Each year, those who have been touched by organ, cornea, and tissue donation in Western Washington gather to celebrate the gift of life and remember those who gave to others. The annual Donation Celebration is hosted collaboratively by LifeCenter Northwest, the local organ procurement organization, and SightLife, the local cornea recovery organization. This year’s event was held Sunday, August 4, in Bellevue. Attendees included organ, cornea, and tissue donor families, transplant recipients, those waiting on the transplant waiting list, living donors, and medical professionals. This gathering provides an opportunity for the donation community in our region to come together to share stories, grieve, rejoice, and heal together in a safe, supportive environment.

The event theme, “every act of kindness creates a ripple” focused on the immense impact of the gift of organ, eye, and tissue donation. This gift not only touches the transplant recipient, but also every person their recipient interacts with moving forward, the donor’s own family, the medical staff who helped – the list goes on a on.

Double lung recipient, Carmel Aronson, shares her story at the 2019 Donation Celebration

One of the speakers at the celebration was double lung transplant recipient, Carmel Aronson. Prior to contracting a rare lung disease, Carmel was a strong, healthy, and active young woman. In December 2013, and without warning, everything changed. As her health began to rapidly decline she was hospitalized for concurrent cases of the flu and pneumonia. Over the next year, Carmel noticed how easily she would get out of breath and how difficult it was to return to the physical condition she was in prior to falling ill. Soon after, Carmel was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Hypertension – a rare, but deadly disease that affects breathing and can eventually cause fatal heart failure. She was 33.

Life had become extremely difficult for Carmel. She needed continuous supplemental oxygen, could not work, could rarely go outside, and often needed help moving around her studio apartment. Plans with friends and family were nearly impossible as daily activity had to be strictly calculated and planned for, and her condition varied from day to day. At this point, Carmel’s only hope at survival was a lung transplant.

In November 2015, Carmel received the call from the University of Washington that changed her life. Since her transplant, Carmel has found a new lease on life and is thriving with her new lungs.

“Life is different than I ever could have imagined,” Carmel says. “I do not feel that I have ‘transitioned back’ to my life before transplant, rather that I have ‘transitioned forward’ towards a new version of myself and a new life.”

The generosity of one donor has given Carmel a second chance at life. For that she couldn’t be more grateful.

Members of the UW lung transplant support group attend the gathering each year. This year, 12 other transplant recipients from the group, and their families, were there to cheer her on as she easy walked to the stage, climbed the stairs, and read her story to the group- a feat that would have been impossible four years ago. 

To view pictures from the event visit: www.donationcelebration.shutterfly.com/3510

UW lung transplant support group at the 2019 Donation Celebration