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 was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in 2003. After undergoing chemotherapy, radiation and a bone marrow transplant, he was cured. Unfortunately, the treatment damaged his lungs. Not only could he not run or play trumpet, he needed new lungs to survive. In 2013, a match was found and Jesse underwent a life-saving double lung transplant.

Looking for a way to give back – and reconnect with his passion for running – Jesse founded the non-profit Cream City 5K. Each year, the event not only donates its proceeds to Versiti, but is also brings awareness to the gifts of life that organ donors and families provide to Jesse and other patients in need.

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

In 2003, Jesse Pagels, a professional trumpet player and runner, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. After undergoing chemotherapy, radiation, and a bone marrow transplant he was cured of the Leukemia. Unfortunately, the Leukemia treatment had an unintended consequence. In late 2004, Jesse began developing pulmonary fibrosis in his lungs. By 2006 he could no longer play the trumpet or run, and as the years passed, his condition grew worse. Daily tasks grew increasingly difficult. Eventually, his lung function decreased to the point where he needed to use supplemental oxygen 24 hours a day, and in 2012 he was placed on a lung transplant list. Thankfully, in August 2013 Jesse received a call from his transplant center that they had a matching set of lungs for him an he received a double lung transplant. Because of this gift of life Jesse is once again a runner and trumpet player.

In October of 2015, Jesse founded the non-profit Cream City 5K as a way to raise awareness and support organ, eye, and tissue donation. Proceeds from the Cream City 5K will be donated to Versiti Organ and Tissue, a federally designated organ procurement organization supporting the transplant community in eastern Wisconsin. as well as other organizations that support organ donation throughout Wisconsin.

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.