Jarvis Hightower was first diagnosed with sarcoidosis of the lung more than 25 years ago but was able to manage his condition with medication. Other than occasional shortness of breath, he was able to lead a normal life. But everything changed in 2018. “I started having difficulty breathing and it just kept getting worse and worse,” Jarvis says. He became dependent on oxygen and doctors told him he needed a lung transplant to survive.
On the morning of October 15, 2021, the phone rang a little after 5 a.m. It was the call Jarvis had been waiting for: a lung was ready for him. Convinced that he’d called the coordinator by mistake, he couldn’t believe his luck. “I think I went numb at that moment,” he says. “It happened so fast; I was on the list for less than two weeks. I was not prepared for it to happen so quickly.”
Jarvis received a lifesaving double-lung transplant, which has made a huge impact on his quality of life. “I cannot remember the last time I could breathe with such ease,” he says. “When doing normal activities like taking a shower or getting dressed, I don’t have to stop and catch my breath. Or walking up a flight of stairs not gasping for air when I reach the top.”
Though he hasn’t met his donor’s family, he hopes to someday, whenever they are ready. “My first reaction would be to give them the most heartfelt hug ever, because a ‘thank you’ could never express how much I appreciate what they have done for me,” he says. “To give a stranger the gift of life is the most unselfish example of kindness that one can give, and I’m so thankful to them; words simply cannot express it.”
Now, Jarvis is passionate about spreading the word about the importance of organ and tissue donation, especially in the African American community. “Whenever possible, I try to encourage people in the African American community to become organ donors,” he says. “Now that I’m a recipient, I know how important it is to receive an organ from the same ethnic group. So, I try to dispel some of the fears around becoming an organ donor and encourage them to focus on just how one act of unselfishness can save so many lives.”
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 https://donatelifewisconsin.org.