Learn about organ donation

Stories of Hope 

Behind every donation and every transplant, there’s a story. Click the names below to read the stories of courage and hope from donor families, living donors, transplant patients and recipients

Register as an organ and tissue donor today at www.RegisterMe.org

Do you have a donation story you'd like to share? Please email us at socialmedia@njsharingnetwork.org

 

Darryl Price
Transplant Recipient

 

Melissa Daza
Organ Donor

 

E. Denise Peoples
Transplant Recipient

 

Rebecca Beaulieu
Organ Donor

 

Jayla Sorenson

 

Michael Vamos
Transplant Recipient

 

Greta Clausen
Transplant Recipient

 

Jordan Greene
Living Donor

 

Ezequel Garcia
Donor Family

 

Emma Navarro
Transplant Recipient

 

Rabbi Ephraim Simon
Living Donor

 

Lakisha Bray
Donor Family

 

Sarah Steinhauser
Transplant Recipient

 

Nikhil Badlani
Tissue Donor

 

Rev. Dr. Valerie M. Griffin
Transplant Recipient

 

Roberto PerezRoberto De Jesus Perez
Organ Donor

 

Jim Rhatican
Transplant Recipient

 

Dr. Patrick Buddle
Living Donor

 

James Wood
Heather Prutzman
Donor Family and Transplant Recipient

 

Vernell Willliams
Vernell Williams
Transplant Recipient 


Alexander Patriarca
Organ Donor

 


Dawn Burke
Transplant Recipient


Basel Vorolieff
Transplant Recipient

 


Susan Diamond
Donor Family


Bob Williams
Transplant Recipient

 

 

Darryl Price
Darryl of Denville had barely been sick a day in his life when, at age 52, he was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. The outlook for Darryl was grim, but a life-saving double-lung transplant gave him a second chance at life. He immediately began setting new goals, telling his medical team that he wanted to be running by the time he finished rehabilitation and playing tennis within six months of returning home. Now, Darryl is living life to the fullest. He participates in running events and shares his story as a volunteer for NJ Sharing Network. He’s also brushing up on his Japanese as he plans to tour Japan and create a travelogue to spark an appetite for adventure in others. “Honoring the gift of life means being the best version of yourself that you can be by inspiring and encouraging those who sorely need inspiration and encouragement,” said Darryl. 

 

Melissa Daza
Melissa was well-known and loved in her community as the owner and operator of Daza’s Subs and Deli in Keyport. Melissa’s husband James, and their six children, Justina, Nicolina, Haliemarie, William, Alexia and Angelina, remember her as a beautiful person inside and out who was tirelessly devoted to her family. “Melissa was our entire world,” said James. “She was always strong, caring and loyal, and the best mom a child could ever have.” James and Melissa’s mother, Anna Dockery, were both able to find some comfort after her passing when they supported her wish to give the gift of life to others. Melissa’s liver, kidneys and lungs saved four people who were awaiting life-saving transplants. 

E. Denise Peoples
Denise of Newark was diagnosed with a debilitating lung disease despite the fact that she never smoked and had no family history of the condition. After a successful double-lung transplant, she was inspired to educate others about the miracle of organ and tissue donation and transplantation. Today, Denise is a Hospital and Community Services Coordinator at NJ Sharing Network, and she works throughout the year to promote our life-saving mission in local schools, faith-based organizations and community associations. “Because of my own transplant, I can share a unique perspective,” said Denise. “My life is fulfilled, and I find purpose every day in helping to spread the word and dispel any myths and misinformation about organ and tissue donation.”

Rebecca Beaulieu
Mary Beaulieu’s life was turned upside down when her daughter Rebecca (Becky) passed away in January 2019. Becky always required constant care and special attention from her mother as she was deaf, disabled and autistic. Becky’s sisters Amy and Mandie, her brother Paul Jr., and her many family members will always remember Becky’s smile, laughter, and sense of humor. Our family has felt a sense of comfort knowing that Becky’s donations have improved the lives of others, including a man in Illinois who received the gift of sight,” said Mary. Mary and her oldest daughter, Amy Marker, have gone above and beyond in supporting NJ Sharing Network. They have crocheted and knitted more than 50 blankets and contributed more than 100 yards of yarn for the Wrapped in Love program to support other donor families. Staying involved with NJ Sharing Network has helped us honor Becky while providing a healthy way to deal with stress and sadness,” said Mary.

 

Jayla Sorenson
Jayla of Toms River has a disorder known as kidney dysplasia and cystic disease, which has interfered with the development of her kidneys, limiting their ability to filter and clean her blood normally. As a result, she has steadily outpaced her kidneys’ functional capacity as the rest of her has grown from a 2-pound, 2-ounce infant born two months premature, to a vivacious little girl of normal height and weight who likes to dance, play outside, hug and kiss her dad, and master addition and subtraction. But the clock is ticking towards a more critical stage in Jayla’s condition that will eventually involve a pediatric kidney transplant. “Obviously, you don’t want anything to happen to your child,” said James Sorenson, Jayla’s father. “I want her to be able to grow up, to enjoy everything that she, that every child, is supposed to enjoy.”

 

Michael Vamos
Michael of Hazlet had suffered with Cystic Fibrosis for his entire life. During his teenage years, his lung function dropped to 17% and he weighed only 93 pounds. On March 11, 2016, Michael’s prayers were answered when he underwent a double-lung transplant at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. “On my first breath, I coughed and it felt like a cannon because I had so much air in my lungs,” said Michael. “It had been so long since I breathed normally that I forgot what it was like.”  Now at 23-years-old, Michael is living a busy and active lifestyle. He works long hours as an emergency dispatcher, attends school and is focused on his career goal of becoming a police officer. Michael has also developed a truly special way to honor his donor. On the 11th day of each month, Michael and his mother go on the beach in Sea Bright to watch the sunrise and reflect on the generosity and selflessness of Michael’s donor.

Greta Clausen
Greta and her twin brother were born at 38 weeks and spent a short time in the NICU. A seemingly healthy baby, Greta was fussy and missing milestones. One night, she swelled up and was rushed to the hospital. That’s when doctors diagnosed her with a genetic cardiomyopathy which resulted in heart failure. At only eight months old, Greta underwent a successful heart transplant that saved her life. Now more than a decade later, she is a healthy and energetic teen. She loves to spend time with family and friends and looks forward to making money babysitting. Greta also uses her Instagram account to share her journey and educate others. Her first post shows her preparing to have blood drawn with the caption, “I have to get blood work sometimes to check my medication to keep me healthy. It’s no big deal.”

 

Jordan Greene
Jordan of Haskell knew that his father Sean’s life was in danger due to a rare kidney disease. “I love my dad so very much, and I couldn't stand to see him suffer,” said Jordan. Last year, just in time for Father’s Day, Jordan stepped up and gave his dad the ultimate gift by donating one of his kidneys to help save his life. Jordan and his father underwent surgery together, side-by-side. Today, Jordan and Sean are both doing great! Jordan graduated from the University of Hartford, and Sean is living a much happier and healthier lifestyle. We as a family have grown closer than ever thanks to this,” said Jordan. “It felt like I was giving life to the person who gave it to me. I hope that anyone who considers donating does it because it can really change someone’s life for the better!”

 

Ezequiel Garcia
Ezequiel of Newark has played a vital role in advancing our life-saving mission since his son Reinaldo (Rey) passed away in a tragic motorcycle accident in 2011 and became an organ and tissue donor. Today, Ezequiel helps guide our strategic efforts as a member of our Foundation’s Board of Trustees. His 26 years of experience working in the Newark Public School System and as an adjunct professor and supervisor at Kean University has provided leadership and knowledge to help power our community outreach efforts. Ezequiel has also proudly run in the New York City, Boston and Miami Marathons to raise awareness for NJ Sharing Network and honor Rey.

 

Emma Navarro
Emma of Lake Hiawatha was born with a congenital heart defect that evolved into a serious life-threatening condition as she grew into her teenage years. She suffered each day with abnormal heart rhythms and difficulty breathing. Ultimately, a life-saving transplant was needed when her heart would no longer function properly. Through the miracle of donation and transplantation, Emma is thriving today and is living a happy and healthy life. She now enjoys swimming, playing volleyball, and spending time with her family and friends – moments that she recognizes could never be possible without the gift of life that she received from her selfless donor.

 

Rabbi Ephraim Simon
Rabbi Simon of Chabad of Bergen County in Teaneck has spent his life trying to inspire others to live better lives, and his own selfless actions have served as a shining example to others. He is one of only a handful of living donors to have ever donated both a kidney and a part of his liver to save the lives of two others. The story of Rabbi Simon’s overwhelming generosity went viral, inspiring dozens of others to come forward for living organ donation. “As a rabbi, I do a lot of talking about love, doing things for others and altruism,” said Rabbi Simon. “It’s something we all speak about, but how often do we have the opportunity to really set ourselves aside for another? This was my opportunity to do that, and I didn’t want to let it go.”

 

Lakisha Bray
Lakisha of Plainfield is an incredibly strong and resilient woman who is spreading the importance of organ donation through her story of losing her daughter and sister. Lakisha’s daughter, Talea, was born with cerebral palsy and passed away just before her 21st birthday, but she was able to save three lives with her donations. Just six months later, Lakisha’s sister Tabitha died while waiting for an intestinal transplant. “I was touched on both sides - I was able to give the gift of life and had a family member not be able to receive the gift life,” said Lakisha. “I became an advocate for organ donation to honor both of their memories.”

 

Sarah Steinhauser
Sarah of Montville was born with a bronchi condition that made it difficult to catch her breath and, ultimately, a respiratory virus seriously compromised her immune system. Her life-saving double-lung transplant in 2018 gave Sarah a new lease on life. She will never forget the moment when her breathing tube was removed and, for the first time, took a deep breath without assistance thanks to her donor’s gifts. “It was mind blowing. It almost felt like a dream,” said Sarah. “Tougher than the physical recovery was accepting that I didn’t need that breathing tube.” Today, Sarah continues to monitor her health, but she is living an active and busy lifestyle and looks forward to a bright future of growth and achievement.

 

 

Nikhil Badlani
Nikhil of West Orange was a talented, fun-loving, caring and compassionate 11-year-old boy who loved life and lived it to the fullest. He was not just as a straight-A student and a gifted musician, but a loyal and loving young man who was always ready and willing to help others. His smile was infectious, and his sweetness was remarkable. In 2011, Nikhil was killed in a motor vehicle accident involving a driver who ran a stop sign. Following Nikhil’s tragic death, his family donated his corneas and heart valves, providing both the gift of sight and the gift of life to others. “He always saw the good in the world. He saw the world as beautiful,” said Sangeeta Badlani, Nikhil’s mother. “We are happy that someone out there can now see because of Nikhil’s gift.”

 

 

Rev. Dr. Valerie M. Griffin
Rev. Valerie, Chaplain at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, is loved and admired by all those who know her. She truly practices what she preaches and she never lost hope while waiting nearly three years for a life-saving kidney transplant. In November 2020, Rev. Valerie received the call that she had been waiting for! Her transplant surgery was a success, and she is now feeling healthier and stronger each day. "I am forever grateful for my donor who unselfishly gave me the gift of life. There are no words to fully express my deepest gratitude. This gift is like no other, and I will always keep my donor and his family in my thoughts and prayers.”

 

Roberto PerezRoberto De Jesus Perez
Roberto of North Bergen was an inspiration to all who knew him. As a student at William Paterson University, his career goal was to work for the United Nations so he could help people from Latin countries. Tragically, Roberto’s life was cut short when he passed away at the age of 18 as a result of a brain aneurysm. Roberto’s caring spirit lives on and he will always be honored for the five lives he saved through organ donation. “Roberto was an angel put on this earth for a short period of time, but the impact he created on people who knew him and the lives he saved is eternal,” said Maria Perez, Roberto’s mother. “The bonds I have created with the recipients of Roberto’s organs, family members who have lost someone dear to them and people in need of organs gives me back a piece of my heart that I lost.”

 

Jim Rhatican 
Jim of Berkely Heights  was placed on the liver transplant list after receiving the shocking news that he had just a few months to live. “I remember the doctor telling me that I would probably die, and he encouraged me to get my things in order,” said Jim. Two months later, Jim’s prayers were answered. It was the day after Christmas 2008 when he received the phone call and he heard his transplant coordinator say “Merry Christmas, we have a liver for you.” “Every day, I am thankful to wake up - all because one family decided to save my life,” said Jim. “My donor has given me the opportunity to see all of my granddaughters be born.” A retired teacher and coach of 35 years, Jim now speaks to students regularly through NJ Sharing Network’s High School Heroes Program. “I am continuously moved by students, teachers and parents who tell me their own stories and connections to donation and transplantation,” said Jim.

 

Dr. Patrick Buddle
“After almost 18 years and in retrospect, being a living donor has had a tremendously positive effect on my life,” said Dr. Buddle of Manasquan. “My hope for the future is that I continue to be a positive example and remain active in educating others about the life-saving benefits of organ and tissue donation.”  Dr. Patrick Buddle exemplifies what it means to dedicate a lifetime of caring for others. In addition to providing world-class care to his patients for more than three decades, Dr. Buddle also donated one of his kidneys to save the life of a fellow physician. Today, Dr. Buddle continues to live an active lifestyle. He participates in our 5K Celebration of Life annually and will be running on Team Buck this September. He also serves as a strong and visible advocate for donation and is a member of our Foundation’s Board of Trustees.

James WoodHeather Prutzman
Heather Prutzman, formerly of Newton, NJ, and now residing in Winter Haven, FL, faced unbearable loss when her son Joey passed away at the age of 25 due to a tragic car accident. However, it gave her peace to know that a special part of Joey will continue to live on thanks to his selfless decision to register as an organ and tissue donor. Heather was able to meet Jim, the recipient of Joey's heart. As she listened to Joey’s heart beat inside of Jim, she whispered, “I love you buddy always and forever.” In 2019, Heather’s touching story took another amazing turn when she underwent a successful spine surgery that included two pieces of Joey’s donated bones that were a perfect match! “This was Joey’s way of saying ‘Keep going mom, I got your back, you got this,” said Heather. “I know that Joey is rallying around me so I will never be alone.”

 

Vernell WillliamsVernell Williams
Vernell Williams of Paterson has spent his entire life helping others. In 1997, Vernell and his longtime friend Anthony Davis co-founded the city’s Nifty Lions youth football team that has enabled hundreds of youngsters to blossom by learning discipline and teamwork. In 2015, it was Vernell who needed support as congestive heart failure and other serious health issues put his life at risk. Thanks to the generosity of an organ and tissue donor, Vernell’s life was saved through successful heart and kidney transplants. Three years later, Vernell had the opportunity to meet the family of his donor, Victor Startek. “When I met Victor’s mother, Deborah Martinez, and his twin sister, Ashley, I cried,” said Vernell. “I’ll be forever grateful and indebted to the Startek family. Victor literally saved my life.” Vernell now serves as an active volunteer in our local diverse communities to educate residents about NJ Sharing Network’s life-saving mission.

Alexander Patriarca

When Alexander Patriarca, 24, of Point Pleasant Beach, gave the gift of life, his parents Michael and Lucy Patriarca hoped to one day meet the recipients of their son’s gifts. With the assistance of NJ Sharing Network, the Patriarca family united with two of the four individuals whose lives Alex saved. In December 2019, they met with his heart and kidney recipient, Bill Hoffman. Surrounded by family and friends, they greeted one another with hugs and tears, exchanged small gifts, and took turns listening to Alex’s heart beat in Bill’s chest. Two months later, they united with Alex’s lung recipient Ed Walsh, and his wife, Tammy. The day Alex died was the Walsh’s son’s birthday, and Ed’s restored health was the best gift the young man could ever receive. “Out of our tragedy those families had a triumph,” said Michael. “I think it’s important that we connected with them and understand their stories.”

 

Dawn Burke

Dawn Burke of Keyport had been fighting the good fight against Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF), a disease that scars the lungs for unknown reasons. But her irreversible condition forced her to rely on oxygen therapy and she could hardly take a few steps without losing her breath. While Dawn waited for a life-saving lung transplant, she always kept a ‘don’t worry about a thing’ attitude and turned to the power of prayer and positive thinking. Dawn simply never lost hope, and the call finally came for her transplant. In the operating room at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, her transplant team played Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” - subtitled “Don’t Worry About a Thing” - in honor of Dawn’s love for music, particularly reggae. Today, Dawn is enjoying live to its fullest and it is her mission to spread the word about the gift she received in the hope of inspiring and encouraging others on the waiting list, providing reassurance as a living, breathing example.

Basil Vorolieff

Basil Vorolieff’s life-saving liver transplant in 2019 changed his perspective on life, and he has dedicated much of his time to helping others. Although Basil, a resident of of Hawthorne, has shared his story with individuals and groups countless times, he still gets emotional talking about his experience. “I think everyone wants to do something that’s heroic in their lifetime,” said Basil. “What would be more heroic than becoming an organ donor and making your last act on earth saving a life?” Basil is also well-recognized in our transplant community for competing in the Transplant Games, winning several medals in darts, golf and corn hole. Basil sent one of his medals to his donor family as a symbol of his gratitude. This helped establish a strong connection and Basil has even met the husband of his liver donor.

 

Susan Diamond

One morning, seemingly out of the blue, Susan Callari Diamond’s 2-year-old son, Ben, woke up sick and started suffering seizures. Ben’s condition worsened and he never recovered, dying of what doctors believe were complications from the flu. Susan, from Middletown, did not hesitate when asked if she would donate Ben’s organs. “I said, ‘This is it. This is his reason on earth,’” she recalled. “It was not even a question.” Two years later, Susan met the recipient of Ben’s kidneys, Dorothea "DeDe" Duffy and they quickly became great friends. DeDe had been suffering from kidney failure since 2010 due to an autoimmune disease. After several attempts for a donor match, doctors found an ideal transplant match in Ben’s kidneys. “In the wake of unimaginable tragedy, life every day is challenging,” said Susan. “The fact that I can get on the phone with DeDe and giggle like schoolgirls is a blessing that I cannot even begin to explain.”

 

Bob Williams

Bob Williams of Roxbury, the on-air radio voice of New Jersey Traffic North, is back in the NJ 101.5 studio and enjoying life after receiving a kidney transplant, thanks to longtime neighborhood acquaintance turned living kidney donor, Kim Roumes. “Kim saved my life,” said Bob. “There are no words that can properly describe the love I have for this selfless and caring human being.” When Kim learned on Facebook that Bob needed a kidney transplant, she simply thought, ‘that’s what neighbors are for!’ She went to Saint Barnabas Medical Center and left feeling confident that she would follow through with donating if she proved to be a suitable match. The next day, Kim and her daughter’s jaws dropped when they ran into Bob at a local restaurant. She surprised Bob when she informed him that she was the prospective donor he recently had heard about. “We hugged a million times, and we knew it was a sign that things would work out,” said Bob.

Do you have a donation story you'd like to share? Please email us at socialmedia@njsharingnetwork.org