By Heather Mullinix
Travis Hodges has a new lease on life, thanks to a selfless gift a young father made the year before.
"I'm living the life now that I want to live," Hodges told a group gathered to recognize organ donors and their families as part of Cumberland Medical Center's Donate Life Ceremony, held April 9.
Hodges was the recipient of a double lung transplant last year. His new lease on life came from a veteran and father with two boys.
"The person who made this possible, I'll never meet," Hodges said. "But I owe that man my life. He made an unselfish choice. Because of that choice, I got to come back to my family."
Hodges has cystic fibrosis, a disease that causes thick mucus secretions in the body, leading to infections and scar tissue. While he once enjoyed an active life, playing sports and enjoying his work and free time, over time, his lungs slowly died.
"I said goodbye to all the things that I enjoyed and that made life worth living," Hodges said.
Daily activities became a struggle and left him with little energy. He underwent three to four hours of therapy a day, just to stay at this new normal. He required four, five, even six liters of oxygen a day doing nothing more than sitting in a chair and watching TV.
"That's no way to live," Hodges said.
His lung function reached a point where his doctors at the University of Tennessee believed he needed to consider other options and transitioned him to the Duke University Transplant Center. He was accepted into the program and his name placed on the transplant list.
Feb. 26, 2013, the call came.
"They said, we have a set of lungs for you," Hodges said. And while sometimes things don't go as planned and a transplant has to be halted at the last minute, Hodges said he somehow knew that would not be the case for him.
Now, a year out, he's feeling better than he has in years. His check-ups show no signs of infection or fungus and no rejection. He's back to working, going to the gym and traveling.
To pay forward the gift he has received, he's working with Tennessee Donor Services to encourage more people to consider the benefits of organ donation.
In 2013, 421 Tennesseans gave the gift of life, saving 796 lives. Tragically, the need far exceeds the number of those who give. While most Americans are in favor of donation, many believe they are too old or unhealthy to donate. Others simply don't take the steps required to sign up. Almost everyone can be a donor. There is no age limit to organ donation and very few diseases preclude donation. Across the United States, more than 120,000 people await a life-saving organ transplant, with more than 2,600 of those people living in Tennessee. Every 18 minutes, a patient on the waiting list will die, and every 10 minutes, a new name will be added.
As of March 2014, more than 1.8 million Tennesseans have signed up on the Donate Life Tennessee Organ and Tissue Donor Registry, either online or through the Department of Safety. Tennesseans can register to be an organ donor simply by checking yes when applying for or renewing their driver's license. Residents can also sign up online by visiting www.donatelifetn.org.