April is National Donate Life Month
WHO: Judy Weimer, 53, was diagnosed with COPD, emphysema and bronchitis on New Year’s Eve in 2005 and received a double-lung transplant in 2009 at Loyola University Health System.
“I named my new lungs Lucy and Ethel to welcome them. Lucy acts up once in a while, but they are both working fine,” said the humorous and outgoing Chicagoan. Weimer now volunteers for Gift of Hope, the organ and tissue donor network, educating others and signing up potential donors.
“Before my transplant, I was in a wheelchair, hooked up to an oxygen tank 24/7. It took four hours for me to bathe myself,” she said. “Thanks to my donor, I now am back with my usual gusto and zest for life."
Weimer said her disease was largely attributed to environmental conditions.
“I lived in Chicago and rode my bike next to exhaust-spewing buses and trucks,” she said. “My five brothers worked as mechanics in the family business and I, too, grew up with my head under the hood repairing cars. And, of course, we all smoked cigarettes.” One brother, like Weimer, was diagnosed with COPD and emphysema.
WHEN: Weimer is available for interviews from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. on Thursday, April 26, at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital where she will share her story to encourage others to consider donating organs and tissue. Weimer also is available by appointment. Media must call Stasia Thompson at (708) 417-5036.
WHY: Every year, more than 100,000 Americans will need a life-saving organ transplant, yet last year fewer than 22,000 transplants took place in the United States. A new patient is added to the organ waiting list every 11 minutes. One organ donor can save up to eight lives and improve the lives of up to 50 people by donating tissue. April is National Donate Life Month. Weimer offers herself as living proof of why organ donation saves lives and why everyone’s help is needed.
“I am 6 feet tall, so I needed an extra-long pair of lungs, because you can’t just fit any size organ in any person,” she said. “My donor was a man who was 6 feet, 6 inches, who successfully donated several organs at his passing. I have written several letters of thanks to his family through the Gift of Hope organization because without his lungs, I wouldn’t be here today.”