This Thing Called Life
Episode 08: A Transplant Journey of Great Luck with Donerik Black

Episode 08: A Transplant Journey of Great Luck with Donerik Black

November 24, 2020

During this episode of This Thing Called Life, host Andi Johnson speaks with Donerik Black who she has known for over 20 years. Donerik had no experience with organ transplants until the day his father told him that he needed a kidney. A deep love for his father made it an easy choice. That, however, was just the beginning of his donor journey!

Episode Highlights: 

  • Donerik absorbed his parents’ values and work ethic which helped him become the successful entrepreneur he is today.
  • After college, Donerik returned to run a PR company and start a newspaper, The Dayton Weekly, both with his father.
  • The Dayton Weekly hoped to deliver content that focused on the underserved black community in the Dayton area.
  • While in college in Washington DC, Donerik played collegiate basketball while carving out his niche as a government employee.
  • Donerik decided to leave his life as a government employee and return to work with his father.
  • With his feet dipped into multiple pools of employment, Donerik knew that either you were making or losing money.
  • After spending 5 years on dialysis, Donerik’s father was told that he needed to have a kidney transplant.
  • Donerik was first introduced to organ donation when he donated a kidney to his father in June of 2006.
  • Working the newspaper and getting married in the same time period as the transplant presented various challenges.
  • Due to complications from his kidney transplant, Donerik’s father was not able to make it to his wedding.
  • Donerik’s father kept an open-door policy and that helped him establish deep roots throughout the Dayton community.
  • During a regular check-up with his doctor, it was discovered that Donerik might have something wrong with his heart.
  • After not addressing his heart issues, fluid began to fill up his lungs to the point where he couldn’t breathe.
  • Donerik had to have a pig valve transplanted into his heart when it was decided that he was too far gone.
  • Doctors decided to put a defibrillator into Donerik’s chest in case he started to have a heart attack.
  • Donerik chose to own the narrative of his new reality and share his story and do more for the community.
  • In late 2012, Donerik’s defibrillator had to activate on a regular basis because of consistent heart flutters.
  • What Donerik believed to be a quick-fix procedure ended up seeing him flatline in the outpatient facility.
  • It became more and more apparent that Donerik would need a heart transplant.
  • In the back of his mind, Donerik didn’t think that he was going to survive, so he made sure to set up his business to run in the future.
  • Donerik was forced to resign from his job and withdraw from graduate school while in ICU.
  • The outpouring of support and respect that Donerik received is something that he feels that he can never repay.
  • The hospital psychologist helped Donerik deal with the issue of someone else dying in order for him to live.
  • Donerik chose to use a TAF, or a Total Artificial Heart, to buy himself more time until he matched with a donor.
  • On his birthday, Donerik was surprised by the hospital staff that they had found a heart for him, getting a transplant later that night.
  • Donerik kept a glass-half-full mentality throughout this process, learning to focus on what was in his control.
  • A clinician actually claimed that Donerik was an “unsalvageable patient,” giving Donerik the motivation that he needed.
  • When looking back, it’s hard for Donerik to fathom his journey and the great luck that he has had.
  • After going through what he went through, Donerik has made it his mission to share the knowledge that he has gained with as many people as possible.
  • In such a crazy year, Donerik’s goal is to grow his business and create great relationships.
  • Donerik makes sure that he spends his time now with people who he can benefit and that will have a positive impact on his life.

3 Key Points:

  1. Donerik’s father was a business owner and entrepreneur for his entire life, imprinting on him the fire that drives him to be a successful entrepreneur today.
  2. After avoiding a suspected heart issue and inconsistent symptoms, Donerik had to have a valve replaced in his heart with an organ from a pig.
  3. When Donerik went in for a simple heart procedure, he flatlined and had to be shocked 74 times with over 45 minutes of CPR to come back.

Resources Mentioned:

 

Episode 07: Giving the Breath of Life After Death with Kris Grigsby

Episode 07: Giving the Breath of Life After Death with Kris Grigsby

November 10, 2020

During this episode of This Thing Called Life Podcast, host Andi Johnson speaks with Kris Grigsby, an incredible human being that has acted as the primary support system for a loved one. After struggling with Cystic Fibrosis for his entire life, Kris’s husband Joe had to have a lung transplant in 2012. Listen in to hear all about Kris and Joe’s inspiring story!

Episode Highlights: 

  • Organ donation doesn’t just affect the donor, but also changes the lives of the close friends and family.
  • Not all transplant stories have a happy ending, but at the same time, not all stories end in tragedy.
  • Kris’s husband Joe was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis as an infant, beating the odds and living well beyond his initial life expectancy.
  • When their twins were 3-years-old, Joe was operating at only 20-30% lung capacity.
  • Lung donation requires a donor that has already passed away.
  • Due to Joe’s convenient blood type, Joe only had to wait just over 3 months on the waitlist before getting his transplant.
  • Spending 6 weeks at the hospital for the transplant, Joe and Kris went 5 weeks without seeing their children.
  • Just 16 hours after his transplant, Joe was able to walk 150 feet.
  • After the transplant, Kris had to change her mindset from one of a caregiver to one of a more normal wife.
  • Kris continued to work full-time throughout the entire process for insurance purposes, but it also gave her some relief.
  • Both Joe and Kris, very independent humans, had to learn how to say yes when people offered help.
  • It took over 2 years to connect with the donor’s family, and now Kris and Joe are very actively connected with them.
  • Staying connected with the donor’s family has helped with the healing process on both sides.
  • Kris and Joe’s children do not remember the time when Joe was sick and unable to live an active lifestyle.
  • Going through the transplant process alone is impossible, so it’s important to accept the help that is offered.
  • The transplantation process is a journey for both the donor and their family/friends.
  • As a result of the different recipient and supporter groups, Joe and Kris have connected with people all over the country.
  • Kris’s grandpa passed away in April unexpectedly after marrying his new wife just a year and a half before.
  • The funeral home director advised Kris’s grandpa’s widow to deny the option for her deceased husband to be an organ donor.
  • It should be the #1 responsibility for transplant centers and funeral homes to support the family.
  • We must all advocate for ourselves and our loved ones for what’s right in the moment of a donation decision.
  • Leave the decision on whether you can or cannot be a donor up to the medical professionals.
  • Tissue and cornea donation has the potential to help up to 50 people from one donor, and can change/save lives.
  • Science is constantly evolving and as a result, the number of people that can donate is constantly increasing.
  • Transplant is not a fix-all option and it’s important to remember that there will still be rough times.
  • 2020, while chaotic, has presented an opportunity for everyone to grow closer to their families.
  • Faith has acted as an essential support beam throughout the transplant process and life in general for Kris.
  • Support groups are incredible resources for those affected by transplantations.

3 Key Points:

  1. Unlike kidney and liver donation where you can have a living donor, lung donation requires a donor that is already deceased.
  2. Kris and Joe actually watched the accident on the news that involved Joe’s donor but didn’t know it until later.
  3. A misguided funeral home director gave incorrect advice to Kris’s grandpa’s widow and ultimately swayed her to turn down his option to be an organ donor.

Resources Mentioned:

LifeCenter Virtual Community Breakfast, November 18, 2020

LifeCenter Virtual Community Breakfast, November 18, 2020

November 6, 2020

We would love for you to join us for LifeCenter's Virtual Community Breakfast on Wednesday, November 18th 2020 from 9 am - 10 am est. We will be sharing inspiring stories and honoring the heroes of organ donation. You can register for this FREE event at lifepassiton.org.

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