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Second chance' stories from organ recipients

By By Steve Gillespie/The Meridian Star
Aug. 12, 2001
Linda Allan, president of the Second Chance Transplant Support Group in Meridian, says the stories told by transplant recipients are powerful in their ability to convince others to become organ donors.
Here is her story, and the stories of two other people whose lives were transformed by an organ or tissue transplant.
Robert's story
Robert Everett of Toomsuba is 66 years old, but his heart is 19.
Everett was the recipient of a heart transplant in 1996, from a 14-year-old boy from North Mississippi who could throw a baseball 85 mph.
One of the things Everett was able to do after his transplant was to return to work. Everett worked for more than 40 years as a conductor for Kansas City Southern Railway. After several heart attacks, he had to stop working. After his transplant, he worked another 14 months before retirement.
Everett's father and three brothers all died of heart disease before any of them reached his current age.
Now Everett stays busy keeping people informed about the importance of organ donation through the Second Chance Transplant Support Group.
He is also an active member of Gideon International, a non-denominational group that supplies Bibles to schools, prisons, motels and hotels and he keeps in close contact with his friends at the railroad yard in Meridian.
Everett is a family man. He and his wife, Martha Ann, have two children Marsha Buckley, a lab technician at Jeff Anderson Regional Medical Center, and Robby Everett, a dentist who practices in Meridian. The couple also has five grandchildren.
Linda's story
Linda Allan, of Union, is 55 years old but she observed her third birthday about three years ago.
She counts her birth as her first birthday. She considers the day she accepted Jesus Christ as her savior, at age 10, as her second birthday. The day she received a liver transplant, Nov. 19, 1998, was her third birthday.
Her donor was a 60-year-old man from Alabama who died of a heart attack.
Allan began having liver problems at a very young age. The organ was fibrotic, or hardened. On Christmas Eve, 1971, she started hemorrhaging and had to have a shunt placed in her liver to allow blood to flow correctly.
By the time she had a transplant, Allan's liver was almost to the point of failure.
As president of the Second Chance Transplant Support Group, Allen works to make people aware of the importance of organ donation by distributing literature at various functions.
Her husband, Gilbert, is pastor of the Pine Grove Baptist Church in the House community. They have a grown son, Philip, and a 3-year-old grandson.
Sheneka's story
As the recipient of a cornea transplant, Sheneka Nicholson of Needham, Ala., sees the world a little differently.
After years of blurred vision, Nicholson, 25, was diagnosed in Jackson with keratocornus, or cone shaped cornea, an inherited connective tissue disorder. She received a cornea transplant in 1997 and hopes to have another later this year.
A day after her operation, when bandages were removed, the first thing Nicholson saw clearly was her mother's face.
Nicholson had the transplant in spite of friends and family members who discouraged it.
Her vision problems began when she was in high school. Her vision gradually began to blur. The school sent her to get her eyes checked and she received glasses, but the problem worsened.
But the problem couldn't be ignored forever. After admitting to her parents how poor her vision really was, Nicholson saw several doctors in Butler and Mobile. That was when she first heard of keratocornus. Seeking other opinions, she made an appointment with Dr. Jeffrey Cook in Meridian. He referred her to another specialist, Robert Mallette in Jackson, who performed the transplant.
Nicholson said she would have never considered being an organ and tissue donor when she was younger, but now encourages people to think about it. If she is able to have another transplant, she looks forward to going back to school and being able to drive.
Steve Gillespie is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3233, or e-mail him at sgillespie@themeridianstar.com.

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