Lemuel Bradshaw was just 28 years old when he walked into the ER of a local hospital with a stomach ache and was told he couldn’t leave until he received a heart transplant. As close as his doctors could tell, a bronchitis infection caused viral cardiomyopathy, which is essentially inflammation and disease in the heart that can lead to heart failure. Thus began Lemuel’s first transplant journey. Twenty years later, he needed a second transplant because the blood vessels in his transplanted heart started to harden.
Both times, Lemuel was shocked. “One minute you’re living life, the next you’re trying to wrap your head around your impending mortality,” shares Lemuel. “There was a bit of self-pity with the first diagnosis. I was only 28 and had more than a few ‘why me’ moments. With the second, I knew what to expect. I knew what I was up against, and I was more prepared to face it.”
Today, 10,000 Texans are waiting for a transplant, just as Lemuel once did, and 25% of those waiting are Black. Even though organs are not matched based on race or ethnicity, and people from different backgrounds can match, greater diversity in the number of people willing to donate organs means a greater impact on every affected community.
Lemuel has been very fortunate to have recovered well after each transplant. With renewed strength, he has been able to chase several of his dreams. “I have endured a lot, but it has not made me bitter,” he reflects. “I have a beautiful family, a job I love, and great friends that I treasure. In my spare time, I love to work out, write, and watch TV, all wrapped up on the couch.”
Lemuel and his family, like so many Texas families touched by transplantation, have one another because two people said yes to donation and gave him the gift of life. In gratitude, Lemuel has made donation advocacy his life’s work. As the public relations manager for United Tissue Resources, a tissue recovery and distribution agency in Austin, Texas, he spends a lot of time finding ways to address donation myths and misconceptions and helps inspire the 44% of Texans who haven’t yet registered as a donor to do so. Lemuel also volunteers at Texas Organ Sharing Alliance, one of three federally-designated organ procurement organizations.
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