Stories Of Hope: Rhonda Berger

“Jennifer’s decision to be an organ and tissue donor not only gave others a second chance at life, it also made it a little easier for us to cope with such a tragic event in knowing that she continues to live on in the lives of others.”

- Rhonda Berger

Picture a cold January day.  The snow on the ground sparkles under the sunlight as if someone had sprinkled glitter all around. As you walk into the hospital, you see people coming and going as well as hospital staff in and out of rooms as they take care of their patients.

As you walk through the double doors you see a central nurses’ station with a semi-circle of patient rooms. In one of those rooms you see a young girl lying in the bed looking as if she is sleeping. As you enter that room you see multiple IV’s, a monitor on the wall that beeps and alarms, and you hear the swoosh-hiss of the ventilator that pushes oxygen in her body. At her bedside, you see a mom holding her daughter’s hand remembering the decision her daughter made a few years prior. The decision to register to be an organ and tissue donor.

Jennifer loved life. She had a smile and a “Hello” for everyone she met. When she giggled everyone around her would soon be laughing with her. She always managed to find the good in everyone and everything. While in school she had to write a paper on where she saw herself in 20 years. She hoped to be married and have one or two children. She wanted to be an animal caretaker and have three cats of her own. She even had names picked out for them. With her love for the companion animals, after graduating high school, she headed off to college to achieve her dream of becoming a veterinary technician. Cats and dogs from local shelters helped the students perfect their skills and at the end of each eight week course, the animals were up for adoption. Good thing Jennifer wasn’t able to have pets where she lived or she would have probably brought them all home with her. She even convinced me to adopt a 13 year old cat who needed a home. She was enjoying life and moving closer to her dream when it all came to an abrupt halt with that devastating fire that took the life of Jennifer and her two roommates.

Six months later, I wrote to her recipients to share with them who Jennifer was and asked that they share with me how their life had changed since receiving Jennifer’s precious gift.

Betty received Jennifer’s right kidney after being on the transplant list for almost five years. We have a special bond with each other and stay in touch often. One day they came up to share Thanksgiving with us. My daughter and granddaughter wanted to decorate the house for Christmas and Betty offered to help. Betty is so full of energy and she grabbed my snowflake lights and held them up to her ears like earrings and pranced around the room. There was so much laughter that if felt like Jennifer was there with us.

Zac was only 17 years old when he received Jennifer’s left kidney. He had a rare disease that attacked his kidneys requiring him to be on dialysis for nine hours a day. He loved to play baseball, but was unable to play anymore and he missed so much school. Once he received Jennifer’s kidney he retook his junior year in school and was even able to play baseball again. What meant the most to Zac and his family is that he got to spend nights with his friends, and when they went on family vacations all they needed to take with them was just two pill bottles.

It’s amazing how the simple act of registering to be an organ and tissue donor can potentially impact so many lives and it only takes a few minutes to do. You can register at your local BMV or go online to IndianaDonorNetwork.org and fill in the form. Make sure you talk to you family about your decision to be a donor and you may be able to donate that precious life-saving gift to someone in need.

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