Candle-Lighting Ceremony 2019 | News | Loyola Medicine
Friday, April 12, 2019

Organ Transplant Patients Thank Their Donors in Emotional Candle Lighting Ceremony

woman lighting candle
MAYWOOD, IL –  Loyola Medicine patient Gordon Harris received a life-saving heart transplant after his donor died in a car accident. She was 17.
Double lung transplant patient Cynthia Jennrich's donor was a 14-year-old girl who died from a brain aneurysm.
Ernest Leombruni received a kidney from a man who died of a heart attack.
And liver transplant patient Donny Swenson received his organ from a man who was about his age, 59, when he died. "His gift is indescribable," Mr. Swenson said. "I would not be here without him."
The four patients spoke April 7 during Loyola's 28th annual Candle-Lighting Ceremony, an emotional event held during National Donate Life Month that honors organ donors. Patients who have received organ donations, or are waiting for transplants, lit symbolic candles in memory of and in thanksgiving for those who have given the gift of life to others by donating organs. Family members of two organ donors also spoke.
The organ recipients described how their transplants saved and transformed their lives.
Mr. Harris said that before his transplant, he suffered severe fatigue and shortness of breath from heart failure. "Now I can ride my bike and swim with my grandchildren," he said. Mr. Harris, 68, a retired correctional officer, lives in Sterling, Illinois.
Mr. Leombruni, a retired restaurant owner who lives in Byron, Illinois, spent three years on dialysis before his kidney transplant. "I think about my donor and my special gift every day," he said. "There is no way to thank him other than to say I'm going to take care of his kidney."
Mr. Swenson, 59, is a retired cement finisher who lives in rural Illinois near Waterman. Before his liver transplant, Mr. Swenson was hospitalized every third day to remove three liters of fluid buildup. He was losing weight, getting weaker and did not have long to live. Now, he feels well enough to work in his one-acre yard and restore his 1937 Buick.
Ms. Jennrich, 68, of Wonder Lake, Illinois, missed the births of two grandchildren while she was sick with interstitial lung disease and bronchiectasis. "The only time I left home was to go to church or pulmonary rehab," she said.
Now Ms. Jennrich can travel again. But there are only three places she wants to go – Libertyville, Illinois, St. Louis and Minnesota, where her children and grandchildren live.
Loyola has performed more than 4,000 organ transplants, including about 600 liver transplants, more than 700 heart transplants, more than 1,900 kidney transplants and nearly 1,000 lung transplants.
Loyola is one of only three centers in Illinois that perform transplants on five major solid organs: heart, lung, kidney, liver and pancreas. Loyola also is among the few centers that perform combination transplants, including heart-lung, heart-kidney, heart-liver, liver-kidney, lung-liver and lung-kidney.

About Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, MacNeal Hospital and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from 1,877 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. Having delivered compassionate care for over 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its teaching affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments. MacNeal has a 12-bed acute rehabilitation unit, a 25-bed inpatient skilled nursing facility, and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. MacNeal has provided quality, patient-centered care to the near west suburbs since 1919.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic healthcare systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 94 hospitals, as well as 109 continuing care locations that include PACE programs, senior living facilities and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $18.3 billion and assets of $26.2 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity employs about 133,000 colleagues, including 7,800 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services—ranked by number of visits—in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs.