• PROOF:
  • May 7, 2014

David Y. Lee’s “The Waiting List”

Author
Alexa Keefe

“If you give me a camera, I’ve got a purpose. This is why I want to be a photographer.”

Back in 2008, David Y. Lee was a member of the White House press corps, skilled at jockeying for the best position and finding fresh takes on often-photographed events, but ultimately observing from a distance. Then, an article in The Washington Post about organ donation caught his eye, with a statistic he found hard to ignore: one third of the people on the transplant wait list were ineligible because they were too sick, not sick enough, or due to some other complication.

And, as he found out by doing more research, even though 90% of Americans said they believed in organ donation, only 30% were registered donors, even though registration could be done online. If this is the case, he wondered, couldn’t the problem of a wait list hypothetically be solved if enough people signed up?

Becoming an organ donor—and the subsequent thoughts about one’s mortality—is typically not a priority unless one is directly impacted, either as someone in need of a transplant, or as a loved one of that someone. Lee was in neither of these situations. For him, it was as simple as coming across a problem that he had the power to solve—the marriage of photography and purpose.

Enter “The Waiting List.”

Lee would start with the story of an individual, told in their words. Using social media, it would be seen by people in their circles and then those in the concentric circles beyond, touching one life at a time.

“My hope is to have my work resonate with my family and friends, and having their first reaction be a simple LIKE. Through social media, I can see if my work connects with those in my world. I can adapt my stories and portraits to be better humanize the statistics of organ donation to the rest of America. If I can make my family and friends care, I am onto something.”

The interview continues following the below portraits and stories.

Meet Nicole Perez of Sacramento, CA (and her 5-year-old daughter Natalie). Nicole’s daughter Marina Figueroa passed away on January 28, 2013 at age 13; she was an organ donor and saved four lives. “To be able to meet Marina’s heart recipient would be the most amazing experience. My daughter, even though she didn’t give her heart to a boy in life, she gave her heart to a 16-year-old boy to save his life. I thought that was a pretty cool irony. I was in the hospital thinking, Has she ever kissed a boy? Has she ever experienced love? I don’t even know if she had even held hands with a boy. You think about the heart, the one organ that sustains all the others. Life comes through and by the heart. To hear her heart beating again like I used to when she was young, what a blessing that would be. To feel my daughter’s heart working inside someone else, wow. That’s what this was all about. To bring life, to save a life. It still amazes me.” –Nicole Perez, 2014
  

Meet Nicole Perez of Sacramento, CA (and her 5-year-old daughter Natalie). Nicole’s daughter Marina Figueroa passed away on January 28, 2013 at age 13; she was an organ donor and saved four lives. “To be able to meet Marina’s heart recipient would be the most amazing experience. My daughter, even though she didn’t give her heart to a boy in life, she gave her heart to a 16-year-old boy to save his life. I thought that was a pretty cool irony. Has she ever kissed a boy? Has she ever experienced love? I don’t even know if she had even held hands with a boy. To feel my daughter’s heart working inside someone else, wow. That’s what this was all about. To bring life, to save a life. It still amazes me.” –Nicole Perez, 2014

Meet Tad Suwa of Sacramento, CA. He received a living kidney donation from his sister on August 3, 2012. Due to complications, his transplant failed and Tad is back on the waiting list. "I know my sister toiled with (being a living kidney donor) for a little while because she is a single mom. She donated a kidney because she wanted to see her brother extend his life. And it didn't happen. Did I take her kidney for no reason? Basically she is one organ less because of me. So if something happens later in life, I am at fault. I hold a lot of that in. And yet she has told me, if I had another kidney to give you I would."  –Tad Suwa, 2014
 

Meet Tad Suwa of Sacramento, CA. He received a living kidney donation from his sister on August 3, 2012. Due to complications, his transplant failed and Tad is back on the waiting list. “I know my sister toiled with (being a living kidney donor) for a little while because she is a single mom. She donated a kidney because she wanted to see her brother extend his life. And it didn’t happen. Did I take her kidney for no reason? Basically, she is one organ less because of me. So if something happens later in life, I am at fault. I hold a lot of that in. And yet she has told me, if I had another kidney to give you I would.” –Tad Suwa, 2014

Meet Mark Grassinger of Citrus Heights, CA and his son Riggs who received a liver transplant on September 13, 2012 when he was 18 months old. “You just felt each day him getting weaker, and weaker, and weaker. And there was a point where we really did think that we might lose him. You’re walking up and down the halls because he is uncomfortable. Your arms are falling off because you’ve carried him for another three hours. You just keep doing it because you know what, you do whatever it takes. So we’re running around, they have this little courtyard over at UCSF and we’re running behind bushes trying to get a smile out of him. Just because if you get a smile out of him, there is still life there. You have to have that level of hope through the process.”
 

Meet Mark Grassinger of Citrus Heights, CA and his son Riggs who received a liver transplant on September 13, 2012 when he was 18 months old. “You just felt each day him getting weaker, and weaker, and weaker. And there was a point where we really did think that we might lose him. You’re walking up and down the halls because he is uncomfortable. Your arms are falling off because you’ve carried him for another three hours. You just keep doing it because you know what, you do whatever it takes. So we’re running around, they have this little courtyard over at UCSF and we’re running behind bushes trying to get a smile out of him. Just because if you get a smile out of him, there is still life there. You have to have that level of hope through the process.” —Mark Grassinger, Riggs’ father, 2014

Meet Kelci Fandel of Diamond Springs, CA. As a 9-year-old she received a heart transplant on May 19, 2004. Today she is a medical assistant and is studying to become a kindergarten teacher. “Over 10 years ago we would have never believed in organ donation. We actually thought it was ghoulish. After having my daughter need a heart, after my mother needing a kidney, and after years of meeting people in our situation, my mind has totally changed. My drivers license has the donor dot. People need to see how simple it is to sign up. It is also way to honor the person that passed on. This is something I think of a lot when I think of the precious gift that was given to my daughter at age 9. I’ll always be forever grateful to Doryce Norwood and her family.
 

Meet Kelci Fandel of Diamond Springs, CA. As a 9-year-old she received a heart transplant on May 19, 2004. Today she is a medical assistant and is studying to become a kindergarten teacher. “Over 10 years ago, we would have never believed in organ donation. We actually thought it was ghoulish. After having my daughter need a heart, after my mother needing a kidney, and after years of meeting people in our situation, my mind has totally changed. My driver’s license has the donor dot. People need to see how simple it is to sign up, and realize what a big difference they will make in other peoples’ lives. It is also way to honor the person that passed on. This is something I think of a lot when I think of the precious gift that was given to my daughter at age 9. I’ll always be forever grateful to Doryce Norwood and her family.” —Smokey R. Fandel, Kelci’s father, 2014

Meet Kat Killips of Citrus Heights, CA (and her two-month-old daughter Kylee). Kat received a liver transplant on July 4, 2004.
 

Meet Kat Killips of Citrus Heights, CA (and her two-month-old daughter Kylee). Kat received a liver transplant on July 4, 2004. “I had never thought about organ donation, I had never thought about being this sick. I had never thought about my life changing so drastically. I was in my young 20’s, I was having a great time. The doctors moved me to the top of the list because I was one of the sickest patients at that point. You have to be so sick that you are dying to get a transplant. But just well enough to survive the surgery. I was literally on the borderline of ‘Will I make it the next couple of days?’ or &’Will I make it long enough to get a transplant?’ And then you have to remember that there are floors of patients also waiting for transplants. How sick are they? It was really weird. And the difference between me and other people was that some were sick for years and I was sick for weeks. I just got sick overnight. I did feel kind of guilty. But it is not about who you are, it is about what your numbers are, it is about what your blood type is, it is about how sick you are. You just have to know that if that next person is just as sick that they are going to get a transplant. Hopefully, there are enough organs coming in that that person is going to be saved too.” –Kat Killips, 2014

 

Reaching back to his roots in long-form documentary photography, Lee takes a straightforward approach to photographing his subjects, showing them as “simple, ordinary people in their homes, still living their lives.” He interviews them at length, which he refers to jokingly as “bad therapy,” showing up at their houses with a notebook, listening to their stories, asking questions that others in similar situations might be curious to hear.

Back online, Lee is invested in fostering a community he hopes can eventually become self-sustaining. A big part of this is presenting a model of storytelling that others can follow, presenting members of the community the opportunity to step in as guest editors. “It’s so much more powerful hearing from them,” he says.

In March of 2014, Lee began a partnership with Sierra Donor Services who took a chance on a “no-name kid showing up with an idea,” as Lee puts it. So far these have been viewed over 90,000 times on The Waiting List Facebook page. “I am at mile four of the marathon,” Lee says of getting the message out. There is definitely more to come.

Read more stories from the “The Waiting List” and join the conversation on thewaitinglist.org. You can also follow the project on Tumblr. To register as an organ donor, visit www.donatelife.net/register-now.

There are 88 Comments. Add Yours.

  1. janet postell
    May 9, 2015

    My husband has end stage liver disease due to HEP C. He had to go on treatment for a whole year to get rid of hep c. But he ha already been sick for 20 years. He is not a drinker either. We are sure he got he hep c from the many tattoos. But the past two years he health has got worse. He has had three surgery’s to the inside of his stomach. The procedure is called Glue and Coil. But we have to travel from Astoria Oregon to San Francisco, CA. Every three to six months because of this procedure. There are not many places to find help for sick adults waiting for liver transplants. I wish I could find some help getting funds for motel room when we have to stay in San Francisco. Plus the liver doctor never knows if he will have to do surgery. My husband has to go down there every three to six months to have a camera put down his throat into his stomach and past his stomach. His doctor looks at all the blood veins from his throat all the way past his stomach to make sure none of them are to big. Also they look for a lot of other things that are apart of this liver disease. All of this has taken its toll on the whole family. We have limited income. And we are low income. I really need help finding a foundation or some other kind of organization that can help us with things that are not covered by insurance. Need to find a grant or an organization for funds to get a bed that is soft and comfortable enough so that he can get the rest his body needs.He could get a hospital bed but he tells me those beds are for people that are dyeing. He wants to live. He wants to feel his wife next to him. Not be in a different room from his wife.Not having all the grandkids and big kids sit around him on our king size bed while we all take turns reading the bible is the most important thing we do in our home. That is why we must have a king size bed. Plus having a really good bed will help him after he gets a new liver as well. So I also don’t know what to do about having to go from Oregon to California for medical treatment and surgery’s. The liver specialist up here in Oregon don’t want to deal with the work that was already done on my husbands stomach. He said he would have done things very differently when it comes to the blood veins in his stomach. So he told us to keep going to him for the stomach problems.So because my husband and I don’t have a big family . I myself have just my mother. My dad passed away. So we don’t have much support. I try to do my best but it is not enough.We also are raising our grandson that is 4 years old. I am burned out. I need help. We need people that would like to help us. I don’t have anyone to help with fund raisers or car washes or anything.S

  2. Lori Peryea
    September 19, 2014

    My husband is a kidney recipient of Christopher Dickerson. Words can never explain our gratitude to the donor family. In my husbands family, he is the 11th to receive a kidney. Since then 4 others have received kidneys and 3 more are on dialysis. None of his family members met their donor families. We feel so blessed to be able to say in person how thankful we are to them. To meet the other recipients also a blessing. We are now one big family brought together out of the generosity of Christopher and his very loving and caring family. The most beautiful part of our meeting the Dickerson family was when Christopher ( dad ) heard his sons heart and he raised his hands as though he was reaching to heaven. We were asked to share our story at the Sierra Donor Services conference with Mr. Lee. Thank you for bringing this important task to life. As a recipient, comes guilt. Someone looses a loved one so you can live. But we are not in charge, God orchestrates our lives. We must except his plan.
    Christopher, Ramona, Christian and Tony, you are always in our thoughts. Thank you for this gift.

  3. Christopher Dickerson
    September 19, 2014

    We never know the journeys we’re going on after the loss of a child. When we loss our son Christopher on 7/14/11, our lives changed. Christopher is a twin, lost in a single car accident, not surviving the trauma caused to his brain. But as an athlete, his organs remained strong. As a family, we decided he would beome an organ donor, so begin our journey. On March 22, 2014, with the assistance and love from Sierra Donor Society, we met the recipients of his Heart, Liver, and both Kidneys. The Kidney recipients just happened to be in surgery at the same time, at UC Davis Med Center. We met their families, and love ones, what a journey. And the gift of all gifts, we heard Christopher’s heart beat inside of Craig’s chest!!! Also, the recipient of both Lungs wasn’t able to attend, but he’s doing well. “Gone To Soon, But God Has A Greater Plan.” 5 people, five lives, five families, Our Hero, has put us together, and our Journey continues. We’ve started a foundation, Christopher Xavier Dickerson Foundation (teamcxd.org), adopted a street in his honor, comimitted to bringing positive change to this community. And over the last two years, The Foundation have given 6 scholarships to deserving students who shares Christopher’s visions for a higher education. We’re all donors now, we see the positive change it has on families, and the incredible journeys that remain in us all. Thank you.

    Christopher Dickerson

  4. Lisa Caughhorn
    August 25, 2014

    Thank you for your work and raising awareness. Every little bit helps. The ultimate success comes with every person that sees this and signs up to be a potential donor. We wait on the list hoping the call will come during the small window of opportunity. Thank you to the families of donors for providing the perfect gift. Peace be with you all.

  5. Jessica
    June 25, 2014

    I always forget to register when getting my drivers license. I never knew you could online. So I just registered! 5 minutes, that easy! Wow!

  6. Amy Cross
    June 12, 2014

    Thank you for bringing this topic to “the dinner table “. With this kind of open dialog, and powerful stories, family members can express concerns and publicly profess their desire to give the gift of life. This decision is one best well discussed before events happen . My daughter is still on this earth due to a heart donor.

  7. Kris Geist
    June 3, 2014

    Mark & Sarah & Simon & Riggs! I love what you wrote about Riggs. I love you all. He is a tough young boy, I am blessed to be a part of his life. DONORS SAVE LIVES! Grandpa Kris Loves You!

  8. Janet Rost
    May 22, 2014

    Two years ago I had less than a 30% chance of living another 3 months. I knew my window was closing in fast six short months after my doctor looked at me and my husband and told me to do my bucket list…and fast! I received the call we all wait for. Fast forward to today I’m a very active healthy and very grateful woman. I’m riding on Team Transplant on June 1, hoping to ride 64 miles to raise awareness that organ transplantation truly is not just life saving, but we are able to do more than most people do. Why? Because I know what it feels like to almost have my life end. I’m not even close to ready for that and I’ll be active every day because my donor wasn’t able to. She and I will go many miles together!

  9. Stuart Honenberger
    May 20, 2014

    Wow! What an amazing project. I knew David was a photographer, but had no idea David was so skilled! Truly amazed!

  10. Katy Vernet
    May 16, 2014

    Beautiful, heartwarming stories! My husband had a kidney transplant on April 10th. The living donor was a college friend who bravely stepped up to the plate and changed the course of my husbands life. We are forever grateful for this gift!

  11. Christine Walker
    May 16, 2014

    Wonderful piece, wonderful work! my husband just received a kidney transplant!! he’s doing great! there is a little these stories

  12. Betsy Buckwalter
    May 16, 2014

    Thank you for these beautiful stories. My husband was waiting for a heart transplant but died before he could receive one. That was in 2007. I was devastated to lose him after 28 years of marriage. But life brought me full circle when I moved out of state in 2011. I happened to move in next door to a wonderful man who is now my husband. His first wife received a liver transplant in 1999 but eventually passed away from complications from diabetes. They were married 33 years. We are both very pro organ donation. We honor the memories of our first spouses in doing this.

  13. Dell Chalk
    May 16, 2014

    I was 1/10 of 1cm away from not being able to have a liver transplant. The cancer tumor scale was getting ready to eliminate my chances. Then a liver donor became available. Four years since I am still living a cancer free life. Donors are needed so desperately. Life can be renewed and a love one can live again.

  14. David Y. Lee
    May 15, 2014

    Thanks to everyone who shared their story of organ donation. Thanks for your kind words, of support in my efforts to humanize the statistics of organ donation. Thanks for reading and sharing these stories of organ donation. I do believe that we can help #endthewaitinglist one story at a time. I am trying. Keep following The Waiting List (www.thewaitinglist.org) or Instagram (@the_waitinglist). DYL

  15. David Y. Lee
    May 15, 2014

    Thank you for your message Lisa. I am happy I could help inspire your husband to register as an organ donor. DYL

  16. David Y. Lee
    May 15, 2014

    I hope you decide to register as an organ donor — to sign up online, go to: http://www.donatelife.net/register-now. DYL

  17. David Y. Lee
    May 15, 2014

    Hi Judy Singer — thank you for sharing. I am actually producing a photo series featuring living donors for August 2014. Stay tuned to The Waiting List for updates on submission guidelines. DYL

  18. David Y. Lee
    May 15, 2014

    Kim — thank you for sharing about your dad. DYL

  19. David Y. Lee
    May 15, 2014

    Thank you for sharing LRG. I am producing a photo series of living donors for August 2014. Check into The Waiting List for more information. DYL

  20. David Y. Lee
    May 15, 2014

    Hi Lanna Cook — how is your husband feeling? How has the wait been for you and your husband? And you are right, it would be awesome to follow an entire journey with someone. One day… DYL

  21. David Y. Lee
    May 15, 2014

    Thank you for sharing Ellen. DYL

  22. David Y. Lee
    May 15, 2014

    Amanda Campbell, how is your son feeling? How long has he been waiting for a lung transplant? How are you doing? DYL

  23. David Y. Lee
    May 15, 2014

    Thanks for sharing Nicole. DYL

  24. David Y. Lee
    May 15, 2014

    Thank you Norma and Amanda for reading and sharing these stories of organ donation, and for your kind words. DYL

  25. David Y. Lee
    May 15, 2014

    Thank you for sharing your story Tina, and for being a living kidney donor. I am producing a photo series of living donors for August 2014. Check into http://www.thewaitinglist.org for more information. DYL

  26. Laura
    May 15, 2014

    Just prior to our 30 year high school reunion, I was hoping to reconnect with my best friend, Tina. I found out she couldn’t attend because she was too ill. She needed a kidney. Well within a year’s time, I was tested and gave her one of my kidneys. It is 6 months post-op and both donor and recipient are doing great! Talk about reconnecting!

  27. janice
    May 15, 2014

    I also lost my youngest son who was just weeks short of turning 16 years old. My son stated on his learners permit that he wished o be a donor. I have always been a registered donor myself but I never thought of telling my children because our children aren’t suppose to pass on before us! But with the help of Leagacy of Life Hawaii we were able to follow Corys wishes. My young son saved four other people’s lives! I love you and miss you Cory. Xxxx

  28. Michelle
    May 15, 2014

    This is fantastic! My husband received a liver transplant December 31, 2002. Thank you for what you are doing!

  29. Carolynn Russell
    May 15, 2014

    What a great project. My son had a liver transplant at 18 months old and a kidney transplant 2 years ago. He’s turning 25 this week, getting ready to attend Univ. of FL to study journalism & communications. He’s living his dream all because of someone else’s unselfish act. I’m thankful every day for his donor and their decision to save a life. p.s. My son had his liver transplant at UCSF so it was great seeing many recipients in Sacramento, where we used to live. God Bless you all!

  30. Tammy
    May 15, 2014

    I am also a photographer as well as a mother who lost a child and she was able to donate too! This is an incredible project!!!

  31. Larry Schoettler
    May 15, 2014

    In 1950 I had cancer in my bladder, it was removed kidneys were hooked up to colon. 2 years latter, catheters were installed in each kidney. That way till was 28, had a urinary diversion out in. Started dialysis on 4/22/1980. Then on September 3, 1981 LRD kidney transplant, sister was my donor. so for almost 33 years the kidney is still peeing and all is not perfect but is GOOD!!

  32. Erica Hatch
    May 15, 2014

    It’s been many years now since my mom has past on. She had alot of medical issues. Starting with 2 failed kidney transplants, 2 strokes, a brain tumor and a few other things during her 15yr fight with renal failure. Organ donation has always been something we all agreed was the greatest gift one could do for someone else. It was the first thing I checked off when I got my licence. When my mom past we all believed do to her many health issues she would never be able to donate. So it came to a surprising shock when the lady at the hospital came up to my dad and I to ask if we wanted to have certain organs donated. We both we going thru her complete medical history. When done she said we can give 2 people the gift of sight. We said immediately yes. Mom who truly believed in organ donation who thought she never could was able to give vision to 2 different people. I share this with people often because I hear “oh well I have alot of medical stuff wrong”. I’m here to say organs donated are not just heart, liver, kidneys nor is it the lungs. But eyes and has I learned skin tissues. Thank you for getting the word out and so beautifully done on organ donation.

  33. Oralia Meneses
    May 15, 2014

    I received a kidney thru the Swap program, my niece donated her kidney it was a 3 way swap! There needs to be more awareness of this option!

  34. Khary Brown
    May 15, 2014

    Thanks so much for sharing these stories. They give my family hope. My son is currently on the transplant list awaiting a new heart. Thank you again.

  35. Sue Doughty
    May 13, 2014

    I am a liver recipient of nine years and have been a registered organ donor for 22 years. You do good work! Thank you.

  36. Martha Takayama
    May 13, 2014

    It is difficult to adequately express with words the power of your work and needs for which it speaks. .

  37. Nez Gage
    May 13, 2014

    Choose to be a donor, then explain the importance to your loved ones that they carry thru on your wish because if you die ultimately they will choose whether or not to donate after you are gone.

  38. Cara
    May 13, 2014

    This is beautiful. I spent 7 years of my life working as an organ recovery coordinator, caring for the donor and their family through the donation process. The aspects of love, loss and of the gift of life I have learned are immeasurable. I appreciate the work you are doing and am so grateful. I wish everyone could know the hope donation gives to families- when all has been taken from them, life is given. That is truly amazing. It allowed me to see the good in all people- not matter the race, religion, ethnicity behind them.
    My hope is that one day everyone will at least discuss organ & tissue donation with their families, sign up to be a donor if they choose. Donation saves and enhances lives. It’s truly a beautiful gift. A legacy you leave behind.
    I’ve kept a journal- of the donors I’ve cared for and their families. I’ve even visited the resting spot of a donor that meant so much to me.
    Thanks for the work you are doing. God bless the donors and their families. God watch over those waiting. ❤️

  39. Roberta
    May 13, 2014

    I was in the hospital until I died or received a double lung transplant. Fortunately, three days after admission, i received two new lungs. I don’t know who the donor was, or lthe family, but I am so grateful for the family’s decision to save a life, and in this case, it was mine. Thank you to all those selfless donors out there. They are angels!

  40. Lisa Johnson
    May 12, 2014

    My daughter became a hero on
    9-16-12 when she passed away and had checked donor on her license. I’ve taken my mission as a donor mom very seriously I work hard educating and I help anyway that I can when Core or Donate Life WV need my help. We saved 5 and gave 2 sight and did bone & tissue also. My love for her will never waver she will always be my angel & hero

  41. Diane
    May 10, 2014

    I am so moved by this. My husband of 24 yrs was too sick for a liver transplant. He damaged his kidneys with liver disease. He didn’t make it. My best friend has kidney disease and on dialysis waiting for a donor. He has had 2 possible donor s, they didn’t qualify. 7 yrs later, donor is out there soon. Thank you for this..

  42. Trish
    May 10, 2014

    I have a brother w/ heart transplant, he married a wonderful woman with. a liver transplant. They both work diligently 2 bring awareness of the gift of a second chance at life.my whole family and my in laws have all registered donors. Thank you for your dedication to open the mind’s & hearts of more people.

  43. Pauline johnson
    May 10, 2014

    I had a living donor transplant from my brother ,who flew in from New Zealand, in 1999 for hep C from blood
    products. I don’t have it anymore but the liver was damaged from cirrhosis and I’ve been on the wait list for 2 years. They say I’m not sick enough but I swell up with edema every day and the water pills are damaging my kidney function. I feel that I may die waiting..I live in NY.

  44. Jennifer
    May 10, 2014

    Great job. I follow “The Waiting List” daily. My daughter was blessed with a new heart on 1/22/14 so I can relate with the families. Keep up the wonderful work and thank you for being an advocate of organ donation.

  45. Sheila
    May 10, 2014

    My daughter, Kaitelyn, was born in 1994 with little chance of survival due to a heart problem. She had her 1st transplant in 1995 @ 9 months old. Then had her 2nd transplant in 2005 @ 10 yrs old. In 2013 she was put on the list for a 3rd transplant, But lost her fight and became my sweet angel in heaven in November 2013 @ 19 years old. The only viable organ was her corneas and we her family donated them in honor of her and her 2 donors that gave US 19 amazingly wonderful years.

  46. Linda Igus
    May 10, 2014

    I enjoyed reading this article. On September 17, 2003 I donated a kidney to my brother Tracy. He has gone on to receive a doctorate in education. My sister Robin donated a kidney to our sister Nanci. The transplant lasted over ten years. Nanci needed a second transplant and is doing well. In fact the same week Tracy received his doctorate she received her Masters in Social Work. Both are healthy and doing well. We have a nephew also on the waiting list for a second kidney transplant. At this time he is working in the Dialysis department of s hospital.
    Please keep telling the stories of those on the “Waiting List” and the survivors of that list.

  47. Michelle Smith
    May 9, 2014

    I read your posts daily. My son, Alex, has had 2 liver transplants (1-3-05) and 2-6-14 for PSC. I always try to spread awareness of organ donation as it is foremost in my mind, naturally. My son was diagnosed at 2 yrs old, so he doesn’t remember anything except this medical roller coaster, but I do. It is so hard. This 2ns transplant took 6 months to get listed, as he is complicated, and 18 months listed. Watching someone that you love so much get sicker and have all kinds of things go wrong is horrible. Whatever I can go to raise awareness of organ donation, I will do.
    Thanks for what you do. It matters!

  48. liz anderson
    May 9, 2014

    Great Article. My 19 year old daughter, Julie, received a kidney from a 16 year old boy and my mother a liver from an other donor. Their lives have been extended because of these courageous donors. Thank you!

  49. Justin Ryder
    May 9, 2014

    I received 2 heart transplants. On December 3, 2012 I received a total artificial heart. On February 24, 2014 I received my donor heart. I was in the hospital for 6 months. With my time in the hospital I started a non-profit organization, Second Chance Foundation Inc in memory of my organ donor. I felt it was my way of giving back for what my donor gave to me. The organization educates the public on the importance of organ donation and also provides financial assistance to patients and their families. Please check out our website http://www.scfnd.com and help support this great foundation.

  50. Nick
    May 9, 2014

    Hello, I guess I have to say I was pretty lucky. When I was 16 and went in for my license I signed up to be a donor, and have always had that little pink spot on it. Did not realize till I was 45 that I was not able to be one when I found out I had a rare blood disorder called Polycythemia Vera. I also never thought that I would be a recipient of an organ, until August 2013. Again, I am very lucky that there was a young man in San Fransisco who made the decision to be a donor. I’m not sure who he was, nor have I ever written his family through the channels that they have at USC. Because of my blood disorder I got a full clot in my liver and was hit hard really quick. I was in the best shape of my life at 49yrs old. I went from a stomach ache on 08/09 to full liver failure by 09/18. I might have made it till the end of sept. but the doctors were pretty sure I wouldn’t. My liver was flown in, and installed on 10/20. I was never a drinker and because I had a+ blood type was very lucky. I know there were others in the hospital who had been waiting longer, I was just the closest to death. I am so thankful to that 19 yr old boy, yet so sad that I am living and he is not. I am 50 and a 19yr old kid is never going to be. I would thank his family but I just feel like they shouldn’t have to go through it again.

  51. Lisa Feist
    May 9, 2014

    Wow! Amazing story and photos! Today is the fourth anniversary of my son’s death. It is also the day that several people received the Gift of Life due to his misfortune. It is wonderful for me to be able to think of the recipients and their families and how organ donation has changed their lives!

  52. Jenna Thorman
    May 9, 2014

    I checked yes on the box for organ donor on my drivers license. If someone can live because of that check mark, I am honored to have helped. I used to have a bumper sticker a long time ago that read: Don’t take your organs to Heaven; Heaven knows that we need them here. I think that says it all.

  53. tracey finchum
    May 9, 2014

    Age 47, waiting for a double lung transplant. Thanks for spreading the word:)

  54. Fallon 0612
    May 9, 2014

    I am a liver transplant recipient and wrote letters to my transplant family. The accepted the first letter, but never responded. On my 10th anniversary, I wrote another letter and COPA had lost track of our family. I never met them, but their gift allowed me to raise my daughters to adulthood. They are thriving, as am I. I grieve for their loss every year and pray for them. No gift is as beautiful as the gift of life. What a beautiful project. I would love to participate.

  55. Randy Rosiello
    May 9, 2014

    I have been working hard to keep my son alive. He is one of the only young adults living with Biliary Atresia that made it to 21 before he received his liver transplant- we have done many news stories to try to keep Organ Donation in people’s minds- we are also trying to change UNOS n the way they have there Regions. My son will be the DJ entertainment forthw American Liver Foundations NY Liver Life Walk. It is the biggest walk they have, my son is still fight to be healthy daily, now with insurance the way it is n him being multilisted in NY, CT n Ohio where he received his Liver Gift from a 9 year old Orhan Donation Angels family- together from the minute they were joined together, my son Matthew lives. Now I have 3 children instead of 2. I have a group called Liver Lives on Favebook for young parents n their kids up to teens- this liver disease is rare but because of our efforts more kids are saved, because we got information to their doctors on the symptoms of BA. I would love if you would do a story on Matt n myself- we work hard to get people in NY to become Orhan Donors- but we are still the 2nd worst state. Calf. Is # 1. That is so said that babies are dying because they can’t get enough donors. Please contact me. I would like to tell you about the most unique person on this Earth- my Son Matt. His doctors operated on him last year after a ton of tests found nothing, but he was dying in front of my eyes yet again. He had a rare intussecption of his bowels that was intermittent. A CT found it finally. He is the only Adult- because he is over 18, to have a liver transplant n get this.
    His doctors didn’t know what to do- after speaking to doctors all over the world, his CC in Ohio drs decided to operate. It was like having a second liver transplant, but without the organ. After the recovery he started to feel healthy for the first time in his life.. Until March 30 2014. He started vomiting n having diarrhea. Tests began here in NY n we traveled 8 long hours and stayed in a hotel 2 weeks ago n now again this past week- he lives with pain 8 out of 10, same with Nausea. He has been fighting liver disease n in n out of hospitals all his life. No one tells you about the FINICAL burden of living w liver disease or that his insurance considers his anti rejection drug Prograf not necessary- only generic? He works in a hotel n is trying to grow a DJ Business. Living with a time bomb isn’t easy, we never know when it starts ticking. He had had complication upon complications because of Liver disease n the meds that you must take to keep your liver inside you- just to Live. His future is on n off again on hold n frustrating that now we must find a way to pay for his tests n doctor visits in Ohio. We even called another NY liver Program, they refused to take him in to their program because he was Post transplant.. Also from another state. NO ONE TELLS YOU THIS BEFORE TRANSPLANT. So I hope you decide to help us continue to tell his amazing story n help other who are waiting or dying because of liver disease n not enough organs to go around- we are even looking at revert ice medicine- hopefully one day it will be your organ, your blood type n size manufactured by computers- there has been bladders already transplanted this way. The patient doesn’t need anti- rejection meds, because it is made with their tissue, blood cells. But the liver is harder to create. We still need donors. So help us n tell our story n take pictures- awareness is key to changing the world- I had no one to help me but my husband, doctors n nurses, I don’t want people to ever have to walk in my shoes fighting constantly for life, I want them to walk in more comfortable shoes n not have to fight for their loved one. Please help us help so many with a NY patient- I even have a 2 year old n her family you can do a story on also!!! Hep is help others

  56. Lisa
    May 9, 2014

    Two weeks ago I brought my son to the RMV for his permit. I persuaded him to sign-on as an organ donor. My husband was not in favor of this. I sent my husband the link to David Yee’s powerful photos and story. Changing the world, one husband at a time.

  57. James Peacock
    May 9, 2014

    Thank you for helping get the message across. As a doctor who takes care of people who have received and who are in need of a heart, it is great to hear people are trying to get the word out.

  58. Susan Davis
    May 9, 2014

    Thank you for helping to get the word out about the importance of organ donation. My husband received a liver transplant 11 years ago. Out daughters were in elementary school at the time. Without the generosity and loving sacrifice a wonderful family made following their sons tragic accident my husband would not have lived to see our children grow up. Both are now in college; the oldest graduates next week.

  59. Sarah Kammerud
    May 9, 2014

    I am so happy to see this story. I was and always will be an organ donor. My daughter Braedyn received her gift of lofe on 12/31/08. She was just 7 1/2 months old when she had her liver transplant. Due to BA ( biliary atresia ). We say thanks to our donor baby daily and are forever grateful to the family. My daughter was dying and now she is a thriving 5 almost 6 year old. God bless all of you. ♡♡♡

  60. Christina
    May 9, 2014

    I have always been an organ donor since the day I got my license. I never in my life thought I would be the one who needed a transplant. Thankfully there was a family who decided to let their son live on in others. He not only saved my life, but 6 others! Thank you for this story and spreading the importance of becoming an organ donor.

  61. John Hodges
    May 9, 2014

    For Tad Suwa’s sister and all those who want know more about living donation, or talk to living donrs, please join us at http://www.livingdonorsonline.org/.

  62. Travis
    May 9, 2014

    What a beautiful tribute.

    I was Diagnosed with PSC at 17 and by the time i was 24 my body had gone into complete failure. I got a Liver transplant but lost my kidneys due to bleeding and a year later i received a kidney transplant . When i was 29 My Kidney rejected and my liver disease came back. At the age of 30 I received a liver/kidney transplant.
    I had died in 1998 (when i was 24) while i was waiting for a transplant and in a couple of weeks, may 30th, I will be turning 40 years old.

    Thank you for getting the word out there about the importance of Organ Donation.
    ~Travis

  63. Dawn Bush
    May 8, 2014

    My dad was so sick for years with heart failure caused by exposure to Agent Orange being used in Vietnam. He was listed and waited 2-3 months I believe, for a donor, he also dealt with a lot of guilt about what would happen to the donor family. May 23 will be 8 years of wonderful health and time with family. All of my children became donors because of their Poppy being saved, they wanted to give that to another family if something ever were to one if them. My middle son was 14 then… In July of 13 he was 21 and suffered massive closed head injuries in an auto “accident”

  64. Lisa
    May 8, 2014

    I have signed up to be an organ donor. My father, although not a donor, chose to donate his body to the Genesis Foundation for research. He is still helping others, just in a different way. Thank you for your hard work

  65. Deanna Wester
    May 8, 2014

    A very interesting article. I have checked the organ donor on my drivers license and am on the waiting waiting list myself for a kidney donor. Thanks to all the people (angels) who have donated already and may many others step up to the plate.

  66. Renee Igo
    May 8, 2014

    Thank you for putting faces to the statistics. I am one of them and eternally grateful to the person (and family) of the young man who’s kidney allowed me to live, laugh, and love, a little longer. I wish for more people to receive this second chance!

  67. Jen Cornwell
    May 8, 2014

    The idea that people don’t want to list themselves as organ donors always seems so selfish to me. I had this conversation with my younger brother after a funeral once. My brother passed away in a motorcycleaccident this past September, 2013, at 19 and my parents and I had to decide if that was something he would want and I said yes for him. It wasn’t hard to decide and I don’t know exactly where things went but knowing that he could keep helping someone somewhere was really beautiful.

  68. shin
    May 8, 2014

    what a thought- provoking artcle. I was teary as reading and looking through the pictures. made me think about becoming organ donor.

  69. Missy
    May 8, 2014

    What a great idea! One of the things I find in the general community is that people don’t realize how well these transplants can work. How healthy people are afterwards. I received my new lungs two and a half years ago, got a full time job, got married and we are now trying for a family. I would not be here today without them. Organ donation needs a face, or many of them, to tell the story and spread the word.

  70. Judy Singer
    May 8, 2014

    What a great project. I’m a living kidney donor, in a non-directed donation 6 months ago, all’s well, thank God. I’m trying to do some advocacy for living donation – which I believe has the potential to make a significant contribution to ending the waiting list. It would be great if you could include some living donors and hear their stories, since many people are not even aware of the possibility of becoming a living donor. Congratulations on your important work.

  71. Sheri Ruiz
    May 8, 2014

    Wow. Thank you. My husband is an abdominal transplant surgeon. He comes home (if he does) exhausted, is in the ohone all hours, and has four days off a month. His work is very important to him and we support him all the way. Because of the recipients. Thank you for documenting.

  72. Karol Franks
    May 8, 2014

    We are happy to have participated in David Lee’s project. He is bringing awareness to organ transplants and it’s important.
    When we began the journey of getting our daughter Jenna wait listed for a kidney, I was pretty naive. I thought there was an organ bank somewhere, where plump, pink kidney’s sat in chilled drawers, waiting for the need to arise. I had no idea that organ donors were not actually “deceased,” but were accident victims who had a stroke, or were fatally injured under a unique set of circumstances, rendering them on life support, in a hospital, with no brain activity but with the majority of their body in good condition, being kept alive. It’s an uncomfortable topic, and I understand why most people don’t know how it works.
    I have also come to learn, and this is where I have difficulty finding statistics, that we are already using the majority of deceased donor organs. I have been told by more than one doctor, and by a procurement area representative as well. In the US, even if you’re not signed up as a donor, the transplant donor coordinator will still approach the family of the victim and ask for consent, and in the majority of cases, families generously give permission. In essence, most organs are procured from these donors. The issue is that there are very few people who are victims that go on to be deceased donors. In the last 3 years, on average, there were 8,100 deceased organ donors in the US. This is about .0025 of all deaths per year. With better built cars, seat belts required, more airbags, helmet laws and improved emergency room techniques, there are less brain-injured victims on life support who end up as deceased donors . This is great for the general population, but not for people on the waiting list.
    So this is my long-winded way to say – even if every single solitary citizen in the country signed up as an organ donor tomorrow, it’s not going to make much difference. The real benefit of being registered is saving time. Getting consent can slow the process and in a few cases, may make it too late.
    For the people beating their chests about how we need more people signed up, well, it may make them feel better to have this cause, but what we really need is to prevent kidney failure, develop better dialysis, and create opportunities of growing organs and cloning the patients own cells.
    The shining light in all this are the living donors. There have been nearly 6,000 living donors each year in the US, primarily donating kidneys. They are making miracles happen.

  73. Kim
    May 8, 2014

    Beautiful project – I hope it inspires donor registration!

    My father was part of a domino transplant in 2005 where he received a donor liver and due to the nature of his disease then donated his liver to another person with hepatitis who had days to live.

    He and his recipient were in adjacent hospital rooms during recovery, have the same first name and have become good friends. One liver saved two lives and potentially many others depending on how many other organs were made available by my father’s donor that day.

  74. LRG
    May 8, 2014

    My husband was in the “too sick to qualify: category, and my daughter donated a kidney. To this day, it worries me that she might get sick and only have one kidney and, sadly, her kidney functions beautifully, but the rest of her dad’s health hasn’t improved. Still, I believe she would do it all again.

  75. David Y Lee
    May 8, 2014

    Laana Cook — you are correct. Email me at info@thewaitinglist.org and we can talk more about this possibility. I look fwd to hearing from you. DYL

  76. Lanna Cook
    May 8, 2014

    Amazing Idea!! My husband is currently in the hospital waiting for a heart. It has been 4 1/2 years total wait thus far. It would be great if you could make the entire journey with someone. What a fantastic journal of stories and photos that would be.

  77. Ellen Molina
    May 8, 2014

    I was married to a Vietnam veteran who contracted hep c. Didn’t know at the time. They came out with a test in 1988. He passed on June 5 2006. He was kicked off list because first he was to sick to get on then turned to cancer and it was to large. We were together for 33 years and he was home with me and his daughters the day he passed.he didn’t die in Vietnam, but Vietnam killed him in the end.

  78. David Lee
    May 8, 2014

    Thank you for the kind words. I am trying. Amanda Campbell, if you and your son are interested in sharing your story and experience with the waiting list, my email is info@thewaitinglist.org. Stephanie Cornthwaite, I have thought about the idea of a wider network of photographers. Email me and we can talk. I look fwd to hearing from both of you. DYL

  79. Parul
    May 8, 2014

    Wonderful article and a very big initiative. Thanks for sharing.

  80. Dr sirisha
    May 8, 2014

    Moving and inspiring .

  81. Judy Beard
    May 8, 2014

    Love the work you’re doing! A great way to spread the word. Your photos & narrative really drive the message home. So thankful for your efforts.

  82. Amanda Campbell
    May 8, 2014

    Thank you so much for these photos and this article. My 14 year old son is currently on the waiting list for a set of lungs and it has been such a surreal journey at times. I have always checked the donor box on my drivers license, but it was never something I thought about until seeing the other side of things. Someone is going to give my son the gift of life, of being able to do things he has never been able to do with the lungs he was born with. I can’t imagine not donating my organs now. To me not donating seems like a tragic waste.

  83. Nicole
    May 7, 2014

    Not to mention how you won’t even get considered for a transplant if you need it because of a suicide attempt. When I was 14 I was inches away from needing a new liver due to suicide attempt via drug overdose. Thankfully I ended up okay but it’s still terrifying to think that I would not even be considered. And thinking of all the people who do end up needed new organs from suicide attempts but aren’t allowed to get them.. It’s really sad

  84. Norma
    May 7, 2014

    Liked this page a lot! Hope you reach your goals and may God bless you all. These testimonies were touching and wonderful to create awareness.

  85. Amanda
    May 7, 2014

    This is really touching. These people are courageous. Thank you Lee for sharing your amazing work.

  86. Stephanie Cornthwaite
    May 7, 2014

    What about creating a wider network of photographers? I would love to participate in what you’re doing.

    • Alexa Keefe
      May 8, 2014

      Hi Stephanie,

      You may have seen David’s response above, but if not, he can be reached here:
      info@thewaitinglist.org

      • Stephanie Cornthwaite
        May 8, 2014

        Alexa – Hi Thanks, I’ve just shot off an email to David just as your post came into my inbox. 🙂

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