A PowerPlayer is anyone who supports the life-saving cause of organ donation and transplantation, from the patients who receive transplants, to the donors and their families who make those transplants possible, to the medical professionals who arrange and perform the life-saving miracle of transplantation. They serve to remind us that we all have the Power2Save lives.
This week we spoke with Tara Kline, who told us her inspiring story.
What was the medical condition that led you to need an organ transplant?
I had Eisenmenger’s syndrome. I didn’t actually get diagnosed with it until I was 18. A lot of people with Eisenmenger’s don’t necessarily become symptomatic until they get older. When I was 18 I started getting really breathless and my fingertips started turning blue, and when I went in for a checkup they found out I was having all these problems. It affected my heart and both of my lungs.
Did you know you’d need an organ transplant for full recovery?
What was your reaction?
Wow, I guess just shock. Not knowing that [I had Eiesenmenger’s] for so many years of my life, and being healthy. I was in sports and doing a lot of different things, and then to find out that I had such a severe health problem. I had just graduated high school, so I was planning on going to school, but that was interrupted pretty quickly.
How long did you have to wait for an organ?
I waited for 8 years, which was a long time.
How did you feel during the time you were waiting?
It was hard, especially not knowing when I was going to get transplanted. I was pretty sick so I had really limited physical capabilities. Some days were better than others, where I could do a lot of walking, but others I couldn’t even get out of bed. I couldn’t work; I couldn’t go to school. It was difficult for me to be that age and see everyone else moving on with their lives and me kind of being paused for such a long time.
Describe the emotion you felt when you were told that you had finally gotten a matching organ.
It was the 20th of April. I was actually at home, watching Jay Leno. It was crazy because after waiting for 8 years and I’d kind of accepted, the best that I could, to live how I had lived for so long. I couldn’t believe that it was actually happening. That was 11:30 at night and I went straight to the ER.
I was super scared, but I also felt really hopeful because I knew that it was my shot [at a healthy life]. I could remember, post-transplant, feeling a huge amount of gratitude for my donor. After waiting so long, then, to get a heart, double-lung [transplant], which is hard to get due to a lack of donors, was incredible.
How is your life different since the transplantation?
It’s been incredible! Post-transplant the recovery was a little difficult. I needed a second surgery two weeks after, so my recovery time was about a month longer than normal. After that I felt really empowered from my organ donor to do things that I had wanted to do prior to the transplant. Less than a year after [my transplant] I went back to college and got my degree. I traveled abroad for the first time. I have a nephew who at the time of my transplant was two, and the prior to my transplant I couldn’t really do anything because I was so sick. A lot of our interactions were him bringing me Kleenexes and cotton balls for my surgical scars! Just being able to go on walks with him and normal things was amazing and ground-breaking for me. Now I have a full-time job, am looking into getting my masters, just so many wonderful things.
What makes you a PowerPlayer? Why should others support the Power2Save initiative?
I’ve done a lot of public awareness campaigns to really put a face to the cause and show that people’s decisions to donate their organs can affect so many people, families, individuals. I think it helps people when they see a recipient to see “Oh, that’s what happens” and see the person they’re helping. I feel really strongly about seeing why it’s so crucial to be organ donors. You can go many years of your life without realizing there’s anything really wrong with you, and all of a sudden you may need a life-saving surgery.