Mark & Isabella Pittman: A Crown with a Cause

It’s known as a “Crown with a Cause.” Those who accept the title of Junior Miss Wisconsin Princess of America are engaged and active in their communities, and take seriously their role in advocating for special causes close to their hearts.

For Isabella Pittman, who competed to become Princess of America Junior Miss Wisconsin in March 2018, her platform promoting the importance of organ donation was never in question. Isabella earned her title just three short months after her father, Mark Pittman, received a life-saving liver transplant.

At age 55, Mark was living a full and busy life in New Denmark as a husband, father, grandfather and executive. Unfortunately, he also suffered from a genetic disorder, Alpha 1 Antitrypsin, that often causes COPD. In addition, Mark was among the one percent of those with the disorder who develop non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and his condition deteriorated quickly. He couldn’t work or drive, and he was suffering significant memory and concentration problems. In October 2017, Mark was put on the transplant list and the wait for a liver donor began. Because of the seriousness of his condition, Mark’s position on the list moved up quickly.

As Mark and his family waited for news of a donor, they were also planning for two college graduations and one high school graduation, as well as supporting Isabella’s activities (including preparing for the Junior Miss Wisconsin Princess of America pageant). Not knowing whether Mark would be there to celebrate all the milestones and occasions took a toll on everyone.

Mark ultimately had his transplant surgery December 30, 2017. The transplant was a success and Mark healed quickly, spending just two days in the ICU instead of the expected two weeks. He transitioned to a care facility for a few weeks and was back home five weeks after his transplant. Within the first month or two, his memory and mental function came back.

Mark literally rang in 2018 with a new chance at life, which made all of the graduations and special occasions the family celebrated especially meaningful. And, since winning the title of Princess of America Junior Miss Wisconsin in March 2018, Isabella has been using her platform to bring awareness to the impact of saving and healing lives through organ, tissue and eye donation. A senior at Denmark High School, she encourages young people to get the facts and talk with their parents about their wishes, even if it seems difficult. She places a special emphasis on reaching out to peers who don’t realize you can register as an organ donor at age 15½ either online or when you get your driver’s license at the DMV.

Isabella works hard to spread the message that a young person who makes their wishes known can make it easier on their family if something traumatic does happen. After all, she says, she is a living testament to the fact that organ donation doesn’t just impact one person but an entire family.