Jennifer Gordon- Team Ohio
As a kid, Jennifer Gordon would volunteer with her dad, Richard Gordon, at the Kidney Foundation of Northwest Ohio. He would take her to the dialysis center where she would help by keeping the place clean.
That experience would stay with her for the rest of her life and in 2008 she would take things to the next level by signing up to be a living donor.
“Volunteering at the Foundation was my dad’s passion,” said Jennifer. “I thought this was a great way to honor him.”
Jennifer was on the list for a year and a half before a match was finally found.
The recipient would be 66-year-old Bill Windmiller from Indiana. Bill was on the transplant list waiting for a kidney for four years and was down to his last weeks when he received the call.
As per the request of both Jennifer and Bill, they decided not to meet before the surgery. But on the morning of the procedure, as Jennifer was walking through the lobby of the Hospital, she was stopped by a woman who turned out to be Bill’s wife. They talked for a few minutes and went on their way. Just before
Jennifer and Bill were supposed to get prepped for the procedure, Jennifer met Bill and the rest of his family.
The surgery went great and Jennifer recovered fast and was out of the hospital in a day.
About two years after the surgery, Jennifer was at her home in Toledo, Ohio when she tripped on her couch breaking her leg. As she fell her head hit the hearth of the fireplace causing her to lose almost 90% of her vision.
Doctor’s estimated that Jennifer was lying on the floor for a day and a half before she regained consciousness. Once somewhat alert, she crawled to her bedroom and then to her bathroom were she was forced to drink toilet water with a shoe to stay hydrated.
She then made her way to her garage where she used a pole to open the garage and crawled to the end of her drive way. Unfortunately for Jennifer, it was Labor Day weekend and many of her neighbors were out of town. Four to six days after the accident, Jennifer was found and rushed to the hospital.
From day one, Jennifer refused to accept blindness and kept faith that she would recover her eyesight. Today, she has 50-60% of her sight but is still considered legally blind, able to see mostly out of her peripheral vision with some blind spots. She has begun to drive but only during the day and in familiar areas.
Jennifer, a retired police officer for the city of Toledo, said that having to ask for help was one of the most difficult things after being the person that others usually relied on for help.
Jennifer is now a personal trainer for senior citizens and has been training for the Transplant Games of America for the past few months. Her training consisted of riding a spin bike every morning and earlier this month, for the first time in two years, Jennifer rode an actual bike.
“I have to stay in my neighborhood since I am familiar with the area,” said Jennifer. “It is great to get back on an actual bike.”
Jennifer will be competing in the cycling competition and will participate in a number of other events throughout the weekend including the 5k, zumba classes, and health classes.
Jennifer has a passion for donating and volunteering and encourages people to donate blood and to sign up to be an organ donor.
Sherry Johnson - Team Michigan
Sherry Johnson of Team Michigan will be competing in this years Transplant Games of America
Ashton Arndt - Team Utah Idaho
Ashton Arndt doesn’t remember life without blood draws, taking medications every 12 hours and visits with doctors who feel like family. He received his liver transplant when he was just six months old. It’s as much a part of him as his easygoing personality and he shows no shame in being a transplant recipient. When he was in the second grade, he showed his liver transplant scar during show-and-tell. He even has some fun with it on occasion--when changing his shirt for his junior high gym class, a new classmate was in shock at the scar on Ashton’s stomach. Ashton sheepishly told him it was a shark bite.
Never one to think he’s special because he’s had a transplant, Ashton feels and acts just like any other kid. In fact, once people meet him they say he’s so…normal. Fourteen years after his liver transplant, Ashton is carrying on like so many other teenage boys: playing baseball, wakeboarding, running track and annoying his siblings whenever possible.
He knows his life is a gift and is continually grateful to his mom for her selfless sacrifice through living related organ donation and his skilled and caring medical professionals who saved him and continue to care for him.
Ashton’s true talent is being able to see the big picture--he has much to contribute and has a bright future through being a strong and healthy example of a well-adjusted transplant patient. This summer, just before competing in the Transplant Games, Ashton will spearhead a campaign to increase the number of bone marrow donors in his city. Having seen a neighbor child suffer through cancer and anticipate a bone marrow transplant, he wanted to do something to help. It’s his way of giving back and paying it forward--it’s just the way he rolls.
Ann Secrist - Donor Mom - Donor Family Liaison for Team Georgia
In 1996 my son, Clayton, died as a result of a severe brain injury from an automobile accident. About 30 years prior, my identical twin cousins were transplant recipient/donor in Kentucky. From that time I always read about transplantation and had the pleasure of experiencing two more times as an adult - a friend received double lung and a 16-year old received a heart.
When Clayton got his license he said to me, "I want to do this, don't I?" I asked him what he was talking about and he said, "be an organ donor." I told him it was his decision, not mine. He said, "Of course I do." These words were gifts as we made the decision to donate. It made no sense to us to lose Clayton and all his healthy organs/tissue if others could benefit.
Clayton's donation benefitted 43 people.
Mick Hart-Team Buffalo-Manager
Mick (Milton) Hart, the team manager for Team Buffalo, was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at the age of 8 and in today’s day and age, this is a late age to be diagnosed. Mick fought a hard upward battle his whole life, in and out of the hospital, undergoing treatments upon treatments. Mick met his wife Sara Hart in 1977 and they married in 1982 and have never looked back. On January 5, 1991 Mick's doctors told him his last chance was a double lung transplant and made arrangements for an evaluation at UPMC. Mick was immediately put on a "list" late March and the waiting game began. On April 1 they got the call that a set of lungs were available for Mick. The couple made the long and scary trip to Pitt and Mick received his "new" lungs on April 2, 1991.
Things were going great for the first three days and then preservation damage was discovered and he was put on an ECHMO machine until a new set of lungs could be found. A set came available April 16 and they decided to do a second transplant, even though at that time he was given a 4 percent survival rate. Now, 21 years later and Mick lives his life as no other man Sara knows. His favorite statement is “I had my transplant to live and to prove to the world, that transplantation does work.” Mick volunteers a few days a week with UNYTS, talks to school age children about the importance of transplantation, runs a transplant support group, bowls twice a week and golfs whenever the Buffalo weather allows. Mick has been attending the Games since he first was allowed to participate in 1992. He is an inspiration to all those who have been dealt the hand on needing a life-saving transplant of any kind. Sara considers her husband is her hero and inspiration to all transplant recipients.
-Story submitted by Sara Hart
“17 Years and Counting” – Larry Gabardi – Team Arkansas Athlete
In 1993 Larry was 55 years old, never been sick a day, still had his teeth and didn’t even wear glasses. Larry was a branch manager for a petroleum company and had caught a cold after working outdoors. He and his wife went to Monroe, LA for Christmas with his mother, sister and brother-in-law. On December 30th he was unable to go to sleep that night and had difficulty breathing. At 3:00 A.M. his mother checked on him to see what was wrong and got him to agree to go to the hospital. His brother-in-law took him and he remembers telling them that he had a cold and needed a shot. That was his last memory until he awoke in the Emergency Room. He was told he’d had a massive heart attack and congestive heart failure. He was taken to Little Rock by ambulance.
He arrived at Baptist Hospital on December 21, 1993 and was told that he needed a heart transplant at once and was placed on the waiting list that day.
On July 7, 1994, he received the call he’d been waiting for, they had a match and he received his new heart that day. July 7, 2011 marked the 17th year since he was given the Gift of Life. Larry is now 72 years old and has lived to see all his grandchildren graduate from high school and get married. He’s also lived to see his four great grandchildren born. Larry says he feels extremely blessed.
Larry has a saying, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery. I am alive and breathing air.”
“Mr. October” – Roger Chinn – Team Arkansas Athlete
Roger was born in the month of October and always participated in sports; playing football, baseball and running track. On October 10, 2001 after being diagnosed with glomerulonephritis, he received his life saving kidney from his wonderful, loving and caring wife Janis. In 2007, sadly his immunosuppressive system was too strong and his wife’s loving donation was failing. After 3 ½ years on dialysis and shortly after celebrating his 50th birthday he received a call from Dr. Scott Young of the Baptist Transplant Office in the early morning of October 29, 2009 that there was a possible match for him. Within 12 hours of the call, he was again touched by the Grace of God and received a kidney from a young person who was taken from this Earth much too soon. Roger grieves for this family daily and thanks them as well for making such a tremendous donation to save someone’s life.
Since 2004, Roger has competed in three Transplant Games. He has been fortunate to have medaled three times; each and every medal he’s won has been in gratitude for the loving donation from his wife and in remembrance of the family who made such a compassionate gift.