A publication of Gift of Life Michigan • Winter 2023 • Volume 2 • Issue 3

A brotherhood is born out of death, life and gratitude

John Edmond barely gave it a thought as a woman from Gift of Life Michigan entered his young daughter’s room in the pediatric Intensive Care Unit. He knew his 7-year-old would not survive her accidental gunshot wound. And he knew exactly what Amaia — a helper at heart — would want to do next.

Ninety miles west in Holland, Mike Lopez was in liver failure from hepatitis C that raged undetected for 20 years. He weighed just 120 pounds, was getting weaker by the day, and he desperately needed a liver transplant. His mind rarely took a break from one thought: “How much time do I have left?”

We work for Sherry Johnson and all who wait

A message from President & CEO Dorrie Dils


It’s an experience as routine as it is universal.

We’ve all felt the minutes stretch while standing in line at the grocery store, waiting for a call or text to be returned, or maybe watching the clock tick for a child to emerge from school or practice.

Waiting is simply part of the human experience. But for those waiting for a transplant — waiting to live again — it takes on an extraordinary significance and emotion.

Sherry Johnson is one of those people. Her recent wait for a new heart and kidney was measured not in hours or even days in Room 455 at Michigan Medicine. It stretched over months. She was admitted in August and turned the page on her calendar twice before she learned that a donor would save her life.

Sherry created a temporary home in her hospital room with heartfelt cards, blankets, her laptop and even a coffee machine.

For Sherry, life was suspended as her family and friends moved through the change from summer to fall, which she could only see from her seventh-floor window. Her life was a series of missed moments.

In that time, Sherry allowed Gift of Life and our followers on social media a window into her wait. It was a glimpse from just one patient — one of more than 2,400 in Michigan waiting to live again.

The length of her wait was contingent upon the generosity of a donor and the complexity of timing and a medical match.

Not only did she share her wait, she also shared her news that a donor was found after 76 days away from home. A raw cellphone video captured her emotion just hours after learning she would get that new heart and kidney from a single heroic donor.

Sherry’s new life is now just beginning.

She was home for Thanksgiving and will gather around more holiday dinner tables with her parents, husband, Tim, and two grown sons, Nick and Hayden.

As Sherry moves forward with overwhelming gratitude, we at Gift of Life Michigan hold her story as a testament to our mission and more fuel for our commitment to the people we serve.

Her wait has ended, but our work continues. As an organization, we’re working hard for all the other Sherrys who maybe someday won’t have to wait at all.

Please share LifeLINES to help us grow

Welcome back to LifeLINES, Gift of Life Michigan’s premier publication and report to the state’s donation and transplant community.

Betsy Miner-Swartz is Gift of Life's editor and senior advisorI’m thrilled to report that the list of email subscribers like you who receive LifeLINES in their inbox has doubled since January 2022 to nearly 9,000 readers.

That’s a good start, but we want to grow our list even more before Donate Life Month in April, so I have an ask:

Do you know someone who might want to know more about organ, eye or tissue donation?

Are all your family members getting LifeLINES? Would they like to?

Do you know someone who just loves a good read but might not have any connection at all to the donation and transplant community?

Can you forward this email with the latest edition of LifeLINES along and ask them to consider joining our list?

We hope you’re inspired by this edition’s cover story about John Edmond and Mike Lopez. John’s daughter, Amaia, saved Mike’s life and the two have formed an inseparable bond. The story is both heartbreaking and heartwarming.

This cover story and the accompanying video is worth sharing in your circles.

Expanding our circulation beyond our own donation and transplant community promises to help grow the Michigan Organ Donor Registry, support what we do financially, perhaps, and help us continue to honor life through donation.

Thank you for all you do!

Be well,

Betsy Miner-Swartz

Editor and Senior Advisor

Tissue donor eases recovery for breast cancer survivor

Four months pregnant, Curpri felt a lump in her right breast. She froze. It couldn’t be, could it?

After an ultrasound, then a mammogram and a biopsy, Curpri received numbing news. She had breast cancer.

Her mind raced.

“Am I going to be able to have this baby? Am I going to die? My mother died from cancer. I have a 4-year-old at home. How can I prepare him for this?

Curpri Sanders with her newborn son, Easton, who was born while Curpri went through breast cancer treatment.

Gift of Life Michigan breaks record for organ donors in a year

2023: A RECORD YEAR; 500 organ donors

Unprecedented 500 donors save lives so far in 2023

Michigan’s organ and tissue donation program has broken another record by reaching the 500 organ donors mark in a single year with more than a month remaining.


The number of organ donors has been rising year over year, giving more hope to the 2,400-plus patients waiting for life-saving transplants in the state.


By comparison, Gift of Life Michigan helped a record 463 organ donors and their families give their final gifts in 2022. In 2021, the number stood at 429.


This year’s donors have so far resulted in more than 1,200 organs transplanted, saving the lives of hundreds of critically ill patients in Michigan and beyond.



Taneisha Carswell received a kidney transplant from her cousin. Her young nephew later became a donor.

Staff Spotlight: As a donation educator, Taneisha Carswell knows when to talk and when to listen

Gift of Life staffer’s kidney transplant gives her personal perspective If Taneisha Carswell doesn’t convince someone to be an organ donor right away, no worries. […]

Chris Kowalski shared his story as a heart transplant recipient at the 2023 Inspiring Champions Symposium.

Volunteer Spotlight: Chris Kowalski speaks while he waits for a life-saving heart transplant

Not much will stop this volunteer from telling his story Chris Kowalski won’t let much get in the way of telling people about organ donation. Not even Detroit Tigers superstar Miguel Cabrera. Chris talked to […]

Nationwide Organ Recovery Transport Alliance (NORA) helps Gift of Life and local transplant hospitals move organs and medical teams around the state.

Organ donation vehicles are hope on wheels

Organs and transplant teams are probably on board Ever wonder what that passing SUV covered in organ and tissue transplant branding is all about? You probably ask yourself, who or what is inside? Where is it headed? And what could […]

Donation champion award winners for 2024 will be announced this month

Tickets available for the popular April Gala

Gift of Life Michigan will soon announce the names of about 20 donation champion award winners which will include Hospital of the Year, Legacy and Honoring Life through Donation honors.

A near-record number of people, hospitals or organizations were nominated this fall for the extraordinary work they do to promote donation or help make it happen across the state.

“We’re overwhelmed by the interest and participation this year in what has become Gift of Life’s premier event honoring heroes in the field,” said Director of Advancement Susan Rink. “We can’t do our work without champions in our communities, hospitals and transplant centers. And we can’t wait to hold up their work in April.”

The annual cocktail-attire event has evolved since 2019 into the most inspiring and emotional gathering Gift of Life has to offer to Michigan’s donation and transplant community.

The Gala will be held on Thursday, April 4 at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi.

You gave me your heart so I could live my dreams

herry Johnson was so exhausted she couldn’t walk her two little boys to the bus stop. Brushing her teeth wiped her out. Cardiomyopathy, diagnosed four years earlier, was taking its toll and only a heart transplant would save her life.  

It was 2006.  

The Farmington wife and mom was just 34 when she was admitted to Michigan Medicine to wait for a new heart. Three days later, Sherry was awakened by her nurse with the news that a donor’s heart was a match for her. Sherry later learned the name of her donor — Sue — and met her family.  

This year, on Aug. 8, Sherry was admitted to Michigan Medicine to wait a second time, for a second heart and kidney transplant.  

This is a letter Sherry wrote to Sue after learning she needed another donor’s heart.    

Sherry Johnson waited 86 days as a patient inside Michigan Medicine when her life was saved through a heart and kidney transplant.

Cornea recipient celebrates his gift of sight

Patrick Pruitt's eyesight was saved by a cornea donor when he was a young child.

I’m here because 32 years ago I received a life-changing gift.

Sight is an easy thing to take for granted and, like so much in life, you don’t realize how much you rely on it until it’s gone. It’s certainly not something I was thinking about when I was 6 years old, playing outside with my friends, learning to read or playing with my Ghostbusters action figures.

But slowly, it began to get harder to see what was going on at school, and I couldn’t clearly see the faces of my parents, teachers and friends.

My whole world was starting to go blurry. Doctors told my parents an infection had left a scar over my cornea, the outer covering of the eye, making it difficult for me to see.

At just 6, I had to learn to live with a visual impairment.

Rev. Dr. .Remonia Chapman is Gift of Life Michigan’s director of public education and community relations and program director of Detroit MOTTEP (Minority Organ and Tissue Transplant Education Program). She holds a Doctor of Divinity and serves as associate pastor at Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit.

It’s a matter of faith and facts

Understanding religious perspectives on organ and tissue donation One of the misconceptions or barriers that repeatedly arise in conversations about organ and tissue donation is whether it’s permitted based on the beliefs of one’s faith. To address this, Gift of Life Michigan created “A Matter of Faith,” a video that discusses the important role of faith in the realm of donation. Its production was supported by members of the InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit.
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Malinda Herrera of Lansing donated part of her liver in August to help a colleague’s spouse.

New Michigan law protects health coverage for living organ donors

Gift of Life Michigan celebrates the passage of a law that prevents health insurers from denying or limiting coverage for living organ donors in this state. The law specifically prohibits insurers from denying or limiting life, health or long-term care insurance because someone decides to be a living donor.
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Terri Finch Hamilton's father was a donor-in-spirit at the end of his life.

My dad is a ‘donor in spirit’

I was familiar with Gift of Life and its life-saving mission, but why was she calling me? My dad was 86, with multiple health issues. His heart and lungs had failed him. His skin was old and thin. What could he possibly donate? “One of my colleagues is still researching your dad’s medical history,” Jacy said, “but he may be able to donate bone.” What Jacy needed to know from me now was pressing: Were we willing?
Read Story
Kay Walters, pictured with her daughter, received a heart transplant in 1997.

Transplant Throwback: Kay Walters

I had my heart transplant in April 1997, after years of serious health complications caused by a heart attack and cardiac arrest in 1989. Since my transplant, I have enjoyed an overall healthy life. At my last check-up at the heart transplant clinic, my doctor gave me an A-.
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A new marketing campaign will help tax preparers and Michigan tax payers check a brand new box on state income tax forms to sign up.

Do taxes. Save lives.

The new Check Your Heart law will place the organ and tissue donation question on Michigan income tax forms for the 2023 tax year and beyond. Michigan is the first state to offer the opportunity to register to be a donor this way.
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All of Us traveling trunks, full of giveaways, brochures and other educational materials, are available for teachers across the state of Michigan.

A new bill will require education about organ donation in Michigan public schools

A new bill introduced in October in the Michigan House would require education about organ, eye and tissue donation for 9th graders in public schools statewide. Twenty-four states, including neighboring Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana, require it. Michigan does not. As a result, double the percentage of young people register as organ donors in those states when they get their first driver’s license.
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A season of giving with Gift of Life

Gift of Life and its partners spent the fall thanking donor families and other supporters for what they’ve given to recipients and programs.

The single most important event of the year is the Michigan Donor Family Gathering. Gift of Life and Eversight welcomed more than 500 people to a moving ceremony of remembrance and thanks to all organ, eye and tissue donors as well as donors in spirit.

Gift of Life also hosted its first event thanking financial supporters with an Honoring Life Society reception in Ann Arbor. Guests included members of the community, board members and employees who contribute to the mission financially through the organization’s payroll plan.

The Michigan Donor Family Council makes photo buttons of donors at the Michigan Donor Family Gathering
Donor family members pin personalized quilt squares during the Michigan Donor Family Gathering. Volunteers make the squares into memorial quilts, displayed at the Gift of Life office and at public events.
Donor family members pin personalized quilt squares during the Michigan Donor Family Gathering. Volunteers make the squares into memorial quilts, displayed at the Gift of Life office and at public events.
Gift of Life Michigan President & CEO Dorrie Dils thanked the donor family guests at the Michigan Donor Family Gathering, alongside Eversight CEO Diane Hollingsworth
Supporters gathered at the Honoring Life Society reception.
Supporters gathered at the Honoring Life Society reception.
Supporters gathered at the Honoring Life Society reception.

Let's Talk: Livestreams

Gift of Life Michigan hosts livestream video conversations on Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn.

Check out previous "Let's Talk" videos and see what's coming up next by visiting our social media pages!

Three Gift of Life Michigan staff hosted a Let's Talk livestream in Spanish for National Hispanic Heritage Month

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