We’ve had the pleasure of getting to know truly amazing families since we opened our doors in 2014. Below are some of their stories of their transplant journey, the emotions they experienced and reflections on their time at Transplant House.
Matthew Young and his parents have managed his digestive health since he was born. Now, at age 21, he is hoping to be listed for an intestinal transplant and for the improved quality of life such a transplant could provide. Recently, he met with aspiring medical and social work students from Case Western Reserve University’s Case Collaborative program, sharing his experiences navigating hospital systems, managing his health condition, the financial challenges of transplant, the importance of the support network he’s found at Transplant House, and his hopes for life after transplant.
“All of this has been a lot less stressful on my mom because of Transplant House.” – Matthew
Benjamin and Lovie waited six years for his kidney transplant. The diagnosis of kidney failure, years of dialysis treatments, and dashed hopes upended their lives, but the Armsteads never stopped fighting.
“I’ll tell you I thank God for Transplant House. We couldn’t have made it without Transplant House – the compassion, the love – it’s really emotional for me because we wouldn’t have had a place to live.” – Lovie
You never know what will inspire someone to decide to become a living donor. For Amber Daniels, her journey to becoming a living kidney donor began while streaming an episode of the Netflix series Dogs. The story of a dog trainer in need of a kidney deeply resonated with Amber and prompted her to explore becoming a living donor for a complete stranger.
“Staying at Transplant House, we knew we could just turn the corner at the end of the street and be at the hospital. It’s a big difference from being half an hour away.” – Dawn
When Jan’s adult son Joel became very sick in November of 2022, they first thought he had a severe case of pneumonia. But following testing at a hospital in Columbus, Ohio they were told that he had bacteria in his blood that had destroyed two of the valves in his heart. The valves could be replaced, but Joel's heart was so weakened that he now needed a heart transplant.
“This place is an oasis in a very hard time in our lives” – Jan
For almost three years, Gary Shamblin had battled with hypersensitivity pneumonitis and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Initially, Gary’s condition meant he could no longer work but, as his wife Kayla says, he was able to maintain quality of life. This changed suddenly in the fall of 2022 when Gary's condition worsened and he was told he needed a life-saving double lung transplant.
“I could not imagine this transplant journey without Transplant House” – Kayla
John D'Amore had been managing his nonalcoholic fatty liver disease for 8 years and was enjoying retirement and time spent with his children and grandchildren when he suddenly found himself in need of a liver transplant.
“I could not imagine being anywhere else besides Transplant House” – John
Karen and Greg came to Cleveland after she was turned down in their home state for a lung transplant. The team in Wisconsin believed that her case was too complicated by several cardiac issues to go forward. After this setback, the Kloses traveled over 600 miles to the Cleveland Clinic where the transplant team chose to treat her cardiac complications and list her for transplant. Karen had been given the chance at a renewed life and now the wait began.
“Transplant House has been the perfect place for us,” – Karen
The first thing Dreama Cooper says about her husband Todd is that he “has nine lives.” The Cooper’s transplant journey has been a difficult one. And while each transplant experience is unique, the challenges Dreama and Todd have faced are ones many transplant families encounter during the wait for the call.
“I feel safe here and it makes this easier for me and for Todd to be closer to the hospital.” – Dreama
Imagine learning that you would need to be away from your home, your family, and your community for at least 100 days in unfamiliar surroundings while navigating a life-changing medical diagnosis. For Miriam Weaver, who came to Cleveland with her husband Ron in need of a bone marrow transplant, she knew that she would have to take those 100 days one at a time to get through them.
“You’re up here in the big city far from home and sometimes you feel like you’re alone. But here at Transplant House we get reminded that we’re not because there’s a community here." – Miriam
Amanda Gruendell and Christine Gossett were both teenagers when they learned that they had been born without a uterus. Despite this devastating diagnosis, neither woman gave up hope. Now, both women have received uterine transplants and given birth.
“I can’t even tell you what it was like to bring my baby here for the first time, this is just such a place of remembrance of all it took to get her here." – Amanda
During a two-day surgery in May of 2022, Donna Plummer received her liver transplant. Of those days and the weeks of recovery in the ICU that followed, Donna admits she remembers very little. “I was just surviving,” she says.
“We sit out on the front porch and say hi to everybody. Talking to the other people at the meals and the stories you hear at Transplant House helps you with what you’re going through.” – Donna Plummer
Jennifer Alley had her intestinal transplant in July of 2004. In 2008 she gave birth to a son, Felton. “I was the first adult small bowel recipient to give birth,” Jennifer says.
“Daniel would come back to the hospital and say ‘I got to talk to this person’s husband and their wife is going through what you are right now. And it felt good to connect with them.’ It’s a major support network. It means so much to him that the other guests actually understood how he was feeling and what he was going through. You can talk with people here and they know exactly what it’s like, they’ve been there too. It’s like a breath of fresh air.” – Jennifer Alley
Six years ago, Noland Williams learned he would need a liver transplant. Within a year he was listed, but Noland would continue to wait for a liver for another five years.
“Being at Transplant House has been good for me. I made so many friends here.”
On the 27th of October 2017, Mike received a lung transplant at the Cleveland Clinic and in early November Melissa arrived at Transplant House of Cleveland for the first time.
“Just knowing someone can feel with you – connect with you,” Melissa explains, “It really does feel like home. I mean, I cried when we went home. I cried because this was our home for two months. And it was secure, safe.”
As an oncology nurse at a small community hospital, Kathie Holmes is all too aware of how a person’s life can change in an instant, with a single diagnosis. She’s seen it many times. As the wife of a man whose lungs were destroyed by COVID-19, she’s also aware of the uncertainty severe illness brings, of the financial hardships, and the ongoing struggle to be heard. She’s lived it.
"It was just like I got a hug from that building. It was like that little apartment whispered to me, ‘It’s all gonna be okay. You’re safe now.’" —Kathie
On June 21, 2013, Doug received a lung transplant that saved his life. The otherwise healthy 42-year-old had been diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and spent over a year traveling for medical testing and appointments with his fiancé, Sue. It was shattering to them when, in late 2020, Doug was told he would need a second lung transplant.
"Transplant House was a home away from home. Everyone I’ve talked to, before arriving and while here, have been so welcoming and kind!" —Susan
Jack and Barb Goltz are long-term guests at Transplant House. Their story touches upon so many themes we see time and again with those on the transplant journey: waiting, advocating for oneself, multiple procedures, a longer road to recovery and having to uproot one’s life quickly to travel away from home.
"I didn’t expect to stay as long as I’ve been here, but I’ve had a speed bumps to my recovery. I’d love to be home, but I’m confident this is the best place to be until it’s safe to leave. Thank you to both the Cleveland Clinic and Transplant House for all you do to make it home and family.” —Jack
Erika Marx believes in the connectedness of all of us. It’s something she experienced first-hand when constant pain and exhaustion led her down a path to a diagnosis of a rare medical condition and the decision to give the gift of life to someone she’d never met, while healing herself.
“I was blown away. This place is a diamond in the rough. The community is amazing.” —Erika
Doug is a pastor in the small town of Culloden, West Virginia. A year ago, a parishioner approached him, seeking advice: A friend was in need of a partial liver transplant and she had the right blood type to help. However, she had two small children and risked losing her job to take time off for the procedure.
“Being able to experience fellowship and share with other residents in the midst of similar experiences was a major part of my journey towards healing.” —Doug
Lizz and Jerry spent months at Transplant House waiting for “the call” and in the meantime made lifelong friendships.
“Transplant House of Cleveland gave us a sense of community. When you’re living in a city you don’t know, in order to receive medical care, getting to talk with other caregivers and patients who have gone before you is invaluable.” —Jerry, organ recipient
A young woman with cycstic fibrosis breathes easily now, thanks to a double-lung transplant.
“If I were going through it again, I would evaluate a transplant program based upon housing. We know how important it is. A hotel is not sufficient.” —Kati, organ recipient