Organ donations give new life
Written by MARIE THOMAS BAIRD Sentinel Education Editor
Monday, 15 April 2013 09:38
Sept. 24, 2007 is a day of rebirth for Ashley Sheeks-Butler.
|Bo Butler (left) and his wife Ashley Sheeks-Butler. (Photo: Shane Hughes/Sentinel-Tribune)
That was the day she received a double lung transplant that saved her life.
That day "is definitely" burned into her memory.
Her family celebrates the anniversary of that date as Sheeks-Butler's "re-birthday."
The Bowling Green native had cystic fibrosis, a hereditary disease that causes the production of abnormally thick mucus leading to the blockage of the pancreatic ducts, intestines, and bronchi and often results in respiratory infection.
For Sheeks-Butler, it started when she was a kid and it was difficult for her to run and to do high-energy activities.
"I would end up coughing a lot," she recalled.
She would spend two weeks in the hospital, at least three or four times each year, because of her condition.
She will be among dozens of other survivors who take a seat in WTOL's Green Chair Wednesday.
This is her third year in the Green Chair, which is part of a 24-hour Donate Life sit-in. The chair symbolizes when it's empty the sadness from the loss of someone who was waiting for a transplant that never came. When someone is sitting in the chair, it showcases a transplant recipient's second chance of life.
She'll be in the chair from 10:30 to 11 p.m. Wednesday.
According to Kara Steele, director of community relations for Life Connections of Ohio's Toledo regional office, more than 117,000 people in the U.S. are on the list needing an organ transplant.
In Ohio, that number is 3,471.
More than 200 are currently waiting for a kidney transplant through the University of Toledo Medical Center, she said.
Life Connections facilitates organ donations and Steele works to raise awareness for the need for more donors.
Steele will kick off the sit-in on WTOL's 9:30 a.m. news segment.
She shared that her father received a liver transplant 15 years ago.
"I'm very grateful for that, and that's why I do what I do."
Sheeks-Butler shared her own harrowing experience leading up to the transplant.
A 2001 Bowling Green High School graduate, she was placed on the transplant list in 2002 after she contracted mono in college and went six months with a lung capacity of 30 percent.
But changes in how people's needs were judged moved her off the list in 2003 and actually got her name moved to the bottom of the transplant list.
In April 2007, her lungs collapsed and her health deteriorated.
Later that fall, her family was notified that donor lungs were available, and she was flown by air ambulance from Toledo to a hospital in Pittsburgh, but arrived too sick for the transplant.
But they went ahead with the procedure because "they were worried about me getting sicker before new lungs came in," Sheeks-Butler recalled.
There were no complications from the surgery, and she was told she had one of the quickest recoveries ever.
After earning two bachelor's degrees from Bowling Green State University, last fall she earned her master's degree from the University of Toledo's Human Donation Science Program.
Now she works at Midwest Eye-Banks in Ann Arbor, which recovers, evaluates and distributes human eye tissue for transplantation.
Sheeks-Butler enjoys "being part of the process of giving the gift like what was given to me."
The need for organ donations far exceeds the supply, Steele shared.
Every day, 18 people die for lack of a transplant. In the last 10 years, about 2,000 people in Ohio have passed away waiting for a transplant.
In 2012, Life Connections of Ohio coordinated the recovery of organs from 44 donors, providing 147 life-saving organ transplants.
One person can save up to eight lives through organ donation and enhance the lives of 50 more through tissue donation, Steele shared.
As for Sheeks-Butler, "I'm doing really well," she said about her life.
In fact, she celebrated her six-month wedding anniversary Thursday.
Her lung function is about 100 percent.
"I'm able to do so many things now that I wasn't able to do before."
Last Updated on Monday, 15 April 2013 10:05