LAKELAND, Fla. – (February 9, 2016) – This Valentine’s Day, a day symbolic of hearts, Marnita Johnson shared thanks for, literally, a new heart, received just over 7 months ago thanks to the generosity of an organ donor. A viral infection left her heart weakened in 2008 and Marnita sought help from local medical professionals to fix her condition. Despite her doctors’ best efforts, including implanting a defibrillator in 2010 to regulate her heart beat, Marnita found herself in heart failure by January 2015 and was referred to Tampa General Hospital to be evaluated for a heart transplant. According to Marnita, “I was in denial and didn’t want to believe the severity of my condition. After considering all the factors I got a second opinion in hopes the doctors were wrong. However, the 2nd opinion only confirmed what I’d already been told and that transplantation was my only option for survival.” In August 2015, Marnita was placed on the national organ transplant waiting list and within 48 hours she received “the call” that a new heart was available.
Marnita’s lifesaving miracle would not have been possible without the financial assistance of the LifeLink Legacy Fund® Pledge Program, also known as the “Pre-Transplant Patient Assistance Program.” The steps for getting listed for an organ transplant are thorough and include everything from physical tests, bloodwork, a psychiatric evaluation and a close look at available funds to cover both the cost of transplant and the post-transplant care that includes a life-long regiment of immunosuppressant medications to prevent the patient from rejecting the transplanted organ. These immunosuppressant medications are also often quite expensive and typically, even for those with insurance, there are still costs to the patient. As a means to address the financial component of qualifying for the organ transplant waiting list, the LifeLink Legacy Fund created its “Pledge Program” in February 2014 to, guarantee necessary funding pre- and post- organ transplant, in order for patients to be able to be listed on the national organ transplant waiting list. In 2015 alone, the LifeLink Legacy Fund Pledge Program pledged more than $24,000 to transplant patient care – including to Marnita Johnson.
According to Marnita, her heart transplant surgeon said she was the “perfect patient” in terms of quick recovery and healing. Her hospital stay after transplant was brief, and Marnita was able to return to work in November… just 3 months after having received a lifesaving heart transplant. Marnita continues to thrive, enjoying regular exercise and time with family and friends. “I give thanks to God who made all things possible. Also, my heartfelt thanks go to my transplant team and the nursing staff at Tampa General Hospital; LifeLink Legacy Fund; my family; my pastor and church family; and most importantly, my organ donor”, says Marnita.
February 14th is also recognized as National Donor Day and is an opportunity to recognize those who have given the Gift of Life as organ and tissue donors, celebrate those alive today thanks to having received an organ transplant and call attention to the fact that more than 125,000 patients are currently waiting for their own miracle – an organ transplant. National Donor Day focuses on all types of donation – organ, eye, tissue, blood, platelets and marrow – and is a chance for individuals to show their support for donation by participating in donor drives and/or joining the various donor registries. To register as an organ, eye and tissue donor visit www.DonateLifeFlorida.org.
LifeLink Legacy Fund is a 501(c) 3 established in 1990 to support LifeLink Foundation’s efforts in organ and tissue donation and transplantation. Over the last twenty-five years, the LifeLink Legacy Fund has emerged into a boundless support system for pre- and post- transplant patients in need of financial assistance. The LifeLink Legacy Fund also provides funding for critical research and programs to improve organ and tissue donation and transplantation. To date, the LifeLink Legacy Fund has been privileged to contribute over $1.4 million to hundreds of individuals in Florida and Georgia. For more information on the LifeLink Legacy Fund or questions regarding organ and tissue donation, visit www.LifeLinkFoundation.org or contact LifeLink Public Affairs at (800) 262-5775.