This Thing Called Life
Episode 04: Miracle After Miracle with Liver Recipient John Mock

Episode 04: Miracle After Miracle with Liver Recipient John Mock

September 29, 2020

During this episode of This Thing Called Life, host Andi Johnson speaks with John Mock, a salesman for a large wheelchair manufacturer. His life took a turn two years ago when his liver failed after 56 years of perfect health. It took a ridiculous set of miracles for John to get his new liver, but he did, and his story is absolutely inspiring!

Episode Highlights: 

  • John details his background as a traveling sales manager for a large wheelchair manufacturer.
  • John discusses the moment, two years ago, when he realized that something was wrong with his liver.
  • The doctors could not figure out what was going on with John’s liver because he passed all tests that they could throw at him.
  • The ammonia build-up from liver failure was taking away John’s ability to focus.
  • Excessive sleeping led John to the conclusion that something was definitely going wrong.
  • John’s liver specialist sent him to the University of Cincinnati’s transplant program.
  • MELD (Model for Endstage Liver Disease) goes from 6 (years to live) to 40 (death); John was a 24.
  • After some mini-miracles, John was able to accelerate the process of getting on the transplant waiting list.
  • A battery of tests and blood work stood between John and getting on the transplant list.
  • Expecting a long wait to get on the list to get the tests run, a cancellation got John in for his test two days after his acceptance into the program.
  • Canceling the family vacation was tough, but John had to be close enough to get to the hospital.
  • John was accepted onto the transplant list and found a donor within the same day.
  • Recipients have to manage their expectations because there is a chance the organ is not a good match.
  • It was important for John to reach out to the family of the donor to express his gratitude and condolences.
  • Only 6 weeks after his surgery, John was on a plane to his national sales meeting in Colorado.
  • Relying on others for everything was incredibly humbling for John as a natural go-getter.
  • 27 days after his surgery, John and his family were able to meet his donor family and they hit it off.
  • The liver that John has now is not his own, but has been inside two other people along the way.
  • It’s incredibly difficult to have a healthy relationship between the recipient and the donor family.
  • What it was like connecting with his donor family and how hard it remains for them to this day.
  • If both sides can see that through donation, it can help both sides move forward.
  • The gift of life is shared between two families, two worlds really, in the case of organ donation.
  • It all starts with the decision that two people do not have to die.
  • You see life from a completely different perspective when you come so close to death.
  • John works tirelessly as an advocate to make sure that his donor’s family would be proud.
  • Hope doesn’t get people to become donors, but it is a strategy.
  • Anyone can be a registered organ donor and give hope to someone in need.

3 Key Points:

  1. John’s life completely changed when his liver failed two years ago. Through some mini-miracles, John was able to get in front of the board of the University of Cincinnati’s transplant program.
  2. Organ recipients tend to question what they have done to deserve to live and why someone else had to die. The harsh reality of life sets in at some point.
  3. It’s incredibly humbling when your body and mind stop you from doing certain things and you are forced to rely on others to do things for you.

Resources Mentioned:

Episode 03: Giving the Ultimate Gift as a Living Donor with Monica Weakley

Episode 03: Giving the Ultimate Gift as a Living Donor with Monica Weakley

September 15, 2020

During this episode of This Thing Called Life podcast, host Andi Johnson speaks with Monica Weakley, a living kidney donor, who shares her inspiring story. Learn how Monica made the important decision to donate, how she feels about her decision thirteen years later, and how you can share her important message. 

Episode Highlights: 

  • Monica shares her donation story. She was born and raised in Cincinnati. She sells real estate.
  • Learn how Monica made the decision to be a living donor.
  • Monica had a friend that needed a kidney and didn't have a match in her family.
  • Something inside of Monica told her she was going to help her friend. This is a common feeling among donors.
  • Monica describes getting the call learning she was a good match for her friend.
  • Thirteen years later, Monica feels amazing.
  • Monica describes her recovery time. She had to have an open nephrectomy. 
  • Monica knew the level of gift that was for her friend but feels it was just as much a gift to be a donor.
  • Monica tells us about her mother who is in renal failure. She is officially on the donor list.
  • Monica made a plea on Facebook to find a donor for her mother.
  • Andi and Monica discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the transplantation. 
  • The living donor program is everything to families like Monica's.
  • Andi describes the success of the paired kidney exchange program.
  • Some people have loved ones who need a lifesaving gift but do not volunteer for donation.
  • Monica isn't sure she would try to persuade anybody. She would simply tell her story.
  • Over the years, there has been an increase in altruistic donors.
  • The donation list is not a mountain that we can't climb.
  • Monica lives her life with gratitude and peace.
  • Learn how to contact Monica if you're interested in getting tested to help her mother, Nancy.
  • The one myth Monica wants to dispel is that being a donor changes your health. The one thing that has changed for her is that she can't take Advil.
  • Monica shares what she takes with her on every trip.
  • Monica and Andi discuss books they’ve read recently.
  • Monica's goal for this year is to get her mom a kidney.
  • Monica loves Top 40 radio and the movie Bridesmaids
  • Andi and Monica discuss traveling and where they like to eat in Cincinnati.
  • Monica thinks the world needs more authenticity right now. She speaks to the value of turning inwards every single day.
  • Ask how you would show up today if you weren't being watched.
  • Monica shares what she has learned during the pandemic. 
  • This podcast is here to help eliminate the list of people waiting for a lifesaving transplant.
  • Living donation is absolutely a possibility to help bring people off of that list.

3 Key Points:

  1. Living donation can be a huge gift to the donor as well as the recipient. 
  2. Sharing stories saves lives and helps dispel myths. 
  3. The living donor list is not a mountain we can’t climb. That list provides hope to families like Monica’s.

Resources Mentioned:

Episode 02: Organ Donation During a Pandemic with Barry Massa

Episode 02: Organ Donation During a Pandemic with Barry Massa

September 1, 2020

During this episode of This Thing Called Life Podcast, host Andi Johnson speaks with Barry Massa, the executive director of LifeCenter Organ Donor Network. They discuss what it’s like to recover organs and tissues during a pandemic.    

Episode Highlights: 

  • Barry Massa started at LifeCenter as their CFO and has been their executive director for twelve years.
  • LifeCenter handles organ and tissue donation for the Cincinnati area.
  • In 2019 they had a record year for organ and tissue donation due to community outreach and their relationship with local hospitals.
  • The federal government created organ procurement organizations. Two different teams work with donor families. The team that is trying to save the donor's life and the donation team.
  • All U.S. organ procurement organizations (OPOs) are non-profits.
  • OPOs are heavily regulated. Medicare governs organ donation and the FDA oversees tissue donation. The United Network of Organ Sharing maintains the organ waitlist.
  • Barry shares the biggest surprise he's experienced during his time at LifeCenter.
  • There are currently 114,000 people on the waitlist.
  • OPOs do not operate in the living donation space. 
  • Living donation impacts the waitlist in a positive way.
  • Barry shares about a good friend of his that needed a heart and lung transplant long before he was involved in LifeCenter.
  • Not all hospitals do transplants.
  • Barry shares how the pandemic has affected donation.
  • During the coronavirus, donation really went down. There was a 40% drop in donors while hospitals were shut down.
  • There wasn't a game plan in place for a pandemic so they took it day by day.
  • They had to add in testing for COVID-19 in donors. There were testing delays. 
  • There were a lot of donation opportunities that did not occur that would have occurred in the past.
  • Barry describes how staff worked together during coronavirus.
  • They had to approach families for organ donation over the phone or via Zoom.
  • Communicating empathy for the family can be more difficult in a virtual environment.
  • Barry explains how donation works.
  • Every hospital in their area calls LifeCenter when the patient meets certain clinical triggers that could possibly result in organ donation.
  • Through August 1st, donation is back to where it was last year.
  • Those waiting for lungs are having a more difficult time during this pandemic.
  • Barry thinks the list of people who need a lung will increase during this time.
  • Kidneys are the most needed organ on the waiting list.
  • Barry discusses the scarcity of PPE and how that has played a role.
  • Collaboration between hospitals could have increased even more during this time.
  • People feel comfortable fulfilling their roles while taking necessary precautions. The staff has a real passion for their mission.
  • Barry tries to communicate with staff more regularly, at least on a weekly basis.
  • The mental aspect of this pandemic is tough in so many ways.
  • Barry would advise someone waiting for a transplant to stay as healthy as they can during this time.
  • Today's honor moment is for all of the front line staff in all of the organ procurement organizations across the country that are working tirelessly to facilitate organ, eye, and tissue donation.
  • Get to know Barry with his answers to fun personal questions at the end of the show.

3 Key Points:

  1. Deceased organ donation is unique in that the patient has to have suffered a non-survivable brain injury, which is only about 1% of the deaths that occur. 
  2. During the onset of COVID there was a 38% decrease in organ donation across the U.S.
  3. Consistent communication, being flexible and checking on staff has been key during this time of the pandemic.

Resources Mentioned:

Episode 01: Introduction to This Thing Called Life Podcast

Episode 01: Introduction to This Thing Called Life Podcast

September 1, 2020

Host Andi Johnson discusses why This Thing Called Life was created.

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