Organs needed: You could save a life
ART: RENEE TANNER/NEWS-REVIEW (ART: RENEE TANNER/NEWS-REVIEW / April 19, 2013)
Ashley Shepherd, 20, has a 14-inch scar down the middle of her chest. Shepherd, a 2010 Petoskey graduate, underwent a heart transplant in December and is still recovering in the Detroit area, close to her doctors.
Like Mike Stead, Shepherd's congestive heart failure diagnosis began with a trip to the emergency room.
Two years ago, Shepherd was working one Saturday night at the Noggin Room inside Stafford's Perry Hotel. Not long after her shift started, she began to feel light-headed and extremely exhausted.
Later that night, she got in bed and began coughing up blood. She panicked and went to the emergency room.
"They thought I had pneumonia and sent me home with antibiotics. But it didn't clear up, so I went back two days later," Shepherd said.
Doctors found that the antibiotics had cleared fluid around her heart, and a cardiologist was called in. Shepherd was told she wasn't going home. She had congestive heart failure at the age of 17.
In the months that followed, Shepherd had no energy. She became frustrated because while she was so young, she felt nothing like a 17-year-old.
Then, in November 2012, Shepherd found out she was getting a new heart. She was at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor after being put on a survival flight.
"At this point, I had less than 10 percent heart function. I didn't know I was that sick," Shepherd said.
"It was the most agonizing thing. It was scary," she added. "Then a week and a half later, they came in and said, 'We have a heart.'"
Organ donation saves lives
According to Gift of Life Michigan, the state has more than 3 million registered donors.
In 2012, Michigan's 261 organ donors resulted in 777 organs transplanted. However, as of March 1, 2013, there are more than 3,117 patients waiting on a transplant. Of those awaiting, 2,538 are in need of a kidney, 332 are waiting on a liver and 78 are awaiting a heart transplant.
Out of Michigan's 83 counties, Emmet County has the largest percentage of registered organ, eye and tissue donors in the state with 97 percent registered donors.
Charlevoix County has 76 percent of residents listed as donors, followed by Otsego at 55 percent and Antrim at 49 percent.
"Organ donation saves lives, simple as that. And what a legacy to leave," said Betsy Miner-Swartz, communications specialist with Gift of Life Michigan. "Most people only have one chance in their lifetimes to be a hero and that's through organ donation, which makes it possible to save the lives of up to eight very sick people.
Many of those people have weeks, days, sometimes just hours to live. It doesn't get any better than that."
Each organ donor can save up to eight lives, while tissue donors can improve the lives of up to 50 people.