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Shirley Kramer

After years of heart issues, arrhythmias, and pacemakers, in 1990, I was diagnosed with idiopathic cardiomyopathy.

Within a few months, I was told the only chance of surviving would be a heart transplant. I asked how long that would give me. The doctors told about 5 years. I was 55 years old at the time.

We made the scary decision to move forward. We decided on the transplant center in Minneapolis, the University of Minnesota. In August 1990, we went there to be evaluated, was accepted, and in September 1990, I was listed for a transplant.

On Oct 16, 1991, I was very weak, deteriorating, thinking, God, if it doesn’t happen soon…

At noon that day, my coordinator was calling. They had a heart. My flight had been pre-arranged, so we flew out at 4 p.m. Surgery was finished by midnight. Oct 16, 1991, at age 57, I was given a second chance at life.

Through the generosity of another, a stranger, I have had more than 31 years of living, loving, caring and sharing.

Advocating for eye, organ and tissue donation has become my focus. Although at age 88, I may not be as active, but my heart and enthusiasm have never waned.

For many years, I have been a board member at New Hearts, Inc, a support group for all transplants. I’m also a member of Team Nebraska, for the Transplant Games of America.

I have 11 grandchildren, having lost one at age 17. He wanted to be an organ donor, but it became impossible.

I have 23 great-grandchildren and 2 great-great-grandchildren!  A very proud and happy grandmother!

All because someone said yes! I give thanks every day for the family and the donor. My heroes.

I might add, since my transplant, and in part because of it, 12 years ago, my cousin lost a son in a car accident. He gave that second chance to others, donating his heart, liver, and kidneys.

Last month, my niece lost her beautiful daughter. She was able to donate her heart and both kidneys.

The beat goes on and on and on.