Jane Fischer and her daughter, Suzy, understand what it takes to overcome some of life’s greatest challenges. As they celebrated Suzy’s 48th birthday on July 18, they both took time to reflect on the gift of life and the miracle of organ and tissue donation.
On the day Suzy was born, doctors told Jane and her husband, Al, that that their daughter would never be able to talk or walk or play like other children.
While Suzy’s special needs were great, Jane and Al kept hope alive that they would be able to persevere on the difficult journey ahead.
“Suzy proved them all wrong,” said Jane. “Over the years, she has kept defying all the odds through her tenacity, courage, and strength.
She surprised some of the best pediatricians and neurologists in our area by constantly working hard to develop and learn to do all the things they said she could never do.”
While Suzy’s life seemed to be filled with endless obstacles, she began to develop critical health issues shortly after turning 24 years old. Her kidneys began to fail, and she was soon placed on dialysis.
“It seemed like there were complications in nearly every one of her dialysis sessions,” said Jane. “It took it’s emotional toll on Suzy and all of us, but she always did her best to keep her smile and the staff at the dialysis center loved her.”
In December 2000, the Fischer family were in an airport in Jacksonville, Florida, when Jane’s pager kept beeping and buzzing. “At the time, I mistakenly thought it was due to air traffic signals creating interference,” said Jane.
“But when we arrived home in New Jersey after our flight, we received an urgent phone call from our transplant coordinator at Saint Barnabas (Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center). They had a donated kidney for Suzy!”
Suzy received a successful kidney transplant, and the family is forever grateful to the 64-year-old woman who gave the gift of life.
For 13 years, Suzy’s transplanted kidney restored her health and she continued to fight through other serious health issues, including thyroid cancer that forced her to undergo a thyroidectomy.
In 2013, Suzy’s transplanted kidney began to fail, and she faced another uphill struggle as dialysis loomed as the only treatment option.
However, Suzy received encouraging news when another donated kidney became available for transplant. This time, her donor hero was a 24-year-old man who passed away in a tragic motorcycle accident.
“Suzy definitely had a lot of survivor’s guilt,” said Jane. “It helped ease her pain when I explained to her that the young man would have wanted his kidney to go to her to keep his memory alive.”
Today, Suzy continues to thrive and enjoy life’s most precious moments thanks to her organ donor heroes. Suzy and Jane have made it a priority to support NJ Sharing Network, the nonprofit organization responsible for the recovery and placement of donated organs and tissue in the Garden State.
By sharing their story with others, Suzy and Jane hope to encourage more people to register as organ and tissue donors.
“The most important thing is to get others to understand the need for organ and tissue donation and how it saves and enhances the lives of others,” said Jane. “
“We also want to keep hope alive for those waiting for a life-saving transplant. We want to encourage them to never give up. I do not know why Suzy’s life has been so hard, but I have always believed it has been to help others and make a difference in someone else’s life.”
According to United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), there are over 100,000 Americans – nearly 4,000 of whom live in New Jersey – waiting for a life-saving transplant.
One organ and tissue donor can save eight lives and enhance the lives of over 75 others.
“We forever honor our donor heroes, as well as their supportive families, for their selfless decision to save and enhance the lives of others.
Because of them, Suzy and all transplant recipients now have more birthdays, holidays, and special moments to share with their loved ones,” said Joseph S. Roth, President and CEO on NJ Sharing Network.
To learn more, get involved and register as an organ and tissue donor, visit www.NJSharingNetwork.org.