My Gift, My Hero

“How do you thank somebody who has saved your life?”

It is a question often contemplated among organ donor recipients.

Many recipients devote their lives to giving back and taking care of their health. Some reach out to the donor family.

While others proudly (and bravely) share their stories, experiences, feelings and even fears as a transplant recipient with their communities to bring about awareness and to honor the individuals and families who made the decision to give the gift of life.

That’s just what members of our Transplant Living Community (TLC) Group at Henry Ford Hospital did recently in the above video shared at our annual Donor Memorial Ceremony which honors the families of organ donors.

TLC is a community comprised of transplant recipients and families who have known and experienced the tribulations of living with life-threatening illness prior to transplant, and have experienced success in the healing period that follows. Their experiences, reflections, and practical tips are helpful and comforting to those just beginning the transplant process.

The group also encourages recipients to make health their No. 1 priority. Something that, frankly, we could all learn from. Continue reading

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Waiting to Live Campaign

Did you know that roughly one-third of the more than 3,000 Michigan residents waiting for organ transplants live in Wayne County, yet only 25 percent of the county’s adults are registered organ, tissue and eye donors?

(By comparison, more than 37 percent of adults statewide and about 43 percent nationally are registered as donors.)

That’s a tremendous gap, one that our partner in organ donation, Gift of Life Michigan, hopes to close through its new ad campaign, “Waiting to Live – Wayne County.”

The campaign features five Wayne County residents – two of whom are Henry Ford Transplant Institute patients – all waiting for life-saving organ transplants.

Henry Ford Hospital has pledged our support to this campaign and our community by asking residents to consider adding their names to the Michigan Organ Donor Registry, a confidential database of people who want to give the gift of life.

I should also note that the Henry Ford Transplant Institute has joined Gift of Life Michigan, the Michigan Eye-Bank, the Michigan Health & Hospital Association and the Donate Life Coalition of Michigan to add one million names to the Michigan organ donor registry too.

As I’ve said before, transplantation of human organs is one of the great accomplishments of modern medical science.

Although still requiring lifelong care with medications and oversight, the transformation of patients, from failing organs to full of life, is truly remarkable. Continue reading

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Perfect Match

At Henry Ford, we stress the importance of our employees treating patients like family.

But this week, I heard a story about two Henry Ford Hospital employees that reminded me of the equal importance of treating our colleagues as such.

Kim Alexander and Erika Bomar

And these amazing women not only treat each other like family, but will do anything – and I mean anything – to support each other.

After working together for five years in the Neuroscience Department at Henry Ford Hospital, Kim Alexander and Erika Bomar are both friends and colleagues.

When Erika’s husband, Damon, was diagnosed with kidney failure in January 2010, the Neuroscience team gave Erika immense amounts of prayers, love and support; Kim took it one step further.

Kim was tested to learn her blood type and found that she was a match for Damon, Erika’s husband of 16 years.

Without hesitation, Kim decided to donate her kidney, the ultimate gift of life

But the giving doesn’t end there.

After hearing about Kim’s decision, our Neuroscience team and several other departments rallied behind the two women, and donated more than 300 hours of their vacation time to the pair, so they would have enough time to recover and care for loved ones.

Continue reading

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Tragedies and Miracles In Medicine

Years ago, our head of trauma surgery developed explosive hepatitis. As a result, he developed failure of his liver and required a liver transplant. 

This was before we had a liver transplantation program at Henry Ford Hospital. 

One of the surgeon’s best friends ran one of the most successful transplantation programs in the country at a large Midwestern university. He was accepted there for urgent consideration of liver transplantation. 

We stabilized him in our medical intensive care unit and prepped him to be flown by aircraft to the center. 

As he was wheeled out of the ICU, I stopped the gurney and took his hand in mine.  I said, “I’ll see you when you get back.” 

Even with jaundiced eyes, his gaze pierced through me. “We’ll see,” he said. 

He died within a few days. No organs were available.

Flash forward a few years.  Continue reading

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