LEXINGTON − Four years ago, Jonathan Craig rarely went outside. The Vietnam veteran suffered from debilitating emphysema and COPD, requiring the use of a motorized cart and an oxygen tank just get around the house.
Craig, who lives in Frankfort, is now far from confined to his house − in fact, he spends most of his free time on various outdoor projects, including gardening and building and painting a new picket fence in his backyard.
"I don't think I've been this well since I've been in my 40s," Craig said.
On Aug. 18, three years after receiving a life-saving lung transplant, Craig joined nearly a hundred other guests − including transplant recipients, friends and family − at The Arboretum to celebrate their new lives and the sacrifices of their donors at UK HealthCare's first Cardiothoracic Transplant Recipient Picnic.
For Craig and his wife, the picnic was an opportunity to not only celebrate his new lease on life, but to reunite with the patients and staff who cared for him at UK Chandler Hospital.
"I think it's a lovely thing they're doing with this picnic," Craig said. "These are some of the best friends of my life!"
The idea for the picnic came about as a way to both honor donors and give patients the chance to socialize outside the hospital setting, says UK Heart/Lung Transplant Coordinator Donna Dennis.
“Several of our patients meet while in the hospital waiting for a transplant, in the clinic waiting room or at support group," Dennis said. "Because they live all over Kentucky and surrounding areas, they may never see each other again. By having the picnic, it allows the patients to reunite with other patients and socialize with the clinical staff under happier circumstances. We also wanted to commemorate the donors and the gift of life that they allowed by donating their organs.”
To honor those who gave the gift of life, attendees celebrated by releasing 50 butterflies. Several UK HealthCare doctors attended the event, including Dr. Charles Hoopes, director of the heart and lung transplant program; Dr. Enrique Diaz, medical director of the lung transplant program; and Dr. Navin Rajagopalan, medical director of cardiac transplantation.
"I think it's important to honor not only our patients, who have been through so much, but also to take the opportunity to recognize the importance of organ donation and the Kentucky Organ Donor Registry," Rajagopalan said. "Without the gift of life from their donors, these recipients and their families wouldn't be here celebrating today."
The Kentucky Organ Donor Registry is a safe and secure electronic database where a person’s wishes regarding donation will be carried out as requested. The donor registry enables family members to know that their loved one chose to save and enhance lives through donation. Kentucky’s “First Person Consent” laws mean that the wishes of an individual on the registry will be carried out as requested.
To join the registry, visit www.donatelifeky.org or sign up when you renew your driver’s license.