VOL. 133 | NO. 147 | Thursday, July 26, 2018
By Don Wade
Four years ago Amber Pettis went to the doctor for what she believed was a stomach virus, one of those health-related speed bumps everyone hits from time to time before the smooth ride of their everyday life continues.
But for Pettis, this was the beginning of a life-changing detour. She was diagnosed with end stage renal failure. After a year of dialysis treatments, she received a kidney transplant in August of 2015. By the summer of 2016, her recovery was going well enough that she went to Cleveland and with more than 6,000 other transplant recipients competed in the Donate Life Transplant Games of America (TGA).
Pettis, 32, also will be one of about a dozen people on Team Mid-South from the Mid-South Transplant Foundation going to Salt Lake City for the Aug. 2-7 TGA.
Patrick Taylor works out at the Chickasaw Country Club gym Tuesday, July 24 while training for the upcoming Transplant Games in Salt Lake City. The 35-year-old heart transplant recipient plans to compete in the 100M, 400M, and 5K races. (Daily News/Jim Weber)
In 2016, being early in her recovery, she only competed in bowling (silver medal) and darts (bronze medal): “It was the first time holding a dart in my life.”
This year, she will compete in cycling and track & field events, plus darts again. Yes, the transplant saved her life – no question about that – but it also changed her life.
“I didn’t realize I didn’t feel well until after I got sick,” Pettis said. “I’m living my healthiest life now.”
Everyone speaks about being given a “second chance” and what that means is a little different for everyone.
“Some of them were hanging between life and death when they received that call for their transplant,” said Randa Lipman, who is community outreach manager for the Mid-South Transplant Foundation. “Now they’re living full and complete lives.”
It’s a story without end, too, given that there are more than 115,000 people on the national waiting list for a life-saving transplant. Of those, almost 3,000 live in the Mid-South, with 87 percent of them in need of a kidney; the local community has a very high incidence of diabetes and high blood pressure.
Patrick Johnson, 53, received a kidney in 2010. He was on a waiting list for more than two years. He says the most difficult part of recovery post-transplant was probably psychological, learning to trust his body again. In 2016, he competed at TGA and won a gold medal in ballroom dancing, an activity until a short time before “wasn’t even in my vocabulary.” He also ran some track & field events and will do that again in Salt Lake City.
Patrick Taylor works out at the Chickasaw Country Club gym Tuesday, July 24, while training for the upcoming Transplant Games in Salt Lake City. The 35-year-old heart transplant recipient plans to compete in the 100M, 400M, and 5K races. (Daily News/Jim Weber)
“We have to pay attention to our bodies,” said Johnson, whose kidney ailment was discovered during a routine check-up. “Our bodies give us tips about what’s going on.”
Patrick Taylor, who is the father of three young daughters, had a heart transplant on Feb. 10, 2016. He had been a soccer player in college and was in great shape. One night he passed out at the dinner table. When he came to, his heart was racing. Eventually he was fitted with a pacemaker and defibrillator, doctors suspecting that a virus had reached his heart and done the damage.
But then came a 10-year decline in heart function that resulted in the need for a transplant. He’s going to TGA for the first time and will run in the 5K race and 100-meter and 400-meter dashes.
“I’m going for the fellowship with other people who have had transplants,” said Taylor, who is an administrator in, oddly enough, a hospital cardiology department. “I’m back to my day-to-day and you sort of get caught up in life, lose sight of how lucky you are.
“There are more people out there that need transplants. Part of going (to the game) is to grieve with the donor families. Obviously, my donor wasn’t a living donor.”
Barbara Edmond’s son, Reginald, was an artist. His work was showcased at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art and he had received a scholarship to the University of Memphis. He also was passionate about the culinary arts and had dreams of becoming a chef.
In 2014, he died from injuries suffered in car accident. Five peoAtissue he donated. His mother will be part of the Mid-South delegation and with other members of donor families will be honored in a special ceremony at TGA.
As for Taylor, he may or may not win a medal. But either way, he has recaptured a feeling that long before he was sick he didn’t give a second thought. After all, he was a former soccer player and a triathlete. Reaching for the limit was just what he did.
“It feels good to be involved as an athlete,” he said, “to be able to push past something again.”
At 5:30 p.m. Thursday, July 25, a send-off pep rally for the Team Mid-South will be held at the Mid-South Transplant Foundation’s Cordova office, 8001 Centerview Parkway, #302. For more information and/or to register as an organ and tissue donor visit www.midsouthtransplant.org or www.TeamMidSouth.org or www.TransplantGamesofAmerica.org.