Versiti - Jesse Pagels | Impact Stories

Jesse Pagels

Leukemia survivor, double-lung transplant recipient and Cream City 5K founder.

Jesse Pagels

An avid runner and trumpet player, Jesse Pagels was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2003. Chemotherapy, radiation and a bone marrow transplant sent him into remission; however, the treatments irreparably damaged his lungs. Not only could he not run or play the trumpet, daily tasks became increasingly difficult. Eventually, his lung function decreased to the point where he needed supplemental oxygen 24 hours a day. In 2012, Jesse was placed on the lung transplant list. Thankfully, in 2013, Jesse received the call he was waiting for and received a lifesaving double-lung transplant.

Looking for a way to give back and reconnect with his passion for running, in 2015 Jesse founded the Cream City 5K, a charitable run/walk that donates its proceeds to support organ and tissue donation programs at Versiti and helps raise awareness about the importance of joining the donor registry.

“Our partnership with Versiti is important, because they are on the frontlines of organ, tissue and eye donation,” Jesse said. “I received this incredible gift, and through this event, I’d like to help other people.”

Sadly, in April 2024, Jesse lost his second, hard-fought battle with cancer. Jesse made an everlasting impact on the organ and tissue donation community, and his strength empowered organ and tissue recipients, donor families and many more. Thanks to his generous donations through the Cream City 5K, many donor families will come to have access to additional resources and grief support.

Thank you, Jesse, for your unwavering commitment, generosity and devotion.

Every 10 minutes, someone is added to the organ transplant waiting list.

Approximately 113,000 men, women, and children are waiting for life-saving organ transplants. One organ donor has the power to save up to eight lives and change the outcomes of someone’s world forever by giving them a second chance. Additionally, tissue donation can save and improve the lives of up to 75 people with their gifts. You can make a huge impact by registering as an organ and tissue donor.

Learn more about organ and tissue donation, or register as a donor at

Impact Stories | Organ & Tissue Donation

Judges Derek Mosley and JoAnn Eiring
In 2014, Derek was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease. Already his colleague and close friend, JoAnn got tested to see if she could donate her kidney and save Derek’s life.
Amanda Orosco
After having two emergency C-sections with her first two children, Amanda Orosco decided to have a scheduled C-section to deliver her daughter, Liliana.
Molly Blackwood
In 2018, Molly underwent a tissue transplant to fuse her spine and allow new bone to grow. Thanks to the transplant, Molly is completely healed and back to living a fulfilling life.
Become an Organ and Tissue Donor
Learn more about how to sign up as an organ, tissue and eye donor and how organ donation saves and enhances lives in our communities.
Share Your Story
Versiti invites you to share your story and photo to help encourage more people to give back. You may even be featured throughout the year on our social media.
Impact Stories
Your blood, organ and tissue, and other donations directly impact lives in your community. Read a few of the examples of some of the lives that have been changed for the better.
Ways to Give
You can support Versiti’s mission in several ways, including donating blood, hosting a blood drive, joining the organ and tissue donor registry, and more.