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Triple Transplant or Three Holes-In-One?

Triple Transplant or Three Holes-In-One?

Three transplants saved my life and have given me the time and good health to play the sport I love the most. Golf can be infuriating, without a doubt, but it does lend itself to pondering the big questions as you walk from hole to hole (and try to make your way out of a sand trap, too).

In those long walks on the course, I have contemplated this question: what’s rarer? A triple transplant, or three holes-in-one? 

You see, I’ve been the beneficiary of both.  To state the obvious, it takes a lot of luck.  For those who golf, you understand the reality of how rare holes-in-one are.  Most people that play golf their entire life may never get one hole-in-one, let alone three. They may never even get close.  It is so rare that when you do, the golf course usually buys drinks for everyone – that’s a long held tradition. In fact, they have hole-in-one insurance so in case you should get one, you’re not stuck with a huge bar tab. By definition, a hole-in-one is a tee shot on a three par when the ball goes directly into the cup (hole).  It is one of the most exciting events in sports.  It is more a function of luck versus skill.  Even professional golfers rarely get them.  I’ve had three! And believe me, I’m no pro golfer.

I got my first ace back in 1994 at a country club located near where I live in Calabasas, California.  Then five years later (almost to the day and with the same group of guys), I shot my second ace – incredibly on the same hole.  They put a plaque up in the dining room of the country club on my behalf. 

Remarkably, two years later at a course in Palos Verde called Trump National Golf Club, I got my third hole in one.  As a reward, the golf club sent me the actual flag stick signed by none other than our current President, Donald Trump.  I couldn’t have imagined at the time that he would one day be in the Oval Office.  That flag has certainly increased in value.

Three holes-in-one are certainly something to behold, considering I’m your basic weekend duffer who doesn’t take golf all that seriously.  This frustrates many superior golfers who practice and sweat and work much harder without achieving hole-in-one status.  Perhaps that is why the Golf Gods have been so kind to me?  I also have another triple milestone that I’m quite proud of, but this is more of a life changing variety.  This would be my three transplants (heart, kidney, and pancreas) which were gifted to me back in 2005.  Rare?  You bet it is!  Lucky?  You bet I am!

Both triples, the holes-in-one and the transplants, share a common feature – incredible good fortune.  Without a little lady luck, neither could have happened.

Back to my original question though – between the two, which is rarer?  According to Golf Digest, the odds for an amateur is 12,500 to one of getting a hole-in-one.  There are no stated odds of getting THREE holes-in-one. 

Triple transplants are so rare, it’s hard to find any research on long-term survival. So, I’m making it up as I go along, listening to my doctors, and taking great care of these gifts. I guess you could say every day post-triple transplant is a hole-in-one—if you wake up in the morning, take a deep breath, and get to spend time with the people you love, it’s an ace.

In the universe I would say that between the Gods of Golf and the Gods of Life, I would put my money on the later.  As to which is rarer? I’m going with the triple transplant. In fact, I’d bet my life on it!

Source of Hope featured at My Hero Film Fest

Source of Hope featured at My Hero Film Fest

For the Stavis and Fabing families, the end of October carries special meaning. Eleven years ago, Brice Fabing--talented, young, and compassionate--lost his life. In his passing, Brice added "hero" to his legacy. The Fabing family, in their support of #DonateLife, saved many people that day.

Jim's documentary, Source of Hope, shares this story, and continues to inspire audiences around the world through learning about Brice's life and gifts of life, as well as Jim's perseverance in the face of adversity (and a triple #transplant).

Today, as we remember Brice, we celebrate a new award for Source of Hope *and* a far-reaching new venue for Brice and Jim's story. Source of Hope is now featured in the The MY HERO Project film vault, where teachers, students, and fans from around the world can view award-winning short films that inspire and educate. Source of Hope was also chosen as a 2016 official selection, honorable mention "Overcoming Obstacles" category, and will be screened live in LA on Nov. 19th & 20th.

The thought of students from around the world watching Source of Hope, making the decision to #DonateLife and do good things in this world--that's what it's all about. Let's all pay it forward today, find a little more gratitude, and try our best to remember the deep and far-reaching impact one good deed can have.

To view the 10-minute student version of Source of Hope, click here!

Removing the Cataracts from Your Life

Removing the Cataracts from Your Life

As I get older, I find myself having to contend with health issues never dreamed of before.  
Since I didn’t anticipate living much past 40, I certainly didn’t think about problems of old age—getting to old age was too big of an obstacle itself! Then, the miracle of a triple transplant and #DonateLife reset the clock for me, and now…now I see that aging has its own bumps and bruises.

As a Type 1 diabetic, I developed retinopathy, or problems with the small blood vessels in the eye.  I was able to undergo a laser surgery that helped with the retinopathy previously, but I was told that a byproduct of this procedure was that cataracts can occur later in life.

Later in life! Ah, what a concept for a transplant recipient to ponder. What a blessed turn of phrase. Now I am in that “later” in life, and cataracts were mine to deal with.  

My vision was worsening to the point where cataract surgery was required. After dialysis and three transplants, I thought this would barely register an effect. I had received a new heartbeat, for goodness sake! What could a new little lens really do for me?

The surgery took all of 15 minutes.

I walked out into the light, blinked and no longer blinkered, and felt I was experiencing the world anew.

I can see clearly for the first time in years.

Think about that—I can see clearly for the first time in YEARS. What power one little lens had over my life.

As I reflected on this medical miracle (another one), I thought—wouldn’t it be nice if we could remove all the “cataracts” in our lives so that we could see life clearly once again?  

We could remove our insecurities.

Expunge our assumptions.

Clear the fears that bind us.

Shed the people who bring negativity into our lives.

What a huge step that would be!  So many people live with metaphorical cataracts and are not even aware of them—kind of like the blurry vision that I just accepted. 

One day, I said “enough” and sought a remedy.  The ophthalmologist looked into my eye and said he couldn’t even see in, so surely I could not see out of it.  Sometimes we can be blind to ourselves, particularly when it involves our health, our assumptions, our mindset.

The cataract can be symbolic for many of the problems that keep us from seeing our lives clearly.  My advice?  Detach, extract, remove, erase them and you will be much happier for it.
 

#DonateLife

#DonateLife

Jim, the PARAGON STEEL team, and the Stavis and Fabing families will be walking to honor donation and transplantation at the upcoming Donate Life California 5k this weekend. There is so much joy when families come together to connect through giving and living! #DonateLife

What's really in a heart?

What's really in a heart?

On Valentine's Day (and ‪#‎NationalDonorDay‬), this heart transplant recipient has a few thoughts about what's really in a heart...

The ‪#‎heart‬ is a special organ. Not only does it signify life, but our culture also believes it is the center of our soul. It guides our emotions, our feelings, and perhaps most importantly, it signifies love and passion. We are reminded of this each ‪#‎ValentinesDay‬. And yet the symbol that we all think of as depicting a heart actually has little resemblance to an actual heart—the organ itself. The only thing that is somewhat accurate is the color red.

But the question I raise is this: What happens if you remove the original heart and have it replaced with another model—a transplanted heart? This is what happened to me, so I have a little insight. As I neared my 50th birthday, my heart was failing.

Without a heart ‪#‎transplant‬, I would die.

My medical team at Cedars Sinai hospital in L.A. said I needed a new heart, kidney and, best case, a new pancreas, which would cure my Type 1 Diabetes, the source of my problems. The only catch? A triple transplant had never been performed before. I told them I would be the first one, and so it was. In November 2005, I got the call—that a match had been located. In a 21-hour surgery, I received a new heart and kidney transplant from a young man--his family grieving--a generous donor. The pancreas transplant followed in 2006 from yet another kind person who, in her passing, gave me life.

The new heart had to get to know its new surroundings, and I needed to get to know this new heart. It was like we were dating one another. I introduced it to caffeine and it almost jumped out of my chest. I worked it out at the gym and it pumped like that of a thoroughbred.

Now, 10 years later, how do I feel? How has the heart transplant changed my life? Well, for one thing, I’m a whole lot healthier and stronger. I also have a unique perspective on life. Coming as close to death as I did will do that to you. I think about my donor; I think of his family. I wonder how tragic it must have been to lose a son at such a young age. I remember the first time we met, as they were so shocked not to see their son’s heart in another 17-year-old boy. And yet, now when we meet, it is all smiles. His mother puts her ear on my chest to hear her son’s heart beating in its new home—my chest, my heartbeat now.

This past New Year’s Day, I was honored to ride on the ‪#‎DonateLife‬ float in the Rose Bowl Parade. I was holding a picture of my donor, who also had a floragraph on the float.

I did something special that day--I sent my heartbeat via an Apple Watch to my donor’s mother, who was watching from the grandstands. A little heart icon popped up on her Apple Watch; it pulsed and throbbed on her wrist. My family tells me that she smiled, then she cried. We shared a heartbeat that day, not the way either of us ever thought we would, but a heartbeat we both loved, nonetheless.

What’s really in a heart? Not lace, not candy, not flowers or chocolates--not just vessels and muscle, either. It’s a gift, a beat, a moment of grace, and it can be shared, even when we’re gone.

Many Times Blessed

Many Times Blessed

Ten years after the organ transplants that saved my life, I reflect on the blessings I've been given.

Brice Fabing's Floragraph: Honoring the Gift of Life

From photographer Jody Benon, some special photographs of the Fabing family, Lompoc community, and the Stavis family celebrating Brice's legacy of life, and mourning his loss 10 years ago.

10 Days Until the Rose Parade!

Eagerly awaiting that trip down Colorado Boulevard with Brice Fabing's floragraph, sponsored by Paragon Steel!

10th Transplant-iversary

10th Transplant-iversary

Today is my 10th transplant anniversary; ten years of time given to me by compassionate people who decided to #DonateLife.

From Our Friends...

From Our Friends...

We're happy to share this recognition from the Donate Life Rose Parade Float:

Seventeen-year-old Brice made the decision to become a donor after witnessing a family friend save lives. “I would like to be like Big Gabe - I would like to help others too!” he told his mother. A month later, a car accident took Brice’s life and Brice’s family found themselves back in the same room Big Gabe held. Knowing their son’s decision to save others with his gifts of life, Brice’s parents supported donation. After four days of waiting, it was discovered that Brice’s rare blood type matched with a man in need of life-saving gifts. Although Brice is gone, his gifts of life live on in Jim Stavis, who is riding on the Float this year.

Meet all of this year's Donate Life Rose Parade Float Floragraph honorees at http://bit.ly/2016Floragraphs.

Sponsored by: PARAGON STEEL