Posts

Barb Sheble

“Honoring My Donor the Best I Can”

Barb Sheble

Heart recipient and MTN Ambassador Barb Sheble

After passing out at track practice in January of my freshman year of college, I was sent to two different cardiologists for tests, and since neither could see anything wrong with me, I was cleared to return to practice and was able to finish out the year. About two weeks after the end of the outdoor track season, in mid-May of 1991, I started feeling like I did in January, so my parents took me to the emergency department at a local hospital. While answering the general check-in questions, I passed out, and once back in an exam room, I was found to have a serious heart arrhythmia called ventricular tachycardia (VT). My heart was going way too fast and was in the wrong rhythm.

This hospital did not specialize in these types of cases so, once stabilized, I was transferred to another, more specialized hospital in town, where I was diagnosed with a rare congenital heart condition called arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD). This condition not only causes VT, but it also causes fatty, fibrous tissue to build up on the right ventricle.

Over the next 18 years, with the help of an amazing cardiologist, I was able to live a really good life overall, despite having to manage my condition. I was able to finish college with two bachelor’s degrees, be successful working full time as a Medical Lab Scientist, travel and enjoy life with my family and friends! Sure, there were procedures that I had to go through from time to time, like getting an implantable defibrillator in 1995 and a few replacements over the years. And there were times spent in the hospital, but I always tried to just do my best to make each day fun regardless of where I was and what I was doing!

On July 2, 2008, things started to take a turn for the worse. I can still remember like it was yesterday exactly where I was when it seems like a switch was flipped. Beginning on that summer day, I was either in the doctor’s office or in the hospital at least once a week, every week until a night in mid-November when everything came to a head. That night I began having VT that my defibrillator could not pace me out of, so it had to shock me instead. In total, I was shocked seven times before we could get to the hospital and get an IV medicine that would control my heart. The next day I had the last of my many ablation procedures that are used to help eliminate the areas that cause the heart to go into the wrong rhythm. That was also the day that we decided it was finally time to be evaluated for a heart transplant. Honestly, it was not a surprise when my doctor brought it up; I had known for years that transplant was going to be my last-ditch treatment option, and after how things had gone since July, I kind of figured we were working our way there.

In early December 2008, I was evaluated for transplant, and it was determined that I was indeed to that point. On Jan. 6, 2009, I was placed on the transplant list. Over the next seven months and 12 days, I continued to work and do my best to enjoy life. At first, I was still full time but over time had to reduce my hours, and by summer I was down to four hours day. By July 2009, I ended up needing to go on IV medication 24 hours a day, but I was lucky enough to be able to do this at home and still go to work. That was a true blessing, as many people need to wait in the hospital for a while before their transplant!

On Aug. 18, 2009, early in the morning, THE CALL finally came. They had a heart for me! This was an especially amazing day to get the greatest gift that anyone can give, because that day is also my mom’s birthday! It is so special to be able to share that day with her each year, and I cannot thank my donor and their family enough.

Recovery had its little hiccups and took a little longer than some. We also learned that my heart was actually much worse than any of us knew. It was the size of an NFL football and was black/dead on the inside.

Since being given this gift, I have tried to live life to its fullest, and I still always try to have fun and find the positive in each day. I continue to work full time in the lab, travel any chance I get, and spend time as much as I can with my family and friends. I get to be a part of big family moments like weddings, graduations and births. I have been able to get back into my throwing events in track and pick up a few other sports, while competing in the both the World Transplant Games and the Transplant Games of America.

I strive to honor my donor the best I can, and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of them and their family. While I have not been able to meet my donor’s family, and I know nothing about my hero, I know I would not be here today without their generosity! A fellow heart recipient once told me he feels as though every donor family is his donor family, and I couldn’t agree more! I have been fortunate enough to meet many other donor families who amaze me, and I am blessed to call some of them my adopted donor families!

Over the years, things have not always been easy, but that does not mean that my life has not been a blessing! As I look back, I sometimes think, “Yeah, that wasn’t the best day” or, “Well, yeah, I could have done without going through that,” but that doesn’t mean that I would want to change things. This journey has made me who I am. It has brought so many wonderful people into my life whom I honestly can’t imagine my life without! It has taught me that I am strong and that with the right people and support system, I can get through anything!

When I first got sick, I didn’t think I would make it to 40, and here I am rocketing toward 50 in fewer than two years! In May, I will celebrate the fact that it has been 30 years since I nearly died. In August, thanks to God, my donor, their family and my amazing medical team, we will celebrate my 12th heart birthday. I think it is safe to say, life doesn’t get any better than that!

Our thanks to Barb Sheble for writing this guest blog post.

 

2020: A Record-Breaking Year

Midwest Transplant Network’s lifesaving and life-enhancing work continued in 2020, despite the pandemic. We coordinated a record number of organ donations for an increase of 21% from our previous record (set in 2019), recovered tissues from nearly 2,000 donors and enabled nearly 900 organ transplants.

We are incredibly grateful for our donor heroes and their families, our community partners and our staff members for helping us give the gift of life to so many in need during a challenging year.

2020 EOY graphic

 

Thank you, healthcare and front-line heroes

2020 in Review

Despite the many challenges MTN and organizations globally faced, 2020 was a year of true heroism as we worked with our community partners to save and enhance lives through organ, eye and tissue donation. None of these incredible gifts would be possible without our generous donors and their families. Thank you to everyone who played a role in our 2020 successes!

Take a look back at our remarkable year:

 

MTN logo

Employee Spotlight: Midge Dempsey

Check out our latest blog post and Employee Spotlight. This time we hear from Midge Dempsey, a Family Services Coordinator based in Wichita, as she talks about her role in the community, multicultural awareness, and her thoughts on organ, eye and tissue donation.

Get to know Midge:

 

MTN logo

Midwest Transplant Network Receives Architectural Approval for Headquarters Expansion

With site plan approval for alterations and additions from the City of Westwood Planning Commission, Midwest Transplant Network (MTN) will soon begin construction document production for a new Donor Care Unit at its Westwood, Kansas, headquarters. Through this addition and remodel of MTN’s existing building, MTN and architecture firm Hoefer Wysocki will create an on-site recovery facility for organ, eye and tissue donors.

Currently, MTN clinicians collaborate with hospital healthcare teams to care for donors in hospitals located within MTN’s service area. The new centralized approach from MTN will allow for specialized donor care to help reduce the burden on hospital resources and enable more predictable timeframes for families and transplant teams.

“Creating this Donor Care Unit within Midwest Transplant Network is the right thing to do for the citizens of the Kansas City area and surrounding communities to improve organ donation,” said Dr. A. Michael Borkon, Co-Director of Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute and Surgical Director of Heart Transplant at Saint Luke’s Hospital; MTN Governing Board Chair. “It is a very timely construction, as constraints are being placed on our ability to maximize organ donation due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that ICU beds are in short supply.

“The Donor Care Unit will allow us to not only streamline the donation process, but also improve the number of organs that we can obtain from each donor because we can work through the time required to make the necessary changes to improve lung and heart function that ordinarily would not be prioritized in busy ICUs today.”

 

About Midwest Transplant Network
Midwest Transplant Network has been connecting lives through organ donation since 1973. As the federally designated not-for-profit organ procurement organization (OPO) for Kansas and the western two-thirds of Missouri, Midwest Transplant Network provides services including organ procurement; surgical tissue and eye recovery; laboratory testing; and 24-hour rapid response for referrals from hospital partners. Midwest Transplant Network ranks in the top 10% in the country among OPOs, which reflects the organization’s quality, professionalism and excellence in partnerships throughout the region. For more information, visit mwtn.org.

About Hoefer Wysocki
Founded in 1996, Hoefer Wysocki is a multidisciplinary architecture, interior design, medical equipment planning and clinical technology consultancy known for collaborating with clients to create performance-driven solutions. From offices in Kansas City and Dallas, the firm works with clients in healthcare, higher education, government and commercial markets on projects across the U.S. For more information, please visit hoeferwysocki.com.

 

MTN President/CEO Jan Finn Becomes AOPO President-Elect

VIENNA, Va. (July 2, 2020) — The Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO) has named Midwest Transplant Network (MTN) President/Chief Executive Officer Jan Finn, RN, MSN its President-Elect. This role includes significant responsibilities with AOPO — the nonprofit organization representing the 58 federally designated organ procurement organizations — including leading the strategic planning process, collaborating with AOPO councils, and advocating nationally for issues as they relate to donation and transplantation.

With this appointment, Finn will serve on AOPO’s Executive Committee for three years and will assume the role of President for 2021-2022. As AOPO President, Finn will be the organization’s spokesperson and Chairman of the Board of Directors and also will serve as a member of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) Board of Directors

“I am honored to represent MTN, those in our service area and the entire organ procurement organization (OPO) community,” said Finn. “AOPO is actively involved in advocacy for all donor families and recipients in ensuring each OPO strives for excellence in donation practice to ensure desperately needed organs for transplantation, and I am happy to lend my voice to such meaningful work.”

Throughout her time on AOPO’s Executive Committee, Finn said she hopes to foster collaboration between OPOs to provide a unified voice as the national industry expert

“My goal is to engage OPOs with known best practices to help those at other OPOs so we all can truly maximize the gift of life through organ, eye and tissue donation,” she said.

 

About Midwest Transplant Network
Midwest Transplant Network has been connecting lives through organ donation since 1973. As the federally designated not-for-profit organ procurement organization (OPO) for Kansas and the western two-thirds of Missouri, Midwest Transplant Network provides services including organ procurement; surgical tissue and eye recovery; laboratory testing; and 24-hour rapid response for referrals from hospital partners. Midwest Transplant Network ranks in the top 10% in the country among OPOs, which reflects the organization’s quality, professionalism and excellence in partnerships throughout the region. For more information, visit mwtn.org.

About the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations
The Association of Organ Procurement Organizations (AOPO) leads the nation’s organ donation process through innovation, advocacy and education. AOPO advances organ donation and transplantation by driving continual improvement of the donation process, collaborating with stakeholders and sharing best practices with their organ procurement organization members. For more information, visit aopo.org.