By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – LifeShare, a nonprofit, federally designated organ procurement organization (OPO), is dedicated to the recovery of organs and tissue for transplant purposes.
Thanks to a LifeShare Oklahoma donation, Wes Hawkins is the recipient of a life-saving lung transplant.
A native of Ponca City, Hawkins was three years old when he was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis. His parents encouraged him from a young age to not let his condition stop him from living his life.
Working hard to make every day count, Wes went to college and lived some of the best years of his life, thanks to new medicine which turned his life around.
He was able to spend time in the outdoors landscaping, reading on his patio, spending time with friends and family, and even participating in two 5K runs.
Wes graduated college with a Bachelors degree in Hotel and Restaurant Administration and began pursuing a career as a restaurant manager.
In May 2019, Wes returned home from a vacation with friends. As he prepared for a busy weekend at work, he awoke in the middle of the night and was coughing up blood. He spent that weekend in two emergency rooms, saw his cystic fibrosis specialist and underwent two procedures.
Two weeks into his hospital stay, the doctor mentioned the word transplant.
Wes knew that he would eventually hear that he needed a transplant, but hoped to avoid it if he could. By the next afternoon, Wes began the transplant evaluation process.
On August 8 of that year, Wes received a call from the transplant team that changed his life.
The team informed Wes that there was a potential match and he needed to get to the hospital as soon as possible. This was Wes’ fifth offer for lungs, all not panning out to be a transplant for him.
Wes yelled to his mom to tell her the news, exclaiming, “Mom, I got the call.” Within a few minutes, their bags were packed and they were headed to the hospital.
Once they arrived to the hospital, the medical team began making sure he was healthy enough to receive a transplant, which included bloodwork, an x-ray, paperwork, and meeting with the surgeon and anesthesiologist.
After receiving confirmation that evening the lungs were a perfect match, Wes went into surgery feeling confident, knowing he had been prayed for thousands of times.
Today, Wes is almost one year post-transplant. One of his biggest triumphs would be returning to the gym and actually making progress. Learning that he could run again was such a freeing experience after being held back for many years because of poor lung function.
Wes now has future plans of travel including visiting London and Ireland where his family originated.
“Who knows what else might peak my interest,” Wes said. “I was given this second chance at life – and now I get to live.”
LifeShare honors those who have received the gift of life, and remembers those who became donors.
“I am incredibly proud of the work LifeShare has done this year to help save lives,” said Jeffrey Orlowski, President and Chief Executive Officer of LifeShare. “Most importantly, we have had incredible support and generosity from the citizens of Oklahoma, without which our lifesaving work would not be possible.
“We encourage Oklahomans to continue registering to be organ, eye and tissue donors so more lives can be saved.”
Oklahomans can give the gift of life by registering to be an organ, eye and tissue donor at www.LifeShareRegistry.org.
LifeShare works closely with four transplant centers and 145 healthcare organizations in the state of Oklahoma to facilitate donation. Additionally, the organization works to raise awareness for organ, eye and tissue donation and transplantation through public education.
For more information, visit lifeshareok.org.