Transplant recipient raising awareness about organ donation

Kari Myers

        Each day, 20 people die waiting for an organ transplant, according to Health Resources and Services Administration.
        Sarah Satkowski was lucky. She received not just one, but three life-saving kidney transplants.
        She was 18 years old when she was diagnosed with post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis, or kidney failure from strep throat, diagnosed after a routine visit to her gynecologist. She was on dialysis for only six weeks before getting her first transplant.
        Nine months later, she went to the doctor for a check-up and the woman at the check-in desk noted that her lips were purple.
        She ended up being put on a ventilator for 14 days. On the last day, the doctors wanted to take her off the ventilator; however, she was unable to breath on her own. A nurse, whose name she can’t recall, dedicated the entire night to talking to Satkowski and weaning her off the ventilator. By morning, she was able to breathe on her own and was ultimately removed from the ventilator.
        A year and a half later, she underwent a second transplant. This kidney lasted two and a half years – a period during which she was in and out of the hospital because the transplant created a bacteria that attacked her other organs. Doctors needed to remove this kidney and put Satkowski back on dialysis for another couple of years.
        At around age 22, Satkowski’s grandparents found her unconscious on the floor of her apartment and rushed her to the hospital. Interactions among the medications she had been taking caused her to have a seizure. Later in life, she woke her husband up in the middle of the night with a convulsive seizure, only to learn that the culmination of her many medications and procedures had given her a seizure disorder.  
        In 2005, the 25-year-old Satkowski received a call from her doctor. “You’ve won the lottery, I found you a perfect match kidney. I’ll see you in the morning.”  The donor, a man in Michigan, was a 100% match.
        Satkowski wrote his family a three-page letter explaining how much she appreciated the gift of life and what it meant to her and her family.
        “I wouldn’t be here without that person,” she said.
A dire discovery
        In 2011, Satkowski discovered a lump while she was getting dressed and immediately had it looked at by her doctors. It was cancerous. The medications she took for her transplants reduced her immune system enough to allow cancer to develop. She underwent chemotherapy while going to school to become a surgical tech. After two years, she was done with chemo and cancer free.
        When her grandfather passed away, Satkowski inherited his restaurant, Curtice Hy-Flash, located in Oregon. She says she feels as if her purpose – the reason why she survived the series of unfortunate events – may be to fulfill her grandfather’s legacy.
        She also loves helping people, and feels that may be another reason why she’s still alive – to spread awareness about organ donation and to help others. She recently sat in Life Connection of Ohio’s “Green Chair” – a symbol of the importance of organ donation. Why a Green Chair? When it’s empty, the chair represents the overwhelming sadness from the loss of someone who was waiting for an organ transplant that didn’t come in time. But when someone is sitting in the chair, it showcases a recipient’s second chance at life.
        “That’s why I always sit in the Green Chair – to promote organ donation,” she said. “There are so many people who don’t understand organ donation and how it works.”
        For those who are struggling with illness, Satkowski stresses the importance of being educated on their conditions, and to be aware of the medications they’re taking and the risk for potential harmful interactions.
        But most importantly, Satkowski emphasizes the significance of fighting through the hard times.
“Don’t give up. It can be hard, but don’t give up. Keep trying,” she said.


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