day to day work or life? Can you do it from a distance? Not getting too close, just instructing from afar? Obviously, after reading the quote above you know the answer. You can only impact them up close.

 Is there someone in your life that you know you can help, influence, or guide, but you just haven’t been able to have a breakthrough with them? Maybe you are too far away. Maybe, just maybe, by you getting a bit closer, reaching out and offering your helping hand, you can be the biggest influence in that person’s life. It could be that your decision to look past the persons imperfections could result in lifting up someone that could be a shining star. When that happens, you have just contributed to the bigger picture of life.

Be encouraged,

Jay

JayArisso

Jay Arisso Jr., BSB, CGRS

Manager fo Family Services at NJ Sharing Network

Jay oversees NJ Sharing Network’s Family Services department and is Senior Pastor of La Iglesia de Hoy Church in Elizabeth, NJ.