Bob Hurst, Ben Kennedy, Joyce Hair, Kari Ohrn and Ross Nicholes have something in common: not one of them ever expected to be the recipient of a donated organ.
Hurst, Kennedy and Nicholes, each of whom suffered from congestive heart failure, didn't expect to be alive today. Each received a new heart within the past seven months.Hair, 24, Pleasant Grove, suffered from renal failure and anticipated spending the rest of her life receiving dialysis treatment three times a week. In August, Hair received a new kidney.
Ohrn, 30, suffered from a degenerative eye disease. Her sight had deteriorated to "legally blind" status, and caring for her home and four children had become extremely difficult. In 1985, Ohrn underwent two cornea transplants; today she has 20/20 vision.
Thursday the transplant recipients gathered at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center to share their stories as part of the hospital's "Organ Donor Awareness Day." Each is extremely grateful for the modern technology that provided them with a second lease on life, but more importantly for the generosity of the persons and their families who donated the organs they received.
"I know what it is like to be in a position to start losing my vision and what it is like to have it restored," said Ohrn, a Sandy resident. "It is remarkable to live in a time when medical science is so advanced. If I had lived 30 or 40 years ago, I would have just gone blind."
Ohrn said, however, she struggled with being a donor recipient.
"First of all I went religiously - wondering if it was right or wrong," Ohrn said. "I think after that it had to be a personal thing, knowing I wanted to see my kids grow up, see their faces when they are older."
Hurst, 55, Mapleton, also struggled with being a donor recipient.
"You wonder who's going to have to give up their life for you," Hurst said. "But they explain to you no one is giving up their life."
Most recipients are given only general information about a donated organ. For example, Hurst was told his heart came from Pueblo, Colorado, and that the male donor had been involved in an auto accident.
"You wonder what kind of boy he was and if you're ever going to get a chance to thank him sometime for the use of that heart for a few years," Hurst said.
Kennedy, who lives in Elk Ridge and is a former fleet manager for Provo City, turned 51 last week and said he feels wonderful since receiving his new heart in October.
"I am going to adopt my heart's age and start over again," Kennedy said.
Kennedy said he was "always one of those guys who would read about transplants and thought I'd rather give it up and go to the happy hunting ground."
He said he worried about undergoing a transplant and having it fail, saddling his wife and four children with the task of paying off the expense - over $100,000 - of the surgery.
"From where I stand now, it was the greatest decision I ever made," Kennedy said. "I am absolutely and totally sold on organ donation. If it hadn't been for that person and their family who was willing to donate, I'd be in bad shape."
American Fork resident Ross Nicholes, 55, said since receiving a new heart in July, he has begun to look ahead more than one day at a time. "A year ago Thanksgiving I had all my family home and I figured that would be the last Thanksgiving I'd have with all them." Thanks to another person and family, it wasn't.