By Jodi Marze, Lifestyles Editor
The Picayune Item
This is the time of year when everyone is contemplating gifts. Tommie Steil, of Picayune, has received the ultimate gift that one person can give another— twice; on Wednesday morning, between 7 and 9 a.m. on Fox and Friends, she will be meeting the family of Amanda, her most recent donor. She will be sharing her story of being an organ recipient on national television to raise awareness of benefit one donor can make in as many as eight different lives.
She describes her life prior to organ donations as a daily fight and misery.
“I was almost to the point where I was ready to go. Basically diabetes had ravaged my body. There are people who before the transplants would tell you they have no memories of me being well.
“I received my first organ — a kidney, from a relative of my next door neighbor who passed away out of state from an aneurism. They thought of me and my need when he died and thankfully we were a close enough match to be viable. Even though they knew me, it was a painful decision to make during a devastating time.”
The kidney was a good start to get her back on the road to health but soon they were confronted with the fact that a pancreas was needed to help take the heavy burden off of her kidney.
Once again, the woman strong in her belief, prayerfully turned to the scripture: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”— John 15:13 (KJV)
As fate would have it, a young lady named Amanda, the daughter of a retired New York fire fighter who responded on 9/11, had recently had a family discussion where they all decided to be organ donors. Amanda was hit on a sidewalk by a car which left the road as she was walking one day.
Her pancreas was a perfect match for Steil and is the reason she is alive today. As soon as information could be legally released the family contacted Steil.
“Records are sealed for one year after a donation is made. After the records were released, Amanda’s aunt wrote a letter to me telling me personal details about her; what type of young lady she was, and she also sent me a photo of her which I keep on my dresser along with the young man who donated his kidney to me.
“I responded to the Aunt’s letter by writing a general letter to the family just to thank them and express my gratitude. Amanda’s mother called me after that and we have spoken on the phone since; this will be the first time to meet face to face,” said Steil.
“I thank God every day for my life. I have been able to see the marriage of my son Evan and the birth of my two beautiful grandchildren because of these two selfless people and the generosity of their families. I consider them my life partners. I know God has a purpose for me and I want to live up to that.”
Steil has felt part of her purpose is raising awareness of organ donations and the impact of good that is transferred in the process.
“There seems to be a hesitation in the North East to be a donor. We are raising awareness on a national level in hopes that education will alleviate some of the hesitation.”
Steil encourages everyone to sit down with their families and make decisions about organ donations.
“It just blows my mind that people will do something so generous in a moment when their life has been so altered. It is really helpful to make decisions when you are not under the stress of tragedy and loss. Then, there is no question at the crucial time and family members can move forward knowing that parts of loved ones will live on through others.’