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Toni: Paying Her Gift of Life Forward

Toni, a member of the Bear Clan of the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin, suffered from liver failure and was in and out of emergency rooms and hospitals for treatment for several years. Her liver disease caused pleural effusions (“water on the lungs”) that had to be drained and ammonia build-up that caused cognitive problems. Toni wanted to live a better, healthier life. She was evaluated and listed for a liver transplant at a transplant center in Wisconsin in 2009. She was told to expect to wait a few years for that life-saving gift. Two years later, in 2011, she received the phone call for which she and her husband Ken had been hoping. Following her transplant, she lost 45 pounds of fluid – fluid that had accumulated in her body due to her liver disease.

Shortly after her transplant surgery, Toni expressed her deep gratitude to the family of her donor by writing a letter to them. She didn’t receive a response but felt that she understood from her own experience of losing someone close. Just one week before her transplant, Toni and Ken’s daughter had passed away. Toni could identify with the fact that this was another family that was grieving.

Toni and her husband Ken have paid her gift of life forward by volunteering for a Donate Life Wisconsin member organization, encouraging others to register as donors. Toni wants to share her story to let people know how a transplant can change not just the life of the recipient but of their family, too. It’s been nine years since her transplant and Toni remarks, “It’s just the simple things, like waking up each morning and feeling better than ever that make this journey worthwhile!” Toni’s wish is that everyone who is waiting for a transplant may receive their gift of hope so that they can enjoy the simple things that we tend to take for granted.