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Friday, March 17, 2017

Trust For Life Celebrated Through Real Life Triumphs in Campbell County

48,000 Receive Sight & Celebrated in March by KY Circuit Court Clerks

(LtoR) Ned, Brie and Milosh Kalapasev, Muse Watson and Kati Grady. FTM file. 
Northern Kentucky circuit clerks gathered Tuesday in Campbell County, along with actor Muse Watson and some local residents who have had their lives saved by receiving organs from others.

The event was to bring awareness to the program, Trust for Life,

"It's an important task that we undertake in this office," said Campbell County Circuit Clerk, Taunya Nolan Jack. "Nearly 1,000 Kentuckians are currently on waiting lists for life-saving organ transplants and some of these patients will die waiting.  Hundreds more are waiting for life-enhancing cornea and tissue transplants.  You can give hope simply by being a registered donor."

Watson, who is best known for his portrayals on NCIS, Prison Break and the I Know What You Did Last Summer trilogy said he got involved with the Trust For Life Program because he wanted to make a difference in people who normally woundn't have signed up to donate their organs.

"The people who refuse to sign up for this program probably look a lot like me," said Watson, with a raspy voice and rugged face. "The more people we can talk into letting the doctor make the decision, the better. The more people we'll be able to save. For people to say, 'well I've abused my body and it ain't no good' is not a good excuse anymore. I'm a 28-year recovering alcoholic. I suspect that my organs ain't no good, but I'm not going to make that decision when I pass. I'm going to let the doctor decide what can be used and what can't."

There are two easy ways to sign up to donate your organs.

You can place your name on the Kentucky Organ Donor Registry by visiting or you can enter your name on the registry when you renew your driver’s license at their Circuit Clerk’s office.

"While the number of donations and success rates have increased in recent years, so has medical science’s ability to save more lives with organ transplantation, as well as the need for donated organs and tissues," said Glenna Bertsch, of the Life Center and a kidney recipient.  "A single organ and tissue donor can help up to 50 people in need. It's so easy to sign up. Just say yes."

Two local recipients were in attendance in Fort Thomas resident, Kati Grady and seven-year old Milosh Kalapasev. 

Grady's father, Chris, donated a kidney to her on January 2, 1997. Her first kidney transplant was in 1994, which her body rejected five days later. She was on dialysis until her father could donate the kidney three years later. 

"This program is huge for eye and tissue donation. Twenty years ago when I had my transplant, it wasn't really talked about. Now it's something that is part of every day life. Trust for Life saves lives," she said. 

Grady was born with four kidneys, but each kidney only functioned at 25% of normal capacity. She was diagnosed at five with polycystic kidney disease. Her Pediatrician told her parents that one day she would need a kidney transparent. She stayed stable until her freshman year at Notre Dame Academy, until her kidneys completely failed and was on dialysis for thirteen months. 

If you know Chris Schnell, owner of Precision Dental Lab in Fort Thomas, you know he's a big guy. His daughter Kati, is much smaller. 

"I've got a big old kidney," she said. "It starts under my hip bone and goes underneath my floating ribs. I'm good now, I'm healthy, and that's what's important."

Seven-year old Milosh Kalapasev was born in heart failure and has a mitochondrial disorder called Barth Syndrome. He received a heart transplant at three months, but he needs another to survive. 

Milosh Kalapasev (7) and Muse Watson. FTM file. 
"Without Trust for Life, Milosh would not be here today," said Brie Kalapasev, his mother. "He's healthy enough to wait at home for a new heart right now, but that means he's a low priority and that's how it should be."

The tough part about organ donation is that while one family is receiving the most precious gift they can possibly get, another family is making one of the most bittersweet decision's they will ever make. 

For Milosh's family, mother Brie and father Ned, they understand that. 

"We've exchanged a couple letters with his donor family. They did the bravest thing a person could do in the most tragic time of their lives and that bravery saved my son's life," said Brie. 

Watson, now a Berea resident, said meeting people like Grady and Kalapasev lets him know he's doing the right thing. 

"It's a blessing to meet them. Kati has had two kidneys in the last twenty years. Milosh, that smile. To see them doing well tells you how important this program is. It ain't like we're taking used parts off someone and they are spending the rest of their life in a hospital. They are having a normal life and the alternative to that is pretty severe," he said. 

March is National Eye Donor Month, a special time to honor those who donate their corneas after death to give others sight.  More than 48,000 Americans have their sight restored each year as a result of corneal transplants and can once again see loved ones and the colors of the world.

First proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan in 1983, National Eye Donor Month promotes eye donation awareness and celebrates the lives of eye donors and corneal recipients.

“It’s difficult to imagine the loss of sight.  Not being able to drive, read emails, or see my family members would be devastating.  People all over Kentucky need the gift of sight.  Every registered donor gives hope to patients in need,” said Jack.

Working closely with Lions Clubs all over Kentucky, providing the gift of sight has been a focus in Kentucky for decades.  Recently, two Kentucky nonprofits who handle cornea donation have merged and are now known as the Kentucky Lions Eye Bank with offices in Lexington and Louisville.

Judge Glenn Acree recounts his healing experience after receiving a cornea transplant, “For the first time, I could see clearly the details of my own young son’s face, the curl of his smile, the twinkle in his eye.” 

In the U.S. about 70,000 people are eye donors each year.  Eye banks in the U.S. are able to help patients domestically and overseas, plus support research and training that may lead to preventative and restorative treatments for vision loss and eye damage.

Joining the Kentucky Donor Registry at a Circuit Clerk’s office or at registers one as a potential organ, tissue and cornea donor.  Everyone can join the Kentucky Donor Registry.

Joining Jack and Wilson were Darlene Snyder (Madison Circuit Court Clerk), and Gina Lyle (Henry Circuit Court Clerk) and John Middleton (Kenton Country Clerk).

(L to R): John Middleton, Taunya Jack, Muse Watson, Darlene Snyder and Gina Lyle. FTM file. 

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