Gift of Life Donor Program

Joanne, a liver recipient, leaves her mark on Joey’s racecar

On Thursday, October 3rd, NASCAR driver Joey Gase visited Gift of Life Howie’s House, inviting us to take part in his outreach to educate millions of NASCAR fans worldwide about the life-saving importance of organ and tissue donation.

As part of his Hand Prints of Hope event, 50 members of the transplant community covered the hood of Joey’s racecar with hand prints and special messages which he raced that weekend during the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Dover International Speedway in Dover, DE. NASCAR fans were drawn to the colorful hand prints, messages, and the Gift of Life Donor Program logo in the center.

“It turns a ton of heads at the race track. When people see the hand prints all over the car, they want to come up and ask us about it and we get to tell them,” Gase, 26, said during his speech at the event.

When Joey was 18 years old, his mother, Mary, passed away of a sudden brain aneurism and was an organ donor. She was able to save and transform the lives of 66 people.

A sweet message left with donor mom Mary’s hand print in memory of her son Eric, an organ donor

“Ever since that day, I wanted to do whatever I could to help raise awareness for organ donation and honor all those affected by it,” he said. “It’s not easy for the recipients, those on the waitlist, or the donor families. There are over 110,000 people on the waitlist nationwide and I want to do whatever I can to get that down to zero.”

We thank Joey and his team at Joey Gase Racing for their advocacy and support, and our friends at Medline for sponsoring this event!

Gail (left) and Mary (right) enjoying a winter day at the beach pre-surgery.

In today’s age of technology, a simple Facebook search can reunite long-lost friends, but it can also lead to the greatest gift of life—an organ transplant. Spending their summers growing up together in South Amboy, NJ, Gail Boscian and Mary Casey-Griffin grew incredibly close. However, after their families moved away from one another, they lost touch for about 30 years until they were reunited through social media.

“I have plans to live. We had many good times and they are not over yet—they are just beginning.  This is the next chapter of our lives.” – Mary Casey-Griffin

Mary, born with polycystic kidneys, was officially diagnosed with Kidney Cancer around age 45. At that point her health rapidly declined. Having worked as an art teacher for 25 years, she tried to continue her work in administration but her health impeded her career. On peritoneal dialysis for 10 hours a day, “I was tethered to my bed –it was really getting me depressed.”  In 2015, she was diagnosed with kidney cancer and needed a nephrectomy—removing both of her kidneys this past September. Her husband, son and daughter-in-law all wanted to be her living donor but were unfortunately unable to.

Meanwhile in Ohio, Gail had recently moved back to be with her family and future husband. Having just received foot surgery in March of 2015, Gail was confined to the couch for eight weeks during recovery. After playing around on social media out of sheer boredom, she remembered her long lost friend, Mary, and decided to do a search for her. After plugging her name in on Facebook, there she was! They connected and quickly became friends again.

Gail explains, “We started talking on the phone and I found out about her kidney and I said, ‘Oh, no, no, no, no—you can’t live like that!’”  So without hesitation, Gail offered to be tested to see if she was a match to be Mary’s living kidney donor.

Just five months later, in August, she discovered she was an exact match for Mary. Out to lunch with two friends on a random afternoon, Mary received a call from Gail: “I just heard from our transplant center and it’s a go!”

Mary recalls, “I couldn’t even talk… I was crying and I couldn’t believe she would do something so selfless.”

Gail has struggled with the attention this selfless donation has ignited. She explains, “I don’t like people saying how wonderful I am for wanting to help my friend. I guess it’s amazing to me that more people don’t donate. I love her, she’s become like a sister to me.”

After endless phone conversations, these two women finally had the opportunity to reconnect in person before the scheduled surgery as guests of Gift of Life Howie’s House.

Upon arrival they were both immediately impressed with the Howie’s House and all the services provided to transplant families. Gail’s impression of the facility was simple: “I Love it,” she says, “there is just so much to do here!” Mary calls the Howie’s House “a godsend; I cannot imagine how important the Howie’s House is to the people that stay here. The Library alone is just amazing – it’s worth every stay here!”

Sitting around a table in the Howie’s House dining room eating Jell-O and beef broth, they were anxious to try all the delicious food prepared by the Home Cook Hero volunteers. Not being able to eat before surgery, they were dreaming of hoarding the cake from the night’s volunteers to save for a post-transplant treat.

We are happy to say that Mary and Gail’s surgeries went very well and both are recovering here at the Howie’s House. And now, looking to the future, the opportunities are endless. Mary says “I see myself living. I want to go to Ireland, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Ohio—to visit Gail—to take a few art classes. I have plans to live. We had many good times and they are not over yet—they are just beginning.  This is the next chapter of our lives—we took a brief hiatus and now we are back!”

At the Howie’s House love is manifested in many ways – consider joining our mission to support and show love for transplant patients and their families. Learn how to get involved or show your support through a financial gift visit, www.GiftofLifeFamilyHouse.org.

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