Newswise — MAYWOOD, IL – Organ transplant patients and donors shared their extraordinary stories Sunday, April 22 during Loyola Medicine's 27th annual Candle-lighting Ceremony.

Among the speakers were a pastor who gave a kidney to a member of his church, a daughter who saved her mother's life by giving up a part of her liver and the father of a seven-year-old boy who became an organ donor to three people after dying in a car accident.

Loyola’s Candle-lighting Ceremony is held each April during National Donate Life Month.  More than 300 people attended the 2018 ceremony, which raised awareness for organ donation, honored organ donors and supported transplant patients. Patients who have received organ donations, or are waiting for transplants, lit candles from the “Candle of Life” in memory of and in thanksgiving for those who have given life to others through organ donation.

   The extraordinary stories told at the event include:

Kelly Roberts, 33, of Elmwood Park, was on the kidney transplant waiting list and was about to go on dialysis when her pastor, the Rev. David Potete of Northwest Community Church in Chicago, said he would donate one of his kidneys. "One of the core values of our church is servanthood, or serving others," Rev. Potete said. "I can't tell you how good it felt to help a friend." Before leaving the hospital, Rev. Potete stopped by Ms. Roberts' room. During the emotional visit, she whispered in his ear, "Thank you for giving me life." 

  • Suffering end stage liver disease, Anne Doyen couldn't eat and could barely get off the couch. She was on the liver transplant waiting list, but might die before an organ became available. So her daughter, Katie Doyen, offered to become her living donor – the first living liver donor transplant performed at Loyola. A day after Mother's Day 2017, Katie learned she was a match. Loyola surgeons subsequently removed a portion of her liver and transplanted it into her mother. Katie Doyen said that when she came to her mother's room after the transplant and saw that she already looked better, "I knew we had done the right thing." Anne Doyen, of Elgin, said her daughter gave her the ultimate gift. "When I think about what a sacrifice it was, I feel so lucky," she said. "She is a brave and strong girl." The livers in both women have grown back to normal size and are functioning normally. 
  • After 7-year-old Dylan Richardson died in a car accident, his heart went to a 13-year-old girl, his liver went to a 16-year-old boy and his kidneys went to a 65-year-old man. "Dylan is a superhero who saved lives through a tragic loss," said his father, Dan Richardson, of Aurora.
  • After a five-year wait, Brookfield's Anthony Ramos received a heart transplant in 2017. "When I woke up after the surgery and realized I had someone else's heart, it was hard to imagine how that could happen," he said. "I would like to meet my donor family and hug them. I'm at a loss for words to thank them."
  • Kenneth Mrnak remembers the first time he shopped at a big store following his lung transplant. The career Navy officer from Montgomery, Illinois, said he "wanted to do cartwheels" when he realized he could walk the long aisles without gasping for breath. "I think about my donor every day," he said.

Loyola is one of only three centers in Illinois that performs transplants on five major solid organs: heart, lung, kidney, liver and pancreas. Loyola also is among the few centers that perform combination transplants, including heart-lung, heart-kidney, heart-liver, liver-kidney, lung-liver and lung-kidney.