By: Yuritza Arroyo
Chriseline Beaubrun of Plainfield is taking time to reflect on the gift of life and the miracle of organ and tissue donation and transplantation as she recently celebrated 14 years since receiving her life-saving heart transplant.
According to officials, Chriseline is passionate about advocating for NJ Sharing Network, the nonprofit organization responsible for recovering and placing donated organs and tissue in Garden State.
She actively shares her story with others to encourage more people to register as organ and tissue donors.
“Today, I feel blessed and lucky. I do not think any gift is greater than the gift of life,” said Chriseline.
“When I encourage people to register as organ and tissue donors, I explain to them that just one organ and tissue donor can save eight lives and enhance the lives of over 75 others. But the transplant waiting list is long, and we cannot stop working to save lives.”
In 2007, Chriseline was 57 years old when she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.
A widowed mother of two, Chriseline had just completed her master's degree in nursing, and she felt that she had the skills to deal with life's challenges.
But her biggest challenge hit her like a blow to the stomach when her cardiologist delivered the official diagnosis.
“I remember thinking, ‘Congestive heart failure? How could that be?’ I felt that I was too active to have heart disease. I did not smoke or drink. I was devastated,” said Chriseline.
As a nurse, Chriseline had worked hard all her adult life and had taken care of her body. Unfortunately, Chriseline’s symptoms worsened despite medications and a defibrillator implanted in her chest.
She soon reached a point where she was unable to take a single shallow breath without intense pain.
“My doctor told me that my last, best chance for long-term survival was a heart transplant,” said Chriseline.
“When I heard that, I was petrified, but I agreed to be placed on the transplant list. I was admitted to the hospital in November 2008 as my condition was growing critical. Mentally, I felt sure I was dying. But I was blessed and very fortunate that two weeks later, I had my successful heart transplant.”
Chriseline fondly remembers the satisfaction of taking her first deep breath in more than a year and leaving the hospital with a second chance to live life.
Throughout the long process of recovery, Chris experienced both successes and setbacks. But her new heart remained strong, as did the support of her family, friends, and colleagues.
“I believe in prayers, so I pray for the family of my heart donor. I wish I could meet them one day. Because of someone’s generosity, I am still on earth, and I am so grateful for that family, wherever they are,” said Chriseline.
Currently, there are over 100,000 Americans – nearly 4,000 of whom live in New Jersey – waiting for a life-saving transplant, according to United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).
However, the generosity of those in the Garden State is providing hope for the future. In 2022, the number of organ donors (283) and organs transplanted (670) in a single year reached all-time highs.
This marked the fourth consecutive year that NJ Sharing Network has reported new records in the number of organ donors, underscoring the apparent trend of increased support for organ donation.