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Transplant Recipients Celebrating Life

Transplant Recipients Celebrating Life

Posted - Jul. 21, 2004 at 4:27 p.m.



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Ed Yeates ReportingNebraska is getting ready to host one of the country's biggest reunions this weekend. While most of us will be celebrating the Days of ‘47, a few will be going to Omaha to celebrate their days of survival.

The Nebraska Medical Center is getting their staff and patients primed for a big reunion. More than a thousand people are expected to fly or drive there this weekend to celebrate life itself. They have transplanted hearts, lungs, kidneys, livers, pancreas' and small bowels.

Jim Ontiveros was one of several in Utah who got an invitation to the big reunion. Nebraska has been transplanting organs for more than 34 years. It's now one of only five centers in the country that's topped the 2,000 transplant mark. James got a liver transplant there twelve years ago.

James Ontiveros: “I was number 746. They had done that many transplants already.”

The thousand or so gathering this weekend have a lot to reflect on. Sort of a like a class reunion, many are gone. But some, like James, have breached the predicted survival rates. Like one of his friends told him when he got home after his transplant…

Ontiveros: "He says, ‘You look great. I would have just been happy if you were upright.’ And that's what people thought, you know, if you're upright, that's as good as it gets."

But the "getting" so far, has gotten a lot - with more to come! James has won gold, silver and bronze medals in the World Transplant Games.

Ontiveros: "I've returned to my job, returned to playing tournament tennis. I do my yard Awork and my family, it's just been an incredible run for me."

The running isn’t over yet. The liver is still working with no signs of rejection. He sends in a blood test to Nebraska four times a year to make sure.

Ontiveros: "It's incredible to me that after twelve years, they still know exactly where I'm at."

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