The Faces of Transplant: How Organ Donation Saved Their Lives

Organ donors have a unique ability to help. Meet some Michigan Medicine transplant patients who are thriving thanks to the generosity of others.

7:00 AM

Author | Kevin Joy

Millions of people have registered to give their organs to others in the event of their own death. The donor count includes more than 4 million in Michigan alone. Registration is simple and free.

MORE FROM MICHIGAN: Sign up for our weekly newsletter

The end result, however, may not be what comes to a donor's mind when signing up.

But each of the hundreds of transplant surgeries performed every year at Michigan Medicine has such a pairing — the donor and the person who received their gift.

Although every patient is different, most share a common refrain in recovery: None would be alive without the selflessness of others.

Here are a few of their stories:


Ann Schofield, liver transplant

A sudden bout of fatigue coupled with off-color urine and a strange skin odor frightened an otherwise healthy Ann Schofield. The life-threatening diagnosis: acute liver failure.

With little time to spare, a new liver was secured for the 50-year-old, who at first resisted the notion of such an exchange.

After a successful transplant and recovery, however, Schofield remains humbled by not only a new lease on life, but also her unknown donor's grace. "My miracle was the worst day for their family," she says. "I will always keep that in my heart and mind."

Read more: A 'Miracle' Transplant After Acute Liver Failure


Owen Pointer, heart transplant

Owen Pointer has a well-deserved nickname: "Mr. 1 Percent," as he beat the odds of a rare and complex heart condition. Key to the infant's survival was a heart transplant at 11 months old — a procedure that will probably need to be repeated in his adolescence.

Still, as Owen has marked five birthdays since the surgery, his family cherishes the lifesaving gift that has allowed the youngster to enjoy life with his twin, Keegan, and two older brothers.

"We're about to celebrate five years," says Owen's mother, Erin McRae. "We weren't even expecting five days."

Read more: 'Mr. 1 Percent' Celebrates His Fifth Birthday


Stan Larkin, heart transplant

One and a half years — 555 days, to be exact. That's how long Stan Larkin, a patient with hereditary heart disease, went without a heart as he awaited a transplant.

Keeping him alive during the interim was a Total Artificial Heart, implanted equipment that replaces both ventricles and four heart valves — and connects to a backpack-sized machine via tubes to pump blood and allow greater mobility.

But such devices are temporary. At age 25, the father of three finally got a suitable donor match (and a successful transplant surgery) in May.

Read more: Living for Years Without a Heart Is Now Possible


Miguel Tomas Lucio, liver transplant

As a singer who once recorded under a major label and earned a Latin Grammy nomination, Miguel Tomas Lucio has always had a strong voice.

After a 2013 diagnosis of hepatocellular carcinoma — a liver cancer that would require a transplant for Lucio to survive — the artist has since lent his pipes to urge more people, Hispanics in particular, to register as organ donors.

The reason: "Not everyone survives the wait," says Lucio, a father of three who waited about a year to receive his new liver. "I know how lucky I am."

Read more: Singing the Praises of Organ Donation: A Vocalist's Story


Scot Cannel, heart transplant

After learning he had end-stage heart failure several years ago, Scot Cannel knew it was only a matter of time before he would require a transplant.

The high school band director nonetheless had mixed emotions once a suitable donor was found. He grieved for that person's death, but he knew the loss would shift his own life's tune.

Says Cannel: "I try to stay healthy now, not only for myself, but for the memory of my donor; that's my responsibility." He also encourages everyone to learn more about organ transplantation and, if it's right for them, to register.

Read more: Scot's Story: 250 Students, 3 Daughters and 1 New Heart


Patrick Salem, heart transplant

On the surface, Patrick Salem seemed like the portrait of wellness: He ate a balanced diet and exercised often.

But a discovery of congestive heart failure in 2004, when he was just 29, led doctors to give Salem a left ventricular assist device until a donor heart could be found. A transplant followed several months later.

Now healthy, married and working as a motivational speaker, Salem uses his personal setback (and functional new organ) as a source of strength. "My diagnosis gave me the courage to live the life I had always wanted to live," he says.

Read more: Congestive Heart Failure — and a Transplant — 'a Gift and a Wake-Up Call'

More Articles About: Health Management Health Care Quality Transplant Surgery Transplant
Health Lab word mark overlaying blue cells
Health Lab

Explore a variety of healthcare news & stories by visiting the Health Lab home page for more articles.

Media Contact Public Relations

Department of Communication at Michigan Medicine

[email protected]


Stay Informed

Want top health & research news weekly? Sign up for Health Lab’s newsletters today!

Featured News & Stories Spilled pills next to a stethoscope and pile of cash
Health Lab
Drug pricing program improved prostate cancer treatment adherence
Socially vulnerable patients were more likely to stick with oral medications when treated at a hospital participating in 340B program, suggesting these hospitals may have more resources to help patients.
Health Lab
Same patient. Different visit. Different race and ethnicity?
Data on the race and ethnicity of patients underpins efforts to reduce health care disparities, but a study shows inconsistent recording in emergency departments
Microscopic image of bone marrow with pink and white hues
Health Lab
Novel risk score for cardiovascular complications after bone marrow transplant
More bone marrow transplants, also known as hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, are being offered to older patients, a population at greater risk of cardiovascular disease.
Closeup of medical ventilator breathing tube
Health Lab
Patients on respiratory support in rural intermediate care units have higher death rates
Patients receiving ventilator life support in intermediate care units of rural hospitals had significantly higher death rates than patients in the same type of unit at urban hospitals, according to new study.
Illustration of Plan B contraceptive in the palm of a hand
Health Lab
Emergency contraception related ER visits dropped significantly over 14 year period
After federal approval for over the counter emergency contraception in 2006, emergency departments across the U.S. saw dramatic decreases in related visits.
Paxlovid pill green Covid medicine
Health Lab
A how-to guide to COVID treatments
A Michigan Medicine FAQ about Paxlovid, with new information since its FDA approval in May 2023.