Lafayette native Janie Campbell knows just how a kidney can be so precious. Her younger brother, David Dugas, was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at the age of 7. While Janie was always healthy, her sibling was constantly battling illness. She prayed constantly for his recovery, but by the time he reached his 20s, David's kidneys started failing, and Janie realized that she might have to take a more active role to save his life. "That was the first time I started thinking, 'They might ask me to give him a kidney,'" she recalls.
David's doctors recommended a pancreas transplant and found another donor. The transplant at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center went well at first ' David could eat sweets, stopped taking insulin shots and eventually returned to work. Three years later, his kidneys again started to fail.
Janie went to see him in Memphis, where David's thoughts turned to his wife. "He said, 'You know, my poor wife. How can I be a good husband to her? I'm always sick,'" Janie remembers. "And it just broke my heart. So, I thought, 'I'm just going to do it.'"
Six months later, the siblings underwent four days of extensive testing and were cleared for the donation process. They had to wait another three months to undergo the procedure. After the surgery, Campbell remained in the hospital for four days, then stayed at the hotel adjacent to the transplant center for another couple of days. She recovered at home for about six weeks, then returned to her work as a tutor. "The surgery wasn't bad," she says. "It felt like a bad stitch in my side. And the euphoria of knowing how it all went kind of helped. My brother was so excited. Everyone was."
For David, the recuperation process was difficult. Post-surgery, he was on dialysis. He had a rejection episode about six months later but eventually recovered and is now six years post-transplant. "He is doing very well," Campbell reports. "He is not able to work, because of all the damage that had been done to his organs. But, he cooks, cleans, and he is remodeling his house. He's very happy. If it weren't for the transplants, I don't know how long he would have lasted."
About three years later, Campbell felt a strong need to tell people about the importance of organ donation. A friend recommended that she contact the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency's outreach person, Libbie Harrison, to volunteer. When she called, Campbell told Harrison about her experience, and recounted a story about a local couple who had donated their teenager's organs after he died in truck accident.
Harrison calmly responded, "That was my son."
Harrison, LOPA's family advocate and community educator, started volunteering after two tragic experiences. The first occurred in 1994, when her father was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. At that time, the only solution was a transplant. After two years of waiting for a heart, Harrison's father died. "We were so angry that Daddy died," Harrison recalls. "We thought that you really had to be rich and famous to get a transplant."
At that point, Harrison's 15-year-old son, Justin, decided to scour the Internet for information on organ donation. Afterwards, he gathered his parents and four siblings together and encouraged them to express their wishes about donation. "We all agreed that it was the right thing to do," Harrison says.
Eleven months to the day after his grandfather's funeral, Justin fell from the back of a stationary pickup truck and struck his head. As the family waited anxiously at the hospital for word of his condition, Harrison says she was on her knees "begging, pleading, and making deals with God."
Justin was declared brain dead. "At first, I totally did not understand brain death, because he was still hooked up to the machine, so his body was still functioning," Harrison recalls. "So, that didn't look like death to me. And again, I prayed some more, and begged some more, and wanted to take him home. And at some point, I realized he was home, but he wasn't going to be with me."
Once Harrison reached that realization, she started asking questions about organ donation. Her biggest fear was that Justin would be disfigured by the process, but LOPA's representative reassured her that would not happen. "She assured me that it would not affect the viewing at the funeral," Harrison says. "It would, however, delay the funeral, perhaps even a day, because it does take some time to find all of the perfect matches."
Justin's organs saved five lives and gave sight to two others. Harrison has maintained contact with the recipients of his heart, pancreas and left kidney, and recently heard from his right kidney donee. "Something really good happened that day, too," Harrison said. "Because, if we would have said no, we wouldn't have Justin, and these folks would have died also."
Harrison started volunteering at LOPA nine years ago and became a full-time employee in 2000. Louisiana has 1.5 million registered donors, and more than 100 new donors sign up each year. "Our outreach efforts are working, and we are saving more lives than we ever have," she says. "What Justin said is right, because after Daddy died, and after Justin did all of that research, he said, 'Mama, if more people knew about donation, Paw Paw would still be alive. We are going to make people talk about this.' So, therein lies my determination to tell people what I can do for Justin and Daddy. Justin is my little hero."
Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency
301 E. Kaliste Saloom Road
To become an organ donor: Sign up at the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles, or register with LOPA online at www.LOPA.org or by calling (800) 521-GIVE.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
A Lafayette woman faces up to 20 years in prison for running up more than $1 million in unauthorized charges to her company credit card.
Signs that our state’s banking industry is undergoing a downsizing in 2014 were further confirmed today with the FDIC’s latest figures showing a third straight quarter in which Louisiana lost more banks and earned less money.
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State police say a 47-year-old Lafayette man, who collected more than $83,000 in disability benefits, is accused of operating two businesses out of his home at a time when he claimed he had no income.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Odell Beckham on the catch; chaos in Ferguson; snowstorm set to snarl travel and more national and international news for Tuesday, November 25, 2014.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.
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By now, the story of how longtime LSU coach Dale Brown discovered Shaquille O'Neal has been told many times: Brown happened upon a massive 13-year-old at an army base in Germany, stayed in touch with him and eventually became like a second father.
Fate simply wasn't ready to give the New Orleans Saints a break from longtime nemesis Steve Smith.
Facing opposition from a powerful industry, the governor and many in the Legislature, a New Orleans-area flood board's lawsuit against dozens of oil, gas and pipeline companies seemed doomed early on.
"I want to take an opportunity to thank the people of Lafayette for allowing me to serve you for the last three years as your school superintendent."
After Thanksgiving, the small town of Moreauville plans to confiscate and kill all rottweilers and pitbulls, including a service dog.
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.
Two bedroom in Lafayette or two bedroom in Kaplan
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Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thursday’s explosion aboard an oil production platform in the Gulf of Mexico is now under investigation by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
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