Our team at ConnectLife is very excited to annouce our new series called "Share Your Heart." We are sharing inspiring donation and transplantation stories of local donor families, supporters, living donors, recipients, and more. Get inspired by these incredible stories.

Meet Stacy 

PART 1: Stacy reflects on the moment that changed her life forever. The year was 2010. One day on her commute into work she came upon a car accident. She leaped out of her car and tried to assist the young man she found in the smoking car. She tried her best to cover his face and provide him comfort until help arrived. When an ambulance finally came, she watched them take him away, and she continued onto work. The next day, she received a call from a man. He left her a voicemail that she still has to this day.
 
“He thanked me for helping his son,” says Stacy. “I followed his progress at the hospital as much as I could without intruding, one of my biggest regrets other than not being able to do more, was not going to the hospital to hold his hand one more time.”
 
After fighting for 2 weeks, this young man named Andrew sadly succumbed to his injures. During this incredibly difficult time, Andrew’s family decided to donated his heart valves to ConnectLife.
 
Since his passing, Stacy has grown close with the Gramza family. And Stacy has joined in the Gramza family's mission to spread awareness for blood and organ donation through multiple blood drives, raffles, events, etc.
 
"Andrew needed a few blood transfusions and if it wasn't for blood donors, that would not have been able to happen. Such a tragic event has turned into such an inspiring story of hope and help for a community," says Stacy.
 
 
PART 2: “Before Andrew’s accident, I donated blood maybe twice; I am sad to admit I didn't donate nearly as much as I should have. But 2010 changed my life. Now, nothing would stop me from helping in the mission to spread awareness for blood, tissue, organ, and birth tissue donation. My husband joined in the mission with me when we first started dating back in 2011, and I am happy to say in October of 2017 I gave birth to an O negative amazing little boy. I hope one day he can joins in our mission, too!” says Stacy.
 
 
PART 3: We asked Stacy, what she has learned about organ, eye, and tissue donation over the past 10 years and she said...
 
“Birth tissue donation is a thing! I was so shocked and excited about this when I found out and I was pregnant. I love telling people they can do this, they are shocked and that this type of donation would help a lot of people. Also I have learned and met so many amazing families, loved ones, and receipts of organ donations; their stories are amazing and warms my heart. It reminds me of the good people in this world and of the fight people do daily. Helps me not take so much for granted.”
 

Meet Courtney

 
 
PART 1: "I am one of seven children. I was brought up in West Seneca, NY. My brother Matthew was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of seven. He has been living with T1D for almost forty years. Eleven years ago, we found out that Matthew's kidney were shutting down. This is due to effects of T1D over the years. My brothers and sisters and I were all tested."
 
"I was the first to be tested at Buffalo General Hospital the Monday after Thanksgiving. My other siblings were going later that week. I received a call the very next day stating I was a perfect match. When you get tested they base it on a scale of 1 to 6. 6 being a perfect match. The higher the number the less chance of rejection. I was told they normally wait for all of us to be tested before giving results, but because I was a perfect match they wanted to let me know. I was at work when they called and screamed out loud, 'I'm a match, I'm a match.'"
 
"I immediately called Matthew right away and told him. We were both crying. It was one of the best days of my life. So many people are on the waiting list for a kidney, and here we were a perfect match. I can't put into words how blessed and thankful I was at that moment," says Courtney.
 
 
 
PART 2: Courtney talks about her decision to donate her kidney to her brother, Matthew.

"After receiving the rest of the results from my other siblings (3 came in at 4 and one was 1), I decided to donate my kidney to my brother. I would do anything to save his life. There was no thought in my mind that I wouldn't do it. Matthew is a wonderful husband, father, brother, and friend. He would do anything for his family. He is hard working and will help you when you need it."

"Once the decision was made we began the process. The transplant was scheduled for February 4, 2010. I had to go through many different tests. The team at Buffalo General Hospital was wonderful. I couldn't have asked for better support or process of this transplant. Some of the tests/processes that I had to do before we could do the transplant were: stress test, angiogram, blood work every week until the transplant, collection of urine of 48 hours (twice), meeting with psychiatrists to make sure I understood the process of giving an organ and that I wasn't be pressured to do it."

"On Thursday, February 4th, 2010, I was able to donate my kidney to my brother Matthew. Immediately after the donation he was feeling better and his coloring in his face had come back. Fast forward to today, Matthew is doing very well and now has a 4-year-old daughter Norah, who is the love of his life." says Courtney.
 
 
PART 3: "Since my kidney donation, I have realized how important it is to donate blood and be an organ donor. I had no idea at the time of what it takes to give a kidney, but I would do it again in a heartbeat. After the transplant I started donating whole blood, double reds, and plasma on a regular basis. There are so many people in need, and it's so easy to do. One donation of blood saves three peoples' lives.

I participate in the Donate Life walk every year. I received a few years ago an award for being a "living donor." ConnectLife is a wonderful organization. I am always greeted with a smile and thanked when I go to donate blood. I have had nothing but wonderful experience with ConnectLife," says Courtney.
 

Meet Matt

First, we shared Courtney's side of the story. Now, it's Matt's turn.

PART 1: "I would read about people who had transplants on the internet and I would see on TV shows about certain transplants but I never knew what was involved to become a donor or to receive an organ," says Matt.

"When I told my family that I would need a transplant, I was most worried about my wife, Meagan, and my mother. It is not fair that my beautiful wife had to go through this, and I can't imagine what was going through her head at that time and how she was going to deal with it. As always, she was a warrior through and through! She was up to date on everything that was involved, did her research and asked hundreds of questions! She wanted to make sure she knew everything and anything about the surgery and what was involved. She had a binder that was filled with notes and questions. She was my rock and still is to this day."

"My mother had gone through a lot in her life, too much, and the thought of her having to deal with something like this, broke my heart. I tried to be strong for my family as much as I could. I did my best to not let anyone see my personal fear or sadness that I was experiencing since I knew they didn't need to see that. I assembled my brothers and sisters at my mother's house and gave them the news and asked if any one of them would be willing to get tested to see if they were a match. Of course, like any strong family, all of them went to get tested and were willing to give me a kidney," says Matt.

PART 2: "My oldest sister, Courtney came back as a perfect match. I was working at the time when she called me to tell me. I could hear the absolute joy in her voice when she told me. I will be forever grateful to her for giving me her kidney as well as my other family members who didn't think twice about helping me out," says Matt.

"My journey like everyone else, involved many tests to see if I was able to receive a donation. This involved many trips to the hospital where blood would be taken. I remember my wife seeing the number of vials that were taken in one sitting and she couldn't believe the amount of vials of blood that were taken. I told her that each vial is not really that much blood but that can be hard to convince your loved one when she sees 29 vials of her husband's blood in one shot!"

"The day of the transplant was like any typical February morning-cold and dreary, but I was excited to get this going but definitely afraid since this was MAJOR surgery. My wife and I were married for 3 years at this point and we had plans for our future. What if something went wrong? I wasn't ready for that to happen. I remember my Aunt Ann coming in before surgery and saying a prayer with me and knowing that my father, who had passed many years ago, would be with me throughout the surgery. I felt totally comfortable with my doctors that were going to perform the surgery, and I was very relaxed right before going in. The main surgeon spoke with me, and he seemed so relaxed and confident that it put me at ease instantly. I remember waking up after it was all done and seeing 2 nurses who had a big smile on their face and asked if I was okay and how I was feeling. Doctors and nurses come in every day and do their job at the highest level, but there is no prerequisite that it has to be done with a warm smile and kind heart. They offered that to me and my family every day I was there before the surgery, during the surgery, after the surgery and every day since," says Matt.

PART 3: "The biggest difference between pre- and post-transplant is my overall energy. Before the transplant, it was a huge struggle to get through the day. I would be exhausted by noon every single day and would have to fight in order to stay up and keep going. My skin was a terrible gray looking color, and I found it difficult just to get out of bed some days. After the transplant, my color and energy came back and I felt 20 years younger!" says Matt.

"It has been 10 years since I've had my transplant and I am happy to say that my sister's kidney is doing great for me! I will never be able to express how thankful I am to my sister for giving me this gift because that is exactly what it is - a gift of life. My wife, Meagan deserves so much credit for not only my recovery but for the strength and love she offered to me and my family even before the surgery. For those people that are thinking about donating life, my words of wisdom would be to do your research beforehand. Make sure you understand the importance of giving life."

"Please talk to your family and if given the chance, talk to people who have already donated an organ. It is very rare to save someone's life and even more rare to save a complete stranger's life. In the end, I can guarantee that you will never find anything more rewarding," says Matt.