Updated: Jun 15, 2022
April is Donate Life Month and I had the honor of connecting with Robert Chelsea, the first African American to receive a Full Face Transplant at 68, making him the oldest face transplant recipient as well! 💜
Robert was driving home from church one evening when his car overheated. He pulled to the side of the road to wait for roadside assistance when he was hit by a drunk driver causing his car to explode. He suffered severe burns to the majority of his face and other parts of his body.
Today, Robert has become a tireless advocate for Organ Donation and Transplant Awareness and has created the Robert Chelsea Foundation. Their mission is to “to improve the overall health of the disabled diaspora by increasing awareness of the benefits to donate organs, limbs, bone marrow and even certain stem cells which are able to eliminate diseases like Sickle Cell and Leukemia.”
Why does this mean so much to me, both personally and professionally? My first experience with what organ donation meant was when my cousin almost died from Wegener's disease which caused his kidneys to fail. His sister was able to donate one of hers to save his life. He went on to graduate from college, marry, and have children.
Another reason this topic is so near and dear to my heart is due to the many Cystic Fibrosis patients I worked with as the CF Team Social Worker. I watched many children and young adults die as the life expectancy back then meant most would never reach full adulthood. I remember when double lung transplants began to take place and just how profoundly that changed everything for those living with CF. Life expectancy now is predicted to be 46 years!
Finally, the most personal connection to organ donation I have is my ex-husband, a pediatric anesthesiologist that was able to continue his work and continue to live a full and active life following corneal transplants due to glaucoma.
Did you know that just one person can save 8 lives and help heal up to 75 people?! Pretty incredible, I think!
I hope you’ll follow the link in the comments below to read more about Robert’s story and mission! And please share to help us raise awareness for Organ and Tissue Donation for the many waiting for this incredible gift. 💜