Team Mid-South and Supporters, The countdown is on!! Salt Lake City, here we come!!
MEET THE TEAM!
Born and raised in Memphis Tennessee, ARTavius (‘Tay’) was destined to be someone special. He was born prematurely at 7 months old and was diagnosed with kidney disease at the age of three. He underwent dialysis for 15 months and received a transplant from his father July 15,2005 which was almost 13 years ago and he’s still going strong. He’s now in grad school at Full Sail University getting his Masters’ Degree in Media Design and plans to graduate the winter of 2018. He’ll be making his second appearance at the Transplant Games of America He attended the 2016 games and brought home a bronze medal for the 400m dash in the track and field competition. This year at the games he plan to do more events and increase his opportunity for more medals. He says: “Team Mid-South will be bringing home THE GOLD.”
Patrick Taylor appeared healthy and played soccer in high school and college. One night, he passed out at the dinner table followed by his heart racing. He ran 3 miles that morning and was shockingly diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy. To keep his heart in normal rhythm he got a pacemaker and defibrillator. For the next 10 years he had no major episodes but his heart function began to decline. He was placed on the waiting list in January 2017 when he was only 32 years old. Patrick says: “I received my new heart last year and immediately felt so much better. I could breathe easily and colors looked so much brighter. I’m working full-time now and running 1 -2 miles. I’m able to spend time with my wife and our three young daughters. It’s been such a blessing. About donation – “Doesn’t make any sense if your organs still work and you’re not going to use them anymore – why not give them away?”
When Amber was 28 she went to the doctor (thinking she had a stomach virus) and was diagnosed with end stage renal failure with no prior warnings. She began dialysis immediately while waiting for a kidney. Now three years post-transplant, Amber says: “ I have been blessed with a second chance at life. I have 3 very important responsibilities: live life to the fullest, share my story to encourage organ donation, and take care of my organ by staying active and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. She won several medals including bowling and darts at the Transplant Games of America in June 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio, and plans to win more in Salt lake City!
Patrick was an avid track and field runner and basketball player when a routine exam for work found lesions on his kidney which had to be removed. Then the remaining kidney became overworked and he was put on the waiting list where he stayed for 2 ½ years. When he received the call they had a match his whole life lit up. Since his transplant he’s living a full life with his family, working and enjoying sports again. While at the Transplant Games in 2016 he won a gold medal in ballroom dancing and participated in the track events. He said: “TGA – Oh my goodness. So looking forward to it! Takes me back to high school and college to participate with other people. It’s a second chance to relive your youth and bond with other people. You become a team.”
In 2006, while going up and down the stairs in my home, I had shortness of breath and became really tired by the time I reached the top. One night, I had to hold onto the furniture in order to make it to the bed for fear that I was about to pass out from exhaustion. I knew it was time for me to get to the doctor. Soon after I said a long prayer to the Lord and made my way to the Veterans Administration Hospital’s emergency room. I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure (CHF) and immediately admitted into the hospital. This was a changing day of my life! I had already been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. I knew that I was in for the biggest journey of my life!
During one of my ER visits the doctor was straight forward and told me that for me to survive I needed a new heart as mine was performing at only 15% refraction of its capability, and that would decline. I met the criteria and was put on the waiting list. I just thank God that before I even became sick I was already an organ donor.
Vera says: “On September 7, 2012, I got my new heart. I give thanks to all who have helped me on my health journey! I truly thank the family who allowed their family member’s heart to give me LIFE. I’m excited to participate at my 3rd Games and bring home Gold!”
After my husband passed away from ALS I was diagnosed with heart failure. Then two years later I was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy and placed on the transplant list. I was admitted to Baptist Hospital in October, 2015 to wait for my gift. Three months later I got the greatest gift ever – I got my new heart! Donna says: “I’m excited about attending my first Transplant Games!”
Bobbie had what she thought was a small pull in her back, near her shoulder blade on the left side. After being an airline baggage handle for more than 35 years she didn’t think much about it. She went to the doctor and was immediately admitted to the hospital and was shocked to find out she had had a heart attack. She was referred to a cardiologist who put her on the transplant waiting list. He told her 70-80% of her heart was bad. She said: “I tried to live like that but was tired all the time and had no energy for two years.”
Betonti continued: “On December 21, 2014 I received a call saying they had found a match. I hesitated because I was scared but my husband said we’re going to do this and we did. While I don’t remember a lot I woke up and realized I had been in the hospital about 10 days.”
Bobbie competed at TGA in 2016 in corn hole toss and along with her team member and heart recipient Vera Milam-Johnson won a silver medal! She also competed in the trivia challenge, darts and completed the 5K in 49 minutes and was the fourth in her age division! Of the Games she said: “It was an incredible milestone for me. I never thought after receiving a heart transplant I’d be participating in a 5K. Since I received my heart transplant life is perfect. Now that I have my energy back I don’t have time to do everything I’d like. Ironically, the pain I had in my back before the transplant is still there. It really had nothing to do with the heart attack. That pain in my back saved my life. I’m looking forward to going to Salt Lake City!”
I am first a believer and follower of Jesus Christ. Then I’m a proud mother of two boys and two girls. They are a pharmacist, post office worker, choreographer-waitress- bartender and chef-artist. I retired after the death of my son the chef- artist in 2014 after 45 years as a Medical Lab Technician. He gave six organs and five people lived. I have met his heart and right kidney recipients. Now I teach Bible study, volunteer at Mid-South Transplant, read to 2nd graders, and work part-time. I also like attending plays, fresh markets, flea markets and traveling. “I’m proud to join Team Mid-South as a donor mom and go with them to the Games.”
A 2X kidney recipient, this will be Natalie’s second TGA. Her journey began when she was being treated for pain and inflammation associated with her arthritis in 1993. She began swelling and it wouldn’t go down. Doctors ran tests and said she was losing proteins in her kidney and may need to go on dialysis. They were able to treat it with meds first but it was slowly shutting down. Her sister, Wanda Mason, gave her a kidney in November 1995. Wanda bounced back quickly and was up moving around taking Natalie to doctor appointments!
Following her transplant Natalie said: “It enhanced my life tremendously. I was able to do everything – travel with friends, enjoy my 2 children, work, I even took my son to college. I thank God for my faith as I’ve always believed.” Then in 2011 her kidney started to reject which resulted in being on dialysis for 3 ½ years. Other siblings were tested to see if they were a match which inadvertently helped them as they found they had health issues that were treatable. In 2015 she was on her way to dialysis when she got a call they had found a kidney for her.
Natalie says: “TGA is unbelievable. I went to Cleveland in 2016 and was in awe – the atmosphere is so emotional and exciting at the same time. To be able to compete and enjoy the camaraderie of our team is an opportunity of a lifetime. I had a ball. I love to talk about it and encourage others to go. Salt Lake City will be a family affair – as my daughter, granddaughter and sister (my first living donor) will share the experience with me!” She was a member of the Grizzlies’ Granny dance team after her first transplant.
Her parents said her sister Natalie was on dialysis and needed a kidney in 1995. They were looking for people who might be a match. Wanda wasn’t living in Memphis but offered to come home and get tested. She didn’t even think about it. She got tested and everything was good and the procedure was scheduled. Wanda says: “I haven’t had any trouble at all. I work 2 jobs and still find time to read, cook and enjoy watching movies. If you can be a living donor – do it! If you have the opportunity to save a life, do it, regardless of who it is. I’m so excited about going to TGA as this will be my first time. I’ll be competing in darts, Texas hold ‘em and the 5K. I can’t wait!”
Donald was actually working in a hospital when he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure as a teenager. They began treating him with medication but he was having difficulty enjoying life; hardly able to breathe. A defibrillator was put in but he continued to have problems. He moved to Memphis and was transferred to Baptist where they ran more tests. The family was told he needed a transplant or he wouldn’t live another 6 months. He made the decision to do what was best for him and was added to the waiting list. In the meantime he was on a LVAD (left ventricular assist device) for 2 years while waiting. He actually wrote the word ‘faith’ on it! He had given up after the LVAD but said God sent an angel by him. A heart recipient came by his room and told him if he wanted to get better to get out of the bed and start walking which he did. He was so full of encouragement. Donald received a heart. He pulled through, did what the doctors said, ate right and walked every day – living his life to the fullest. Donald said: “When I first went to TGA in 2014 I really didn’t know much about it. It was breath-taking – I didn’t realize there were so many donor families and recipients of all ages. I had a wonderful time as TGA encourages, inspires me and gives me great hope. Having a heart transplant has made a great impact on my life. Now I can reach out and make a difference in other people’s lives – I work fulltime, volunteer at the food pantry, and will be back in college in the fall. My greatest thanks goes to God, the staff at Baptist East and my brother Timothy and his loving wife Dawn and their children who opened up their doors and let me live with them while I was recuperating.”