Several hundred people are celebrating the gift of life in Rochester Sunday at Mayo Clinic’s transplant patient and donor family picnic. Transplant recipients, living donors, and families of deceased donors from across the United States traveled to Soldiers Memorial Field for the annual event.
Attendees enjoyed food, music, games, camaraderie, and shared their stories.
"It’s just such a wonderful thing to see people after seeing them when they were on the brink of death or feeling so awful, and then to see them later when they’re back and enjoying life and seeing all the things that they’re supposed to be doing," said Dr. Charles Rosen, director of Mayo Clinic’s Transplant Center.
Just over a year ago, the Westby family learned their teenage daughter, Faith, had cancer and she needed a new liver. On July 7th, they received a life-saving call.
"I don’t think anyone is prepared for the feeling you have when you receive the most amazing gift that anyone can receive," said Jeannie Westby, Faith’s mother.
For the families of deceased donors, the transplant recipient can be a painful reminder of who they’ve lost. For recipients, there’s often a feeling of guilt. But those who’ve chosen to meet despite the potential for more pain and heartache, say it’s worth it.
"She looked at me, and I said, ‘this is our liver, she’s your daughter too if you would like to share her life with us.’ From that moment on, we have been a huge family."
Jamie Turner, of Tulsa, Oklahoma received a liver transplant from his Wife, Lisa Turner, last December.
"Going through that, I really thought that there was a good chance I might not live. I wouldn’t be able to see my kids grow up, wouldn’t be able to walk my daughter down the aisle," said Turner. "I feel like my life is open-ended again, I get a whole new chance."
A new chance to create memories and share life’s special moments.
According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, or UNOS —there have been nearly 18,000 transplants performed so far this year.