Got organs?

Nancy Matthews and her daughter, Hannah . photo taken from blogspot:

ST. BONAVENTURE (Sept. 17)–From around the corner, I can hear the smile on her face—happy to breathe, happy to walk, happy to be alive.

Once an active member of the Journey Project at St. Bonaventure University, Nancy Matthews walks into the Thomas Merton Center, a home of the past.

Familiar Thomas Merton Center faces, excited to see her for the first time in years perhaps, compliment Matthews on how healthy she looks.

Formally meeting her for the first time, I courteously reach out my hand to greet her.

“I am sorry, but I can’t shake hands with you,” says Matthews, a mother with cystic fibrosis.

Because of her genetic disorder, Matthews’s immune system cannot fight off infection as easily as a healthy person’s, she says.

Matthews tries to avoid hugging and shaking hands with strangers as often as she can, she says, preventing unwanted germs from coming in contact with her body.

Patients with cystic fibrosis have thick mucus in the body instead of the normal thin, slippery secretion. The thick mucus creates a hospitable environment for bacteria to live in, causing repeated lung and sinus infections as well as other complications, according to

Nancy Matthews speaking at St. Bonaventure University . photo taken by me

Last night in The John J. Murphy Professional Building, Matthews shared her unbelievable story with all those who attended.

Diagnosed at 6 years old, Matthews learned to swallow tens of pills a day. Despite that, she enjoyed growing up in Jackson Hole, Wyo., similar to any other child, she says.

Her handicapping symptoms did not start until her freshman year at St. Bonaventure, Matthews says. First, doctors tried to shrink a non-malignant tumor in her pituitary gland. (pituitary gland: a part of the brain that controls hormones)

The tumor-shrinking medication made her even more prone to infection, she says, a beginning to the never-ending years of continual hospitalizations.

After the tumor saga, Matthews had two collapsed lungs, several lung infections, her gall bladder removed and diabetes. Yet she still earned a master’s degree in counseling.

In 1999, as the ­coordinator of disability support services she counseled students at St. Bonaventure, says Matthews.

In 2007, Matthews’s cystic fibrosis forced her to retire and begin accepting the end of her life.

She was 32 years old.

Her only option for survival: a double lung transplant.

Matthews, number one on the list of patients in need of a lung transplant in her zone, prayed for seven grueling months for the life-saving call about finding a donor, she says.

Lungs last about 4 to 6 hours outside the body, according to Therefore, Matthews’s transplant team needed to find lungs within or close to the zone comprising her hospital, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Oakland, Pa., says Matthews.

She waited much less than 1,068 days, the average person needing a lung donor, according to

Matthews’s doctor told her that others on the transplant list had emphysema from smoking, not some life-threatening disorder similar to hers.

She would get the healthiest pair of lungs that a hospital offered, Matthews says. The smokers on the transplant list would have to wait longer than she.

Patients without genetic disorders need transplants too. For instance, heavy drinking for more than a decade can result in cirrhosis (develops from liver disease) and possibly needing a liver transplant, according to

“Keep yourself healthy, so you don’t put yourself in need of a transplant,” Matthews advises.

Anyone could need a transplant, but, thankfully, anyone can donate.

From organs to eyes to bones to heart valves to tendons and veins, signing the back of your driver’s license or registering online can save multiple people’s lives, according to Donate Life America, a national organization that strives to educate people on becoming a donor.

In 2009, about 8,000 deceased donors enabled about 22,000 organ transplants to take place, according to Donate Life America.

Monday, Sept. 20 to Friday, Sept. 24, St. Bonaventure students representing Donate Life America and Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) will sit outside the University Bookstore in the Reilly Center distributing pamphlets that outline the details on becoming a donor.

Students at the table will also provide permanent markers for interested people to sign the backs of their respective licenses and donor registry enrollment forms to become an organ donor.

According to Donate Life America, at this moment, more than 100,000 people wait for a life-changing call telling them that their doctor has a donor organ for them. About 18 people die every day because doctors could not find a match in time.

featured with minor changes in The Bona Venture

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