Awareness Bracelets Bracelets in the News

Bands encourange tissue/organ donation

About three weeks ago, 16-year-old Natalie Derstine of Chatham suffered congestive heart failure and was put on an organ-donor list.On Thursday, Natalie, who got a new heart May 17 at Children’s Hospital in St. Louis, was the guest of honor at a welcome-home party at Chatham Baptist Church.

Friends from Auburn and Glenwood high schools helped organize the party. Decorations, in Natalie’s favorite colors of purple and white, included centerpieces of stylish purses filled with flowers.Family, friends and teachers agreed that Natalie – smiling, giving hugs, going from guest to guest and nibbling on a chocolate chip cookie – didn’t look like someone who’d just had a heart transplant.

Maybe it has something to do with her attitude. Both before and after the operation, Natalie maintained a positive outlook, said her mother, Susan.

Asked what contributes to such an outlook, Natalie said, “I guess it’s my personality, family and faith in God.”

Natalie, who’ll be a junior this fall at Glenwood, was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, which involves a dilated heart.

She now takes an array of medication, including drugs to prevent her body from rejecting the new heart, and has regular doctor visits.

Students and staff at Glenwood recently raised more than $10,000 to help offset her medical expenses and travel between here and St. Louis. Also, a benefit fund has been established at United Community Bank.

Thursday’s party had a dual purpose – educating people on how to become an organ donor.

Brochures about organ and tissue donation were available. So were green rubber bracelets from the Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White’s office saying: “Be an organ/tissue donor” and listing the Web site

Prior to Natalie’s transplant, members of the Derstine family signed up to be organ donors, Susan said.

The Derstines know little about whose heart Natalie received, other than that it came from an 18-year-old boy from Illinois.

Susan said the family has been moved, not only by the decision of the young man’s loved ones to donate his heart, but other acts of generosity and thoughtfulness in the days preceding and following Natalie’s transplant.

Natalie, who is interested in fashion design, recently received a letter and book from designer Ralph Lauren. That evolved through communication between a doctor who was a member of Natalie’s transplant team and one of his friends, a nephew of Lauren.

Lauren wrote, in part, that he knew Natalie had been through “quite an ordeal” and encouraged her to develop her passion for design.

The book, written by Lauren, includes photos and explanations of how his designs have been developed and produced.

Natalie’s doctors are encouraging her to pursue her dreams and to follow as normal a lifestyle as possible, her mother said. They also are helping her and her family understand that a heart transplant “is not the end of the world,” Susan said.