About Revive Hope

  • Revive Hope's focus is to revive hope by creating inspiration. This blog will have postings of inspiring stories about individuals directly affected by organ and tissue donation, provide information about organ and tissue donation, and inspire those who view the site to give hope through compassion!

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WTMX Chicago Radio - National Organ & Tissue Donation Awareness Month Interview!

Posted on April 10, 2013 by Steve Ferkau


Last Sunday, April 7th, I was interviewed with Allison Smith, Vice President of Operations at Gift of Hope, to speak about organ donation and National Organ & Tissue Donation Awareness week. Her are links to the podcast of our interview. The podcast is titled: Podcast: 04/08/13 – With new lungs and a kidney, Chicagoan Steve Ferkau jokes that he’s slowly becoming a girl from Iowa. Eternally grateful, Steve makes a great case for all of us to become organ and tissue donors.


Quite a long title! The podcast is around 25 minutes long – but I think it’s quite a nice interview.

To link directly to the podcast, click here…

To link to the WTMX podcast page where this interview is located, click here…



Each week, 101.9fm The MIX presents special Public Affairs programming to address the issues and concerns facing the people of Chicago and its surrounding communities. Our locally-produced "MIX Matters", hosted by Susan Wiencek, features Chicago-area officials and experts discussing the issues that affect our community. We encourage you to tune in every Sunday morning between 6:30AM and 7:30AM.

"MIX Matters" with Susan Wiencek

Sundays at 6:30am

April is National Donate Life Month so if you haven't signed up to be an organ and tissue donor, now would be a good time. And if you're not sure, our guests today might put you over the top. Allison Smith is Vice President of Operations for the Gift of Hope Organ and Tissue Donor Network, and Steve Ferkau is an organ donor recipient, twice over. He jokes that he's slowly being rebuilt into a girl from Iowa but takes very seriously the life-saving gifts of organ donation that he's received.

Thirteen Years...

Posted on April 07, 2013 by Steve Ferkau

April 7, 2013

Dear Kari…

13 years ago today, you passed away – 13 years ago tomorrow you saved my life. You wore #13 on your uniform and now I see 13 everywhere… And whenever I see the number 13, my heart feels warm – it seems like my whole life now revolves around 13. But, it really revolves around you.

I never imagined breathing, and life, could be this amazing, Kari. You are on my mind always – so is your family. I’d rather you were here, but thank you for what you’ve given me.

It appears that the gift #7 gave me is going to keep #13 wrapped around my heart for a good while longer. And one of #7’s parents is bringing this to you for me.

Love, Lungs & Laura

Thirteen years ago tomorrow, a little after noon, I got a telephone call. By 9:00pm, thirteen years ago tomorrow, I would be under anesthesia and, six hours later a gift would be sewn in place - and the rest of my life would be more amazing than I'd ever dreamed possible. Thirteen years ago today, a family in Iowa lost a daughter and sister. Over the next few years - and still - in my heart that girl would become the most beautiful person who ever lived.

In my email exchanges with Kari's mom, she made it very clear to me that they want nothing more than for me to love and live my life. She made it clear that they never want me to feel guilty about their loss. In the weeks after we first met Kari's family and we learned a little more about one another, the word she used to describe the situation was "bittersweet"... I think they saw the impact that they, and Kari had on my life - but I know it also fanned the embers of losing her - I'm unsure those ever cool completely... I've met dozens of donor families - and I've heard this echoed by so many...

These next few days are always a celebration for me - as these days are for many of us transplant recipients - some of us call it our re-birthday, or a new birthday... I feel it's more special than my birthday ever was... But, as Kari's mom so appropriately put it - it's bittersweet... Knowing Kari through them, and through so many of her friends who I now adore, their loss has become my loss too. My loss will never hold a candle to theirs - yet it still hurts...

I'd lived an amazing life with my crappy, old cystic fibrosis lungs. I'd had so many things that many young CF patients never have -too many of us die before we ever have the chance... I had a wonderful childhood with an amazing, supportive family. I developed a nice career path. I fell in love with, and married an incredibly beautiful girl - she's still as beautiful today, and she's still with me... Yet, back then I was always exhausted. And I did struggle - but I didn't know anything else, so that was oddly OK.  And I was afraid - sometimes a lot afraid. Thirteen years ago, tomorrow, all of that changed. I never imagined breathing could feel like this... I never knew breathing could feel this wonderful and be this easy... I never knew life could be this easy.

I know that Kari did not die because I needed lungs... But, when she died, I lived because of who Kari was. I lived because of the values instilled in Kari by her family - the values they shared with her... I lived because of the actions they took as they lost her...

The note above is on the flowers that a friend placed on Kari's grave, so that they would be there today and tomorrow... Everything good that I have now, is because of Kari and her family. I always know that - even while it's happening.


Please take a moment to think about Kari, and all of the Kari's in the world - and all of their families. Beyond the month that Kari gave me life - April is National Organ & Tissue Donation Awareness month - think about your ability to do this for someone else and register your decision...

Life & Death

Posted on April 05, 2013 by Jenn Amendt Eickman

Hello friends! It's been such a long time since I've posted with Revive Hope, but Donate Life Month feels like the perfect time to return to the family I hold so dear.

A few months ago a friend sent me the video below. I wanted to post it on my own blog, Chara, but I decided to sit on it. I thought it would be a perfect post for the month of April, and even more fitting for Revive Hope. {Thankfully Ted welcomed me back after a 3 year hiatus}

The song below is arranged by a man named Paul Cardall. You may recognize the song from the TV series Lost. Paul arranged this piece after receiving a life-saving heart transplant. Here's a short excerpt below from Mr. Cardall's YouTube page.

"{Uploaded on Mar 17, 2011 } Most of you know that last year I received a second chance at life after a donor heart was placed in my chest. Ironically, my younger brother passed away while I waited for the transplant surgery. He was unable to donate his organs. (The video contains actual footage from the day mom brought our baby brother home).

Today, beating in my chest is the heart of another young man who like my brother has gone home to the God who gave us life.

The best way I know how to express the raw deep emotions I've experienced is through the piano music I create.

Life and Death was originally written by Michael Giacchino for the show LOST. I fell in love with the piece and it speaks peace to my soul. Together with Steven Sharp Nelson and Marshall McDonald I arranged "Life and Death" for my latest album, New Life." 


I've listened to this song more than twenty times since my dear friend sent it to me. I've downloaded the sheet music, and play it numerous times a week. Music is a second language to me. It speaks to my soul. It whispers the grandest stories. It makes me want to dance and it moves me to tears. It is my love language. Without music, I would be lost.

This song, Life & Death, speaks to me. It is so simple, but yet the message it tells, is such a beautiful one. There is an enormous sense of emotion. Love. Pain. Sorrow. Grief. Hope. Joy. Triumph.

I've sobbed while both listening and playing this piece. I can't help but to think of our beautiful friend Kari, or the man she saved. I can't help but to think of how precious this life is. How much I take for granted, and how truly blessed I am. I can't help but to think of the beauty that is in both life and death.

Love and peace to you all!


This song is available on Itunes or where-ever fine music is sold.

Happy Birthday Kari!

Posted on March 07, 2013 by Steve Ferkau

Kari being Kari lg

Today my beautiful lungs turn 30… Kari would have been 30 today.

I wonder who she would have become, and what she would have been like… If I judge by the people who surrounded her – people who surround me now – I think she too would have been pretty amazing.

Every year since I’ve known of Kari – Laura and I have flowers placed on her grave in Algona, Iowa… This year I had a little scramble because the flower shop I always use was destroyed by fire last April – a few of the girl’s moms offered to place our flowers for us.

I think it’s kinda beautiful that my kidney’s mom placed our flowers on Kari’s grave. Alex’s mom offered, and I took her up on it… Tessa’s mom offered too. I know I would have had no shortage of people willing to do this for us. Alex’s mom placed an arrangement with 13 roses and a card – my card read:

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Happy Birthday Kari!!!

I was with #15, #12, #9, #8, #7, #4 & #2 last weekend!!! And the kidney your buddy #7 gave me is just amazing – I think that last May, my lungs reached down and gave their friend’s kidney a hug. I wonder how much longer I’ll be breathing with the gift you gave me because of Alex… I don’t think I noticed how much my failing kidneys were hampering me. With your beautiful lungs and Alex’s beautiful kidney, I can climb 100 floors every day – with ease…

It was an amazing weekend – I wish you were here with them – but I guess, in a little way, you were. I barely get to see them because it’s just too hectic – but I know it’s more important that they see one another. They’re here to celebrate and remember you, and climb with me. I think it’s beautiful that, after almost 13 years, you are still getting them together.

I never knew you and I miss you… Happy Birthday… My beautiful lungs are 30 today – I never imagined life could be this good. Thank you.

Love, Lungs & Laura


What it's all about...

Posted on March 04, 2013 by Steve Ferkau


This is Laura… She generally doesn’t like pictures of herself being bandied about on the interwebs – but this is a special occasion, so I’m hoping I won’t get smacked…

When we met – around 27 years ago – I was kinda head-over-heels for her. She thought I was a bit of an idiot. I’ve always been strong with first impressions! I gradually won her over. I often talk about a little discussion we had, when we started dating in earnest. She already knew about my cystic fibrosis – but I explained it a little more deeply. I told her that the likelihood of me living another 10 years was VERY slim – I was already well on the outside of life expectancy for a CF patient at the time (though I know those are only numbers…)

When that 10 year limit I placed on myself started rolling around – I actually was in kinda deep stuff. I wasn’t far from fulfilling my projection.

A beautiful girl from Iowa changed all that.

We waited for lungs for nearly three years before Kari saved my life. It wasn’t easy – I think especially for Laura. As patients, sometimes we’re only dying – but the people who love us are watching us, and feeling that there is nothing they can do about it. But they are there – and sometimes that’s more than they’ll ever know. I went to sleep every night asking to survive this and, knowing that Laura has watched me go downhill for 10 years – I wanted just one good year with her – so that she didn’t have to watch me get to my very worst, then leave her… Since I’ve known Laura – she’s always been the reason I’ve wanted to keep living.

Thirteen years ago, next month, Kari and her family saved my life. I think of Kari throughout the day, every single day. I love her family and I adore her friends. I’ve nurtured so many relationships in Organ Procurement Organizations, especially Gift of Hope and Iowa Donor Network, as well as other organ donation and transplant organizations.  I get to show them what they do for people like me.  I’ve been able to thank my doctors, and so many others in the medical field, who struggle to keep people like me alive.   I’ve met so many donor family members – and I try to show them what they’ve done for someone like me…

As if all this is not enough – the last few years my kidneys started to fail… They were compromised before I got my lungs, and the immunosuppressive drugs, and other drugs gradually destroyed them… I was again contemplating the possibility of losing Laura and everything Kari gave me, and leaving this planet. Then, several people offered to be tested to give me a kidney – and one of Kari’s friends, Alex, gave me one of her kidneys last May. Now, two beautiful girls from Iowa changed the course of my life.

I've run 5Ks.  I leap tall buildings – I participate in stair climbs in 100 floor buildings!!! I go to work every day – I participate in life, maybe with a little more gusto than some – and I’m not in a perpetual state of exhaustion like I was…  I live life in a way I'd never dreamed possible.  These are amazing gifts I’ve been given. And of all of the gifts I’ve been given, the most precious gift is more time with my princess.

Though she usually begs to differ – in my mind and in my heart, she’s more beautiful than when I fell in love with her 27 years ago… Seriously – look at the picture above – how could you not fall head-over-heels for that??? (And that’s a recent picture!) Laura often jokes that I promised her 10 years and we should have been her “starter marriage” – or that she should be on her second, wealthy, good-looking husband by now! But I know she’s joking. I think she’s joking!

This is what organ donation does for people. This is the gift that you might give to someone when you leave this planet – or maybe, you might decide to help someone before you leave this planet… Kari and her family have allowed me to reach my 24th wedding anniversary with Laura when I doubted whether I’d reach my 10th. Alex has allowed me to continue my life with Laura…

Can you imagine giving someone 13 more years with their wife or husband?  Giving someone 13 more years with their children?  Or giving a child 13 more years to experience life with their mom & dad?  Don't just imagine - do it - take some action - tell your family how you feel about organ and tissue donation, and register in your state’s registry. Extra time is what it’s all about…


Kari's Klimbers - Hustle up the Hancock 2013

Posted on February 20, 2013 by Steve Ferkau


It’s that time again – this is my 11th climb – this is my team’s 10th climb. We’re taking the stairs 94 floors, 1,632 steps, to the top of the John Hancock Center in Chicago for the Respiratory Health Association in the Hustle up the Hancock!!! It’s an awesome adventure – some might think even a little crazy – but I do it to honor and remember a beautiful girl from Iowa named Kari. I breathe with Kari’s lungs. My team is Kari’s Klimbers.

This year I have another reason to continue this goofy stuff – another person to honor… Last May, one of Kari’s friends, neighbors and volleyball teammates gave me one of her kidneys. Kari has given me so many more amazing years to stay with Laura, and my family and friends. Last May, Alex added to those years.

Here is my annual Hustle letter that I sent out this year:

It’s time to take the stairs 94 floors to the top of the John Hancock again!!! Last year was quite special – it was my 10th climb. And, among the 150 people on my Kari’s Klimbers team, there were also more than 30 people with me who Kari knew, and grew up with – including Kari’s Mom & Godmother, and Sister & Cousin…

It’s within the realm of possibility that last year may have been my last climb – I was in kidney failure. After 12 years with Kari’s beautiful lungs, the drugs I take to keep her gift destroyed my kidneys. I would have likely been on dialysis by May, June or July and likely unable to climb in this year. But I’m not. I’m climbing. Because on May 8th, one of Kari’s friends – Alex – gave me one of her kidneys. It seems I'm slowly being rebuilt into a girl from Iowa.

GirlsOnKari'sFloorSunday, February 24th will be my 11th climb, the 10th climb for my team - I've got 120 people climbing with me, including a dozen people Kari grew up with... #15, #12, #8, #7, #4 & #2 will be in the stairwells with me - Kari was a star middle-hitter on her Algona High School volleyball team - she wore #13 - her teammates will be in the stairwells with me (including #7, Alex, the original owner of my new kidney...) They're coming out from Iowa, Minnesota, Kentucky and Illinois to help me honor their friend and my hero... Can you imagine how I feel when I'm surrounded by people who loved Kari? Surrounded by people who Kari loved??? They're good people - and they give me a glimpse of who Kari would have become...

Kari SchoolI do this to tell people about Kari, and about her goodness, and about the goodness of organ donation - and we also do this for the Respiratory Health Association... They fund research in lung disease - they help people stop smoking - their work helps everyone breathe cleaner air... They help people breathe easier. I know what it's like to breathe with diseased lungs - and now I know what it's like to breathe with the most beautiful lungs in the world. One of RHAMC's mottos has been, "If you can't breathe, nothing else matters..." I lived through that motto, and know too many people living it now. The RHAMC and all of these people who climb with me help people breathe. We have a very special mission...

I know these are not the best of financial times for many of us... If you have a few bucks burning a hole in your pocket, I or anyone on my team would be honored to receive a pledge... But more than anything, I'd love it if you would check out my little website and read about the beautiful girl whose lungs I breathe with, as well as the beautiful girl who gave me her kidney - and the people who surrounded them, and surround me now - and have allowed me to leap tall buildings...

To see my Hustle page or pledge me, click here...
To see my website about Kari, go to www.ClimbingForKari.org
To find someone on my full Kari's Klimbers team, click here...

These climbs have meant so much to me... Being surrounded by people who knew and loved Kari, and by people who know and love me, is something that defies description...and the support I've received from people like you has allowed me to tell so many people about Kari... In the past 11 years, our team has raised well over a quarter million dollars - because of people like you... Thank you... I get to do a fair amount of public speaking and, often enough, when I walk into a room, more than one person pulls me aside and says, "you're the one who climbs a hundred stories with your new lungs, and with your donor's friends!!!" And, often enough, they already know Kari's beautiful smile... I am that guy, and I'm proud of that - and more than anything, I want them to know her smile. I will have had her beautiful lungs for 13 years in April - and her friends beautiful kidney for a year in May - and they have and will allow me to do more than I'd ever dreamed possible...

And finally, and very important to me - please consider organ & tissue donation, register to be a donor on your state' donor registry, and tell your family how you feel. I know a beautiful girl from Iowa who knew how she felt and she told her family - I think about her every single day.

Love, Steve

Steve Ferkau
Chicago, IL
Kari's Klimbers

My full Hustle link:



Donate Life Float Rose Dedications - Last Chance!!!

Posted on December 17, 2012 by Steve Ferkau


Four years ago I was given the honor of riding the Donate Life Float in the 2009 Rose Parade. That year, and every year since, I’ve been able to dedicate a rose on the float to Kari. Above is a picture of me placing my roses in 2009.  This year, I have the privilege of dedicating two roses to two Iowa girls who loved one another – My donor, Kari, and her friend Alex.

SteveKariGoHMedIn memory of Kari Westberg: Your beautiful lungs have given me 13 years of life. 13 years of AMAZING life. 30 people who you loved were with me this year – including your Mom & Lys. They, and I, will always love you. Love,Steve






AlexSteve2012In honor of Alex Redenius: I breathe with Kari’s beautiful lungs. You were her friend. Meeting you, I knew you were special. I never imagined how special you’d be. Thank you for my new kidney, Mabel. Love you for always, Steve




I have a lot more to say to either of them than would ever fit in a dedication limited to 200 characters (including spaces). I guess one way to limit my ability to go on-and-on is to limit my characters. But, please don’t mention that to Laura – she could find a way to enforce that limit regularly! (And, you may notice that both dedications are exactly 200 characters, including spaces.)

Now through December 23rd, you too can dedicate a rose for the low-low price of $30 – and your dedicated rose will be placed in the Donate Life Dedication Garden on the front of the Donate Life Float that will be in the Rose Parade on January 1st, 2013. You can dedicate roses to someone who has given, or received, or awaits the gift of life. A link that will guide you through the dedication process is here:

Donate Life Dedication Garden
Individual Dedications

Below is a rendition of the 2013 Donate Life Float, “Journeys of the Heart”…

The ups and downs of life teach us many lessons, with those experienced through organ and tissue donation and transplantation being among the most profound. Donor families pass through grief on the way to peace and remembrance; living donors step forward to give love and life to others; and transplant recipients courageously move forward from harrowing illness to health and gratitude. Though our paths vary from the places we start, we are all connected on our Journeys of the Heart.

Inspired by the 2013 Rose Parade® theme "Oh, the Places You'll Go!™," the tenth Donate Life Rose Parade float entry will transport 32 riders representing deceased organ, eye and tissue donors, living donors, and transplant recipients through a magical, heart-filled world encompassing the highs and lows that life has to offer. A pathway of looping hearts is lined with 72 memorial floragraph portraits of deceased donors who are remembered every step of the way. The float's collection of joyful hearts representing the new life made possible by transplantation is grounded by a reverent dedication garden filled with roses bearing personal messages honoring those who make the gift of life possible. The journey peaks with overlapping red and purple hearts representing the love and courage that define humanity at its best.


Kari’s Klimbers – Hustle up the Hancock 2013!!!

Posted on October 29, 2012 by Steve Ferkau


This is my recruitment letter for the 2013 Hustle up the Hancock:

AlexSteveMay2012Last year was a crazy, freaking amazing year. At Christmas, I ended up with a 10” cut up the middle of my gut after a rather-unscheduled surgery… She took out 6” of my colon, my appendix and gall bladder, and then my surgeon let me climb 94 floors with y’all only 8 weeks later! A few months after that, the same surgeon installed an incredible gift. I’d been officially listed for a kidney transplant last August; my kidneys have been going downhill for the past few years because of the drugs I take to keep my beautiful lungs. In May, Alex, one of my Hustle teammates – one of Kari’s volleyball teammates – someone who grew up with and loved Kari, and who Kari loved – Alex gave me one of her kidneys. I tell people that I’m slowly being rebuilt into a girl from Iowa. (The above links are to stories about those adventures…)

Hustle_2012_Kari's_teammatesAnd last year, my 10th climb, my team was beyond amazing! I was surrounded by over 150 of you, and I never have enough time with any of you, but I’ve grown to love all of you… I always have a handful of people who Kari grew up with… Last year, around 30 people who Kari grew up with came out to climb with us! They came out from Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Kentucky and Illinois… And Kari’s sister & cousin climbed with us – and Kari’s mom & God-mom were waiting at the top. If you were there – thank you for the reception you gave them…

2013 will be my 11th climb, and the 10th time my Kari’s Klimbers team has climbed 94 floors, 1,622 steps to the top of the John Hancock Center for the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago.

It’s that time of year again… Registration for the 2013 climb is this coming Thursday – on Thursday, November 1st at 8:00am SHARP!!! Over the years, it has sold out in roughly an hour – be there on time! The climb is always held on the last Sunday in February – it will be on Sunday, February 24th, 2013. If this happens to be on or around your birthday, I cannot think of a better way to celebrate! Registration for the full climb this year will again be $140. Like last year, I will likely not have a half climb team unless there is a demand…

As always, my www.climbingforkari.org website could use a little more updating – but most of the story is updated and the links are going to all the right places to give you registration instructions or allow you to pledge… I registered early, on October 15th, to create our “Kari’s Klimbers” team (and personally commit to raise at least $1000) so that our team will be available to join at 8:00am on Thursday, November 1st so there is nothing delaying you from registering! DO NOT SIGN UP BEFORE 8:00AM ON THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 1ST – if you do, you will be committing yourself to raise at least $1000. Registering after 8:00am on Thursday, November 1st does not commit you to raising anything beyond your registration fee (though, I’m always grateful if you choose to do so!!!) Drop me a line if you’re interested in the Hustle this year – or just join my team on November 1st… Remember – the full climb generally sells out in about an hour.

Instructions for joining my team are on my www.climbingforkari.org website… A direct link to the instruction page is HERE… An extensive step by step registration document created for me by one of the lovely RHAMC staff is HERE

And finally – thank you so much for climbing with me and supporting me in past years… I spoke about quitting a few times in recent years – I’ve had things I’d like to focus on and this takes a lot of thought and energy (and so much of which falls on Laura’s back!!) But, this is what I do…

I do a fair amount of public speaking about organ donation and about Kari (and now about Alex too…) – so much of what I talk about revolves around my participation in the Hustle – around meeting her friends through the Hustle – about the people who come out to support me at the Hustle – about YOU… This climb has become part of who I am and what I do – and YOU have helped make it what it is for me…

Some of you have climbed with me for ten years… Some of you for several years… And every year I have new people. Almost every year I am with someone new who knew Kari, and has come out to remember her with me… Through these past eleven years we have raised over $250,000 – that kinda blows my mind… How many times have you been part of something that raised over a quarter-million dollars? Me neither… And that’s happened because of so many people like you helping me. Thank you. And more special than the money will ever be to me – you’ve helped build me a little platform to tell the world about Kari, and now Alex, and the gifts they’ve given – and you’ve helped me tell so many others about organ donation…

We’ve had so many recipients, and donor family members, and friends of donors on our team – and when I go places to speak about organ donation, people say, “You’re that guy who climbs 100 story buildings with your new lungs!!!” And so many of them even know Kari’s smile, and her name – and that means everything to me. I would have never generated that much excitement alone – I would have never generated that much awareness without all of you.

I know that times are a little tough and cash is a little tight for many of us – and if you can’t make it this year, that’s OK – and thank you for the times you have made it! And if you can make it – I’m honored to have you on my team.

Love, Steve

Steve Ferkau
Kari’s Klimbers

Share your life song...

Posted on August 10, 2012 by Steve Ferkau

Imagine that you had the ability to allow someone who is facing losing everything – losing their life – to continue… Imagine you could allow them to stay with their spouse, their family, and their children – or maybe you could allow a child, a son or daughter, to stay with their mom & dad & family…

You have that ability…

Check out this little video by Gift of Hope – it’s about enabling someone else’s melody to keep playing once yours has faded:

I viewed this through a different perspective – maybe one that many of us recipients share… When I watched this the first time, I thought of my responsibility to keep Kari’s life song playing… And even though she’s still playing her own song loud and strong – I think I have to weave Alex’s melody into my life song as well…

Please consider organ and tissue donation – share your life song…

If you’re in Illinois, register to be an organ and tissue donor HERE…
If you’re in Iowa, register to be an organ and tissue donor HERE…
If you’re anywhere else in the United States, you can find your registry at www.DonateLife.net

My new kidney - Mabel...

Posted on May 24, 2012 by Steve Ferkau

In the pre-op waiting room, right before she was escorted to the OR waiting room, Alex told me that she named the gift she was giving me "Mabel".

A little over twelve years ago, a beautiful girl in Iowa named Kari told her family how strongly she felt about organ donation. Twice. I was in Chicago, my lungs were failing after a short lifetime living with cystic fibrosis... I was dying. In April, 2000, at the age of 17, Kari passed away. At the most devastating moment in their lives, Kari's family honored her desire to become an organ donor. I breathe with Kari's lungs. All of my life, I'd never imagined breathing could feel this good, this fulfilling- I think of Kari throughout the day, every day...

It was a few years after I received her beautiful lungs that we learned about Kari and her family... About a year later, we drove out to Algona, Iowa and we met them... We also met a few of Kari's friends. Over the next few years, Kari's Mom put me in contact with several of her friends... Over the past 7 or 8 years, more than a dozen of her friends have come out to climb with me - I've come to love them dearly...

Kari's Friends 2012

One of Kari's friends I met early on was Alex... Actually, we met Alex and her brother when we were at a restaurant with Kari's family, when we met them... Alex was among the first groups of Kari's friends to come out to climb with me - and she's back every year...

Alex & Steve

A few years ago, I got an email from Alex... She explained that there was a young girl in Iowa who needed a kidney, and the girl's grandfather was being tested. Alex told me that if the grandfather was not eligible, she wanted to step up to the plate. And, if the grandfather worked out - she wanted to know how she might go about giving a kidney altruistically to someone who needed one... I told Alex that I was in awe of her, and what she wanted to do - and that she gave me hope, because I knew that, in a matter of years, it was inevitable that I would need a kidney... And knowing that there are people like her in the world helps me worry less... A few weeks later, I got an email from Alex about something-or-other, and it ended with a p.s. that she has a type A+ kidney with my name on it...

In August, 2011, my kidney function got to the point where I was officially listed for a kidney transplant. I felt very loved when a number of people stepped forward and told me they wanted to be tested... I emailed Alex and told her - and I told her about all my fears - for her, not me - whether this could impact her insurability, her future health, or if, God forbid, she could be injured... I got an email back from her telling me to "Stop being such a scairdy-cat" and give her the number to call to get this rolling...

About three months later, I was doing a presentation for Iowa Donor Network and Alex left me a voice message - I still have it on my phone... At the end of her message, she said, "SOOooo, I guess there must be something special about Algona, Iowa, and the girls who come from there...". Yes - I guess there is... Alex was letting me know that University of Chicago had called her and let her know she was a good match... She just wanted to let me know, "You have a kidney!"

Four days before our surgeries, Nesita Kwan from NBC/5-Chicago, interviewed Alex and me at home... They rolled tape for an awful long time and pulled a very nice 90-second spot that aired a few times on May 4th... I wish you could hear everything Alex talked about - about life with Kari, climbing with me, and why she wanted to give me a kidney... Here is the video that aired:

View more videos at: http://nbcchicago.com.

Kari wore #13 on her high school volleyball team - Alex wore #7... On May 8, 2012, #7 gave me one of her kidneys to keep me alive a good while longer... I'm pretty sure that, on that day, my lungs reached down and hugged my beautiful, new kidney...

Can you imagine what it feels like to have your life saved by an incredible, beautiful, thoughtful & compassionate girl - who allows you to breathe and live in a way you'd never imagined... Then, 12 years later, you find yourself in trouble again - and you have another incredible, beautiful, thoughtful & compassionate girl, who grew up with and loved Kari - reach out and save your life again?!?!

Alex gave me her kidney on a Tuesday afternoon... An amazing surgeon, Dr. Yolanda Becker, did the installation work... She had already had me opened up last Christmas during my last surgical stunt, and had a look around and knew what she had to work with!!! That Tuesday night I peed five liters...

I woke up the next morning and was still intubated, for precautionary purposes... Laura said I was rather anxious, trying to say something and no one understood - and finally, Laura said, "Alex is fine...", and I immediately calmed down... I then got a pen & paper and, in my propofol haze, wrote a note about how much I love Laura, Alex, Dr Becker & Dr Garrity and luckily then I ran out of paper... When they were about to extubate me - my lung transplant nurses, Penny & Pat, had stopped to visit, so they gloved up and helped... Right before they sent Laura out so they could pull the tube, she asked for another minute - to enjoy the silence - since there would no longer be any of that in a matter of seconds!!!

Alex & Steve Hospital 2012

Alex's parents came out to be with Alex during her surgery and recovery... We'd met them in Algona last November... At least three families told us that when we meet her parents, we will understand how Alex became Alex. We completely agree with that statement! Alex recovered well - I have to believe she was in more pain than she lead me to believe - but I never saw anything but smiles, from her or her folks... Ironically - she had no appetite and was a little nauseous for 4-5-6 days after surgery, where I was looking for a grilled cheese sandwich practically as they were extubating me!!! Alex was released from the hospital 3 days after her surgery...

In two days, my kidney function was normal... It probably hadn't been there in 20 years - years of cystic fibrosis meds had already compromised them before I got my beautiful lungs... Four days after I was opened up on the table - I walked to our local restaurant, Hackney's, and had a ham & cheese sandwich! The next day, Laura and I went on two 2-mile walks!

I promise I will honor and care for Mabel with the same love I've taken care of her beautiful friend's lungs... Since the moment I knew her face, Kari's smile has been on my mind throughout the day, every day - now there will be another smile right next to Kari's - Alex... And the wonderful thing about this smile - is that, every now and then, I get to hug her...  Kari gave me 12 more years with Laura, and all of the other people I love...  She gave me more than I'd ever dreamed possible.  I was a little worried that run might have been coming to an end - but Kari's friend, and my friend, Alex, has just given me who-knows-how-many more years to be with Laura, and to be with all of the people I love, and to leap tall buildings and whatever other kind of trouble I can drag others into with me...  Can you imagine a gift like that?!?!  Thank you, Alex  - I'll love you always...

I'm hoping that I'll soon qualify for honorary Iowa citizenship - because it does seem that I'm slowly being rebuilt into a girl from Iowa.

p.s.  It's almost midnight, but today is Alex & Mabel's birthday - Happy Birthday to Both of us...

Alex & Steve Post 2012