Dee Hill’s daughter, Cora, was born with cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening illness affecting the lungs. The Hunter’s Creek family dealt with the diagnosis as best they could, following all of the doctor’s orders. She took her medications, the breathing treatments, wore a vest to clear the thick mucus in her lungs, and stayed active through cheerleading. While she did well on her regiment of treatments, at 16 years old, Cora’s doctors suggested she be placed on the waiting list for a double lung transplant.
Many cystic fibrosis patients don’t have the opportunity to receive the transplant they so desperately need because of the disease’s quick progression and the small supply of available organs. Cora got her second chance on Christmas Eve. “We were so relieved and thankful for the chance,” Dee remembers. “She could run again, exercise, go back to college; she was breathing better than she had in her whole life.” But about a year in, Cora’s new lungs started to show signs of failing.
At that point, Cora was too sick for the doctors to risk putting her back on the transplant list. She told her mother that if there was any way for the doctors to use any of her organs to help someone else, she wanted to donate. When Cora lost her battle, Dee moved forward with her daughter’s final wishes. It was during the donation process that Dee was introduced to representatives from TransLife, a federally designated organ procurement organization that provides clinical services and public education to 10 counties in Central Florida, including Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties.
For Dee, TransLife was a critical link between Cora and the potential recipients of her kidneys. Representatives were there to advocate for her in the hospital and to provide compassionate care during one of the most difficult moments in her life. Later, they helped her reach out to the families who received Cora’s gift of life.
Through TransLife, Cora’s family has been able to honor her memory in remarkable ways. They made a square for Cora that travels nationwide on a memory quilt, and decorated a Rose Bowl parade float with Cora’s picture in Pasadena, California. Dee has remained active in TransLife, not only sharing her story through speaking engagements but also offering support for new donor families.
“Ultimately, organ and tissue donation creates a ripple effect throughout our community,” says Kristine Neal, manager of public relations for TransLife. “It’s not just one life that you’re saving; it’s their future children, future grandchildren and an entire community of people who love that person. One ‘yes’ can have so much more of an impact than people tend to think it does.”
By sharing Cora’s unique story, Dee – with the help of TransLife – can encourage others to think about organ donation before it comes up. “This is one of Cora’s affects, why she was here,” Dee says. “I intend to continue her legacy.”