I had my liver and kidney transplant on September 11, 2018. Thank you to all the people that made me enjoy life again, especially my unknown 20-year-old donor.
Noah Thibodeau: “Live like Noah”
Noah is my brother. He passed away in February of 2020. He was just 20-years-old when his life ended very quickly. It was the first major death in our family. He was pronounced brain dead on February 16th, and his donation took place on the 19th.
He was an amazing guy that was always there for everyone. He always tried to help anyone that he could and it did not matter if he knew you or you were a stranger. He was the person that would always light up a room of people, and could make anyone smile and laugh because of how goofy he was. Gosh, his smile was contagious. You couldn’t be sad around him, because he’d make sure he could find a way to cheer you up.
What 20-year-old kid gets stuck in a grocery store for hours when he initially went in to grab a few items because he makes conversation with complete strangers or interacts with kids in the check out line and makes them laugh? What 20-year-old kid offers his whole savings account of $2,000 to his sister because her car just broke down (even though he doesn’t have a reliable vehicle and that’s what he was saving his money for) so that she doesn’t have to worry about how to get to college, work, and drop his niece and nephew off at daycare? What 20-year-old kid will wake up in the morning, drive 30 minutes in the rain to change his friend’s tire for him and take it into the store to exchange it and then go back into the rain to put the tire on the car so that his friend can make it back home?
These are just a few examples of how humble and genuine he was to others. He didn’t hold grudges, and didn’t know a stranger. He always tried to include everyone and make them feel welcomed. He touched so many lives I know he had no idea his impact was so great. He truly loved everyday to the fullest from sun up to sun down. Always spending time with his friends and family. It was no surprise that he was an organ donor when we found out at the hospital. Me and our little sister are at high risk of potentially needing a transplant one day. I have polycystic kidney disease and our little sister has cystic fibrosis. Because he chose to be an organ donor, he has saved the lives of four people (not counting the countless lives from his tissue donation).
It is crazy that one of the paramedics that brought him back after he stopped breathing, her nephew received my brother’s kidney. The little boy now lives at home and not in a hospital. He now is able to eat solid food, and no longer needs to be hooked up to a dialysis machine. Noah gave him a life that a little kid deserves; just by a simple decision to donate.
My brother will always be my hero. We have held one blood drive since his passing in his name and was able to donate 23 pints of blood. We have our next one booked for summer. We are currently working on a Christmas drive in his honor because he would volunteer and deliver presents to families in need during Christmas. He was an amazing kid that is missed dearly by so many people. We will continue to do everything to raise awareness of being an organ donor and the hope it gives families in need. Being humble, kind, generous, live every day to it’s fullest, make a difference; that’s what “Live like Noah” means.
Noah Matthew Thibodeau
May 6th 1999 – February 16/19th 2020
The Gallery at UNOS: Nov. 5 virtual opening of Looking Back
November 5, 2020, United Network for Organ Sharing held a virtual art opening reception. Watch recording below.
“Looking Back” is a photography exhibition featuring Debra O’Hearn’s art documenting her journey from diagnosis to survival. In 2011 photographer and heart recipient Debra shared a 12-piece photography tribute to her donor, 29-year-old Emily Compton. Debra, a former ER nurse, created the series detailing her intense 4-year battle. She received a lifesaving heart transplant on Easter Sunday in April 2007. This November, we shared the exhibit again along with recently created works of art.
The virtual opening included:
- a tour of the art with Debra O’Hearn
- a conversation with heart recipient Debra and her donor’s mother, Martha Compton
- and questions from our virtual audience
Dedicated to increasing awareness of lifesaving organ transplants and organ donation, The Gallery at UNOS regularly features artwork by local artists and those touched by donation and transplantation.
Matthew Kuchera: The gift of life during COVID-19
On March 13, 2020 the nation went under a state of emergency. I went under for nine hours for transplant of my kidney and pancreas. The inpatient transplant floor had only seven of us. This floor was only one of two at the time that had negative air flow. The other was the orthopedic floor in another tower altogether.
Because of this, all COVID-19 patients where immediately put on standby to move to the transplant floor. I was the last out of surgery and was only in my room for an hour. I became the first transplant patient on the orthopedic unit. There were two nurses who rolled me up in severe pain. My mom and wife were with us. The floor was completely dark and no one knew where any supplies were etc. It was complete chaos as I was reborn into life. Today is my six month kidney and pancreas anniversary.
I am so grateful I am alive because of my donor. To everyone suffering from kidney disease, is on dialysis, waiting for the gift of life, anything. Do not give up hope! You fight the fight hard and understand miracles do happen. Do not give up and God bless.
The Art of the SCAR: Redux
Friday, July 10, 2020, United Network for Organ Sharing held its first ever virtual gallery opening for the Art of the SCAR exhibition, an exhibit that debuted in February 2014.
A scar is seen by many as ugly and something to be concealed. For transplant recipients a scar is a mark of beauty and of life. It’s a badge of honor.
In February of 2014, 15 transplant recipients and living donors teamed up with 30 high school photography club students to show off their scars. The unique project resulted in a multi media exhibition called Art of the SCAR. After 6 years as a travelling exhibit, we are excited to redux the show where it originally premiered. This time we will hold the opening reception in a virtual format.
What hasn’t changed, our gratefulness to all the original participants including transplant recipients, living donors and the Clover Hill High School Photography Club.
Watch the recorded virtual gallery opening here. See the photos from this exhibit and read about past exhibits at The Gallery at UNOS.
New national liver and intestinal organ transplant system in effect Feb. 4, 2020
The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) has implemented a new liver and intestinal organ distribution system to improve the process of matching lifesaving organs to candidates in greatest need of them. This new policy will save more lives annually by providing more transplant access for the most urgent candidates. It also is expected to increase the number of pediatric liver transplants, making this a national policy that will work more efficiently and fairly for patients across the entire country.
The new system replaces the use of decades-old geographic boundaries of 58 donation service areas (DSAs) and 11 transplant regions. It emphasizes the medical urgency of liver transplant candidates and the distance between the donor hospital and transplant hospitals.
Livers from all deceased donors will first be offered to the most urgent liver transplant candidates (Status 1A and 1B) listed at transplant hospitals within a radius of 500 nautical miles of the donor hospital. Following offers to the most urgent candidates, livers from adult donors will be offered to candidates at hospitals within distances of 150, 250 and 500 nautical miles of the donor hospital. These offers are grouped by medical urgency.
The OPTN Board of Directors approved the policy in December 2018. It was implemented briefly in May 2019, then reverted to the prior system of DSAs and regions while a federal court considered a legal challenge to the new system. A court ruling issued Jan. 16, 2020, allowed the re-implementation to proceed.
Statistical modeling of the new policy projects that it will save more lives, with fewer patients dying while waiting for a liver transplant. It also makes the system fairer by providing more equitable access to a transplant based on medical need for the benefit of all patients. The policy also is expected to increase the number of liver transplants for children under the age of 18 by increasing their priority for organs from donors who are also younger than 18. The benefits of the system are projected to have similar effects across various socioeconomic groups and population types, such as urban, rural and suburban.
The policy was developed by transplant and donation experts, recipients and donor families from around the country, with consideration of more than 1,200 public comments.
The new policy takes effect at a time of sustained increase in organ donation and transplantation in the United States. Nearly 40,000 total transplants were performed nationwide in 2019, setting an annual record for the seventh year in a row. Of that total, 8,372 liver transplants were performed involving deceased donors, an increase of 6.7 percent over the 2018 total.