My Transplant Journey – Jason Vaughn

Read past guest, liver and transplant recipient, and military veteran, Jason Vaughn's, story told through his own perspective.

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Jason at the Howie’s House during his stay

What brought me to the Howie’s House?

I served twenty-four years in the United States Army and during that time, I had the honor to serve in Iraq, in multiple combat tours. An experience I am very proud of and one I will never forget.

Upon returning home from the multiple tours, I began experiencing the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.

I had trouble sleeping, irritability, severe depression and flashbacks. This began to affect my personal and professional life. I didn’t know how to deal and didn’t know where to find support. I began drinking to alleviate the pain that had completely consumed me. I felt the only way to deal with what was happening was to drink, which ultimately led to my hospitalization.

How I Got Here

On January 1st 2021, I was rushed to a transplant hospital in Philadelphia in complete liver and renal failure. My body was malnourished, and I was unconscious. I was in immediate need for a liver transplant or I was not going to make it.

I was put into a medical coma and began the process of being listed for a liver transplant, that would eventually save my life. My sister stayed at the Howie’s House while I was hospitalized.

After a month of waiting in the hospital, I finally received my gift of life, a liver transplant, on February 4th.

Though because of the long hospitalization, the road to normalcy was a long one. My muscles had atrophied and with that began months of physical and occupational therapy. 

Time to Leave the Hospital

As I came to the end of my 4 months stay in the hospital, I realized there was a lot more healing to do before returning home, medically, physically, and emotionally.

What I found was a place to transition and to heal – to get ready to return, not to the old life I had but the new life that I had been given, MY SECOND CHANCE.

At the Howie’s House I had place to go to after a long day of follow up appointments or dialysis, as my kidneys also failed during my transplant process.  I was surrounded by my family as well as a new family of people with the same shared experiences.

Every night we had dinner donated by several groups and organizations and this was a time to share stories with other guests of how we got there, who we are, and the ins and outs the hospitals we would go to.

Staying at the Howie’s House to be close to the hospital was extremely important after my long hospital stay and medical recover. However, staying at the Howie’s House was also extremely important to my emotional healing.

Meeting other patients and families, working with the hospital and Howie’s House social workers, and focusing on my recovery all began when I checked into the Howie’s House.

Time to go home!

After about 2 months at the Howie’s House, in June 2021, I was ready to take on my new life. In the military we have what is called a change of mission – starting something completely new. You have to learn to adapt to that situation.

I wasn’t going back to my old life, but adapting to a new environment with different challenges. Howie’s House, my medical team, and support system, gave me skills to take this on.

Closing 

I am currently medically retired from the military, however I still stay close. I am working with soldiers as a Master Resiliency Trainer, which I received through University of Pennsylvania, guiding soldiers to get the help and counseling they need to overcome depression, anxiety and addiction. 

My sister, who stayed with me during my time at GOL, also has a charitable organization for disabled veterans to experience the sport of scuba diving, which I also support.

I am so incredibly grateful for my second chance at life. I thank my donors and donor families, as I had my liver transplant in February and then I did receive my kidney transplant in December 2021. My donors gave me the ultimate gift, so I can see my kids grow up, graduate college and live their own successful lives.

With my second chance I plan to compete in the transplant games later this year in the triathlon and I will continue to help other soldiers who are dealing with what I went through.

I thank the Gift of Life Donor Program for facilitating the process to get me transplanted as well as the Howie’s House for giving me a place to recover and heal in so many ways.

Finally, I want to say thank you to all the contributors who help keep the Howie’s House going, as well as the staff, fellow patients and families. Without you so many people would not have a second chance at life to love and share.

Jason delivering this speech during the 2022 President’s Breakfast

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