Listen and Learn

When we let our guard down and share our thoughts, our souls are revealed. As we wrap up Donate Life Month I want to pass along some insight from several transplant recipients. I asked them to share their thoughts with you on the following three questions:

– What have you learned from receiving the gift of life?

– What would you say to those considering being an organ donor?

– How do you celebrate your transplant anniversary and/or what do you plan on doing for an upcoming anniversary?

While we gain knowledge from our own experiences, listening to others can be a great tool to learn, be grateful, be given hope and be inspired.

Jan Robertson

Jan Robertson
Age: 60
Residence: Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada
Transplant: Two liver transplants from PKD
Dates of Transplants: April 25, 1998 and March 30, 2008

“I have learned from having my transplants just how precious life is and that our life now truly is a gift and we must cherish that gift. We must appreciate every minute we have been given, share it with those we love and give back, to honor our donors and their families for what they did for us.

To those considering being a donor, I would tell them that it is the most selfless, gracious act they could ever do, either living or deceased and that they could save 8 lives and enhance the lives of 75 others; that it allows so many of us to carry on living wonderful, fulfilling lives, helping others so their gift carries on. Also…that when I’ve heard donors and donor families speak, they find such peace and comfort in their decision to do this for us.

My transplant birthdays are my favorite days of the entire year. I always celebrate with family and friends by going out to dinner. It is my chance to thank them for all their love, support and strength that have helped me over the past almost 20 years of this journey. For the ladies, I always get them a piece of butterfly jewelry because butterflies are the symbol for organ donation, meaning new life. It is the most special day we could ever be blessed with.”


Danea  Phillip Horn

Name: Danea Horn
Age: 34
Residence: Sacramento, California
Transplant: Kidney
Date of Transplant: October 7, 2013

“My husband was my living kidney donor. His generosity showed me the meaning of unconditional love and how important it is to allow love to pass between two people. I have also learned that our bodies are incredibly resilient. It was amazing to me how quickly my new kidney started working and helped my body recover from my time spent in kidney failure. Within 24 hours things were getting back to normal…astounding!

Thank you! Thank you for the courage to consider this gift. Thank you for recognizing the need we have for organ donors. Thank you for reaching out to learn about organ donation and what an incredible impact it can have on someone’s life. I am grateful.

My transplant coincides with my wedding anniversary, and since my husband is also my donor, we have much to celebrate. We have always celebrated our anniversary with a weekend away to relax, connect and create new memories. We will continue that tradition with an added moment to remember how grateful we are for being a match, for our amazing medical team and for the many years ahead we’ve been gifted with.”




Name: Ronald (Ron) Taubman
Age: 69 (but I look younger)
Residence: Santa Clarita, California via London, England
Transplant: Kidney, Pancreas
Dates of Transplants: Simultaneous kidney pancreas July 3, 2001-UCLA, Second kidney transplant March 2, 2010-University of Arizona


“Life is great. Live each day to its fullest. Do not waste any time worrying how long the transplanted organ will function.

Being a cadaveric donor is a “no brainer.” After death your organs are of absolutely no use to you, but could save a person’s life. Why would you want to waste your organs — it’s the highest form of recycling. As for a living donation, the donor should not jump into a decision before investigating the pros and cons of living donation.

As I have two transplant anniversaries, I usually try to have a quiet dinner with my wife at a good restaurant. In July 1996, my wife and I celebrated my transplant anniversary by driving around Scotland, Ireland and England. Next March 2, 2015 transplant anniversary, I hope to be on vacation in Argentina.”


Lori Richter

Name: Lori Richter
Age: 39
Residence: Sacramento, California
Transplant: Kidney
Date of Transplant: July 9, 2003

“I have learned to live for the future and that I can dream beyond my illness. I have learned that you can be tired not because you’re anemic, but because you’ve been running errands, or hiking in a beautiful park, or working on home improvements. I have learned that I don’t have to plan for how I’ll work while I’m on dialysis, when instead I can focus on improving my skills, understanding who I want to be in the business world, and building on my career. But the most important lesson that I’ve learned is that I now have the capacity, the strength, the courage, and the confidence thanks to my transplant, to become a mother. Being a mother has been an amazing journey, and one I thought I would never have. And lastly, I have learned that while I cannot entirely control my future and I don’t know what it has in store for me, the gift of life has given me the chance to experience the unexpected and undefined and to dream about its possibilities and all it has to offer.

Please say “yes.” Say that you will do it. Imagine being able to breathe life and provide opportunities to someone who is facing a life tied to a dialysis machine. Imagine the feeling of giving a beautiful gift that continues to give, long after the initial act of gifting has occurred. A gift that touches the friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors of that single person. Imagine giving someone else a chance to “live,” not just survive.

Every year on my ‘transplantiversary,’ I send a beautiful bouquet of flowers to my sister, who was my donor. With it comes a note, thanking her for all the amazing gifts and opportunities that I have because of her gift. And, it’s a time of reflection. A time to remember the team of nurses and doctors that brought me to where I am today. And, to thank my husband for always being there during my hiccups in life.”


Jennifer Shih

Name: Jennifer Shih
Age: 39
Residence: Atlanta, Georgia
Transplant: Heart
Date of Transplant: Sept 12, 2004

“Receiving the gift of life has taught me how good people are. I am amazed every day at how generous and warm people are at their heart and soul. I could never have made it through the difficult time of transplant without the generosity of not only my donor family but of many others for their kind words and generosity. Including those who were able to help me know the joy of motherhood. I appreciate all the small joys in life much more in my second chance at life.

You will probably never have a better chance to save the life of 8 people in one day.

I spend my anniversaries with family and friends. This year on my 10th anniversary I will raise money to help others who need a transplant through my non-profit’s Have a Heart Benefit and make sure everyone knows about giving the gift of life.”


  1. Marilyn McCoy

    On October 11, 2001 I received a kidney transplant from my fiance Rich. I want everyone to know that there was no hesitation when he was asked about being my possible kidney donor. After keeping him waiting ten years, I caved and said okay I’ll marry you. Other women get a diamond. I got a diamond and more importantly I got my normal life back. We shared many jokes about the “equity” he had in me.

    We celebrated the first kidney transplant anniversary with cake and family. After the first year we did everyday things on the transplant anniversary just because we could.

    I always knew that life was precious but the transplant taught me not to take life for granted. Because of my transplant I didn’t watch from the sidelines. I babysat my grandchildren as they grew up, walked amusement parks, went camping and worked and played with energy and enthusiasm. If someone asks me why I am doing something I say “because I can.”

    And that’s what I would tell anyone considering donation. You are not just donating a body part(s)……you are donating a life.

    My husband was diagnosed with a very aggressive brain tumor in March of 2012 and died on September 23, 2012. I know many people who carry Rich in their hearts. Because of the transplant I carry him with me in a very special way.

    • Valen Keefer

      Dear Marilyn,
      Thank you so very much for sharing your beautiful, inspirational, chilling and emotional story. You share very valuable lessons for us all to learn from. What an amazing gift to receive a transplant and to think that you still carry a piece of your husband with you brings tears to my eyes. I am so sorry for his passing and so thankful he is still with you.

  2. Noelia Canfara

    Thank you for such beautiful stories!

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Noelia,
      It is my pleasure! Thank you for your support and reading my blog. I hope you are doing well!


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