Althea Fogle knows first-hand the importance of organ and tissue donations.
The Philadelphia mother received a life-saving kidney transplant years after her daughter donated. Fogle, 72, waited close to three years for a transplant after being diagnosed with stage 5 kidney disease in 2019.
Kidney disease, which is often linked to conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, is on the rise. The Gift of Life Donor Program, headquartered in Philadelphia, coordinated the most kidneys for transplant ever in U.S. history: 1,017. Kidneys are the organ needed by the majority of patients on the national waitlist, and the need for transplants is particularly urgent in communities of color.
Fogle said she prayed she wouldn’t have to go on dialysis, and thankfully “I got the call in April that they (Penn Medicine) had a possible kidney for me.”
In May 2022, Fogle received a new kidney.
Fogle received a kidney from a deceased donor. She says she is going to write her donor family to express her gratitude and hopes they will get a chance to meet this year.
Today, Fogle feels wonderful. “My kidneys are functioning very well. My creatinine levels are good, and I feel great,” she said. “I’m just gaining weight. Prednisone tends to make you gain weight unfortunately. I’m trying to figure out how to get my weight down because I don’t want to weigh 200 pounds by the end of the month. I’m trying to do a little more exercise.”
Her daughter, Tiffany, passed away in 2012 from a pulmonary embolism, which occurs when a clot blocks blood flow to the lung. Organ donation was not possible due to the nature of Tiffany’s death, but the family decided to donate Tiffany’s corneas and tissue.
Tiffany gave the gift of sight to two people, and her tissue donations, facilitated by Community Tissue Services, provided the opportunity for 71 tissue transplants.
Fogle worked at the Lions Eye Bank of Delaware Valley for decades, often interacting with donor families, so she knew the importance of donation.
“It’s the most beautiful thing that you can do—to be a donor and give the gift of life, sight or some life enhancing donor tissue to someone so they can have life itself or a better quality of life as a result.”
The Philadelphia region is the most generous in the country for life-saving organ donations for the 15th year in a row. Gift of Life continues its legacy, coordinating the most organ donors (690) leading to the most life-saving transplants (1,744) in the country in 2022.
Fogle encourages everyone to learn about organ donation as there are myths that need to be dispelled around donations.
“Even though I wasn’t able to donate my daughter’s solid organs, the fact that I was able to donate at all was just so pleasing to me,” she said. “It changed my life and I know it’s something she (Tiffany) would’ve wanted to do because she was a very giving person. She was a big girl, but she had a bigger heart. The fact that I was able to donate helped me with the grief process.”
“I was on the giving end and now I’m on the receiving end. So, I feel doubly blessed.”