Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Atlanta Liver Transplant Recipient Wins Silver Medal at 2008 U.S. Transplant Games

Two years after receiving two liver transplants, twenty-eight year old Lauren Donkar participated in the National Kidney Foundation’s 2008 U.S. Transplant Games in July in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Games are an Olympic-style event for athletes who have received life-saving organ transplants of every type – kidney, liver, heart, lung, pancreas and bone marrow. Transplant athletes compete for gold, silver and bronze medals in 12 different sports every two years. A first-time participant in the Games, Donkar won the silver medal in women’s tennis, and also competed in the 5K race.

“Going to the Transplant Games was an opportunity to meet other transplant families and hear their unique stories as well as compete in various sports,” said Lauren Donkar. “It was incredible to see the families participating in the Games because they had lost loved ones, and I felt very lucky to be able to compete this year.”

In addition to medaling at the Games, Donkar also won the opportunity to help build and ride on the Donate Life Float at next year’s Rose Bowl Parade. As part of pharmaceutical company, Astellas’s Ride of a Lifetime essay contest, Donkar and five other transplant recipients from across the country submitted 500-word essays on how their lives were transformed by transplantation. Astellas will sponsor the five winners to fly out to Los Angeles, Calif., to be members of the float building team and ride aboard the float in the Tournament of Roses Parade on Jan. 1, 2009. Donkar won for the Southeast region.

“I never thought I would actually win something like this just for telling my transplantation story,” said Donkar. “I was thrilled to participate in such an exclusive experience along with other transplant survivors.”

Donkar received her first liver transplant at Piedmont Hospital on Nov. 20, 2006, 10 days after giving birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl, Allie Marie Donkar at Northside Hospital. Donkar has complications with her pregnancy and with 24 hours of giving birth her kidneys failed and her liver ruptured in two places. She was placed on a breathing machine and induced into a coma. Three days later, Donkar was transferred to Piedmont Hospital’s intensive care unit to receive vital care of her failing liver and kidneys. Her Piedmont team consisted of a liver specialist, nephrologist and hematologist.

After extensive monitoring by liver specialist Raymond Rubin, M.D., Donkar was placed on the liver transplant list with a high Model for End-stage Liver Disease (MELD) score and received her first liver transplant on Nov. 20. Although the liver was not a perfect blood match, Donkar’s life was at risk, and she could not wait. A week later, the liver began deteriorating significantly and she was back on the transplant list. Fortunately she did not have to wait long and underwent her second liver transplant on Dec. 7.

“I didn’t know where I was or what had happened, but I did remember my baby,” Donkar said. “Everyone in my family raved about Piedmont and all the special attention and care I received when I was in a coma. Once I awoke, I appreciated it, too.”

“Anyone who has been affected by organ donation and transplantation—be they donor families, organ or tissue recipients, or health professionals—are inspired by the wonder of that ‘gift of life,’” said Mark W. Johnson, M.D., surgical director of liver transplant services at Piedmont Hospital. “Piedmont Hospital is a national leader in the field of transplantation. We are excited to support the U.S. Transplant Games, and are extremely proud of Donkar and our other recipients who have worked hard and compete in these games.”

To give back to those who saved her life and also promote the need for organ donation, Donkar and her husband will host their second annual golf tournament on Sept. 29 to support Piedmont’s transplant program and the Georgia Transplant Foundation. Last year’s tournament raised $20,000.

“Most of my medical expenses were covered by our insurance,” Donkar said. “However, we saw many families who were not as fortunate. We hope our efforts will help others who need financial assistance.”

For more information and to register or donate to the tournament, visit www.chippinginforlife.org. For more information about Transplant Services at Piedmont Hospital, visit www.piedmonttransplant.org.
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1 comment:

Dave said...

Your story about Lauren Donkar highlighted the tragic shortage of human organs for transplant operations.

Over half of the 99,000 Americans on the national transplant waiting list will die before they get a transplant. Most of these deaths are needless. Americans bury or cremate about 20,000 transplantable organs every year. Over 6,000 of our neighbors suffer and die needlessly every year as a result.

There is a simple way to put a big dent in the organ shortage -- give organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die.

Giving organs first to organ donors will convince more people to register as organ donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. People who aren't willing to share the gift of life should go to the back of the waiting list as long as there is a shortage of organs.

Anyone who wants to donate their organs to others who have agreed to donate theirs can join LifeSharers. LifeSharers is a non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other organ donors when they die. Membership is free at www.lifesharers.org or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88. There is no age limit, parents can enroll their minor children, and no one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition.