For this transplant recipient, the gift of donation is two-fold

Her life’s purpose comes to light after liver transplant.

Sometimes it feels like things happen for a reason and we are meant to act upon them. That’s what Suzie Sturm of Washington, Ill. believes, after a series of events that gave her a clear life purpose after an organ transplant.

Suzie was sick, desperately in need of a liver transplant. She waited for a donated liver for more than two years, living day to day. Each Friday, she left her job as a senior administrative assistant with the hope that she wouldn’t be back on Monday because an organ had been found for her.

Finally, one Sunday, Suzie got the call. A 25-year-old man named Tom had passed away and became an organ donor. His liver was a match for Suzie. She immediately arranged to travel to Chicago for her life-saving transplant surgery.

The surgery was successful. Suzie was given more time to live. She attended the weddings of two of her daughters and went on to travel for visits with her new grandchildren. She began doing more of the things she loved, like swimming. In 2018, Suzie competed as a swimmer in the Transplant Games of America as a tribute to Tom, her donor. She won a silver medal and used the opportunity to call attention to the importance of organ donation.

During her early recovery, Suzie had connected with other transplant recipients as a volunteer with the Peoria-area chapter of the Gift of Hope Ambassadors. They became an important new community for Suzie, for support, healing and fun. One night, one of Suzie’s fellow Ambassadors Rodney went to sold-out Bob Seger concert at the Peoria Civic Center. The crowd was shoulder-to-shoulder, and yet Rodney kept noticing a man with a Donate Life Illinois pin on his cap. Rodney and the other man, Kraig, struck up a conversation.

Kraig told Rodney he was a heart transplant recipient, and that his transplanted heart was donated by a man named Tom who donated his liver to someone also in the Peoria area.

Rodney couldn’t believe the coincidence. He was sure that Kraig and Suzie were connected by the same organ donor.

Suzie and Kraig connected and have become close, like brother and sister. They’ve met Tom’s family together and shared their healing journey with others countless times over the past few years.

See her interview with Kraig at a Peoria Rivermen hockey game below.

Suzie knows now that her purpose in life is to share her story and passion for organ and tissue donation with as many people as possible. She does it to help others and out of gratitude for the choice Tom made to register his intention to be a donor.

“The gift of donation is two-fold,” Suzie says. “It’s hope for those waiting and it’s healing for those who have lost.”

Register your decision today to become an organ, eye and tissue donor, then share your decision to donate life with your family and friends.