February 1st marks the beginning of Black History Month
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, African Americans make up approximately 12.2% of the U.S. population. Over 29,000 African Americans are waiting for an organ transplant; this is approximately 28% of the national waiting list. Which means that African Americans make up the largest group of minorities in need of an organ transplant.
ConnectLife is proud to share stories of donor families, living donors, transplant recipients, and donation champions curated by AMAT's African American Workgroup. These personal stories at the end of the day put a spotlight on the importance of organ, eye, and tissue donation and spreading awareness about those on the national transplant waiting list.
Heart Transplant Recipient: Angela Wallace
"It was May 2021, and my body began to feel different. I couldn't walk from my bedroom to my kitchen without feeling like I had just run a marathon,” says Angela, heart transplant recipient.
When Angela went to the doctor, it took them two weeks to find out about her failing heart. Doctors told her that her heart was operating at less than 20%. Only a few months later, she was declining and her heart was operating at 14%. She was too sick to go home from the hospital and was told she needed a heart transplant.
Angela was on the national transplant waiting list for four days before she got the call. They told her that they found her a heart!
Kidney Transplant Recipient: Karyn Frost
“I was on the list." For 20 years, Karyn had systemic lupus, resulting in end-stage renal disease. After four years of waiting, she received a kidney in March, 2022.
After 20 years of health challenges culminating in something positive, she is content, so at peace, and cannot believe she is still here. “To be able to not wake up for dialysis at 5:45 a.m. Monday morning is AH-mazing.”
Karyn understands that being on the waiting list is hard, and to those still waiting, she says, "Think positively. Talk to people when you're feeling down. Just don't give up."
She wants everybody who needs a kidney to get one. She is positive the reason why she received a kidney is to get the word out about organ donation.
Liver Transplant Recipient: Kenneth Parker
Kenneth does not wish on anyone the despair and hopelessness a person can feel who needs an organ transplant to live. The circumstances surrounding his ordeal seemed overwhelming. However, he kept his faith and remained close to his family and friends.
He did not know there was someone out there who had never met him, yet prepared to bless him with life in the event they lost theirs. Every day, he appreciates and honors the person who donated their liver to him. Kenneth’s family and friends are extremely appreciative as well. While he will never meet his donor in this life, he looks forward to thanking them many times over in the next.
Living Kidney Donor: Keith Gooch
Keith's father's life was saved by a heart transplant, which allowed Keith and his family many more years with their father. Years later, when Keith learned that his brother needed a kidney, he volunteered immediately to donate his own. Although Keith was not a match for his brother, but he persevered.
Keith participated in the UCLA program, The Chain, where you can Pay it Forward through donation. When Keith donated his kidney, his brother received a kidney from a different donor match. As both a family member of recipients and a living donor himself, Keith advocates passionately for awareness around the importance of becoming an organ donor.