On June 5, thousands of organ and tissue transplant recipients, donor families, living donors and dedicated volunteers participated in NJ Sharing Network’s 5K Celebration of Life Walk and USATF Certified Race in New Providence.
Family members and friends of Gina Westhoven of Lodi (pictured at center) came together to form the “Heart to Heart” 5K team to celebrate Gina’s life-saving heart transplant, honor the memory of her donor hero, and show their support for NJ Sharing Network’s life-saving mission.
Four years ago, Gina began to face serious health issues for the first time in her life. She felt drained of energy, and, at times, she struggled to breathe and walk.
The medical staff at Chilton Medical Center diagnosed Gina with congestive heart failure (CHF).
On December 14, 2020, Gina received the phone call that a heart was available. The next day, she underwent a successful transplant surgery at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.
“My heart is my new best friend – to honor my donor, I know I must protect it,” said Gina.
“Sometimes it feels like this has all been just a dream. But when I look in the mirror, I see my scar, and it reminds me that I am truly alive. I keep telling my family and friends that ‘Gina Version 2.0’ is better than ever! I am forever grateful to my donor – there’s just not enough ways for me to say ‘thank you.’”
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.
To learn more, get involved and register as an organ and tissue donor, visit www.NJSharingNetwork.org.
The 5K Celebration of Life, which was sponsored by Pfizer, is the largest fundraising event to support organ and tissue donation and transplantation in the United States.
Thus far, nearly $1.3 million has been raised for this year’s campaign.
Campaign contributions can be made until the end of August by visiting www.SharingNetworkFoundation.org/5K.