Double organ transplant recipient glances back

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ABOVE: In this Feb. 5, 2015 photo, Mary Magee-Huth teaches a fitness class at the Inwood Athletic Club in Joliet, Ill.  (AP Photo/The Herald-News, Lathan Goumas)


The (Joliet) Herald-News

After the birth of her first daughter, Mary Magee-Huth, who was 21 at the time, had a stroke.

Then at 39, six years after the birth of her second daughter, Magee-Huth was on dialysis, disability and a transplant list. These were just some of the consequences of the Type 1 diabetes she had battled since her diagnosis in 1970, at age 11.

After 18 months on the Illinois transplant list, her doctor warned the fitness coordinator and head personal trainer at Presence Inwood Athletic Club in Joliet that some people never receive a transplant.

“You don’t know me,” Magee-Huth replied. “I will.”

She transferred to the Wisconsin list because the wait time was shorter. Two months later, Magee-Huth had a kidney-pancreas transplant.

That was 15 years ago. Talking with this vibrant, chatty, live-life-to-the-fullest woman, one might never suspect she is the recipient of an organ transplant, that she has met her donor’s father and that she has one health woe after another because of the many medications she takes to prevent organ rejection.

But none of that was on Magee-Huth’s mind when she was diagnosed.

“I had asked, ‘Does this mean I won’t be able to have babies?’ ” Magee-Huth said.

The road to health

Magee-Huth recalled the lack of home blood testing, inaccurate urine strips. She required four to six insulin injections a day over 30 years. One doctor told Magee-Huth’s mother that the life expectancy for someone with her condition was 18 to 20 years.

The seven-and-a-half-hour surgery that provided Magee-Huth a new kidney and pancreas was performed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she still receives follow-up consultations every year, she said. The rest of her doctors are local.

“I’m blessed. I have a lot of doctors and I like them all,” Magee-Huth said. “They go the extra mile for me.”

She takes 10 medicines and 14 pills daily. All those medications have come with side effects – skin cancer, susceptibility to infection, bone fractures – and a need to avoid grapefruit.

Still, Magee-Huth said she can’t complain.

“When you rely on shots several times a day and are so sick with dialysis, pills are easy,” Magee-Huth said with a laugh.

She considers herself fortunate to have met her donor’s father. After a year, recipients can request a donor’s name and – if the family agrees – it is released to them. Magee-Huth had always called her donor ‘David’ simply because she likened him to David who slew Goliath.

It was a “spine-chilling” moment when she learned his name was Michael David.

Giving back through advocacy and education

Occasionally, someone who has heard Magee-Huth’s story will contact her for advice and support. She encourages them to lose weight, eat healthy and not wait until their kidneys fail before researching transplant options. Magee-Huth also lectures on organ donation.

She said meeting Secretary of State Jesse White was a highlight of her life because of his commitment to organ donation. She tells as many people as she can to become a donor through

She especially enjoys talking with high school students. When Magee-Huth asks, “How old do you think my organ donor was?” she said her words stun most of them when she answers with, “He was 18.”

While it’s not easy knowing someone had to die in order for her to receive a transplant, Magee-Huth is quick to stress another point – donors didn’t die because of you.

“A transplant never becomes yours,” Magee-Huth said. “It’s a gift. A gift you have to take care of.”

The positive force in her life

She credits her upbeat attitude to her mother. When Magee-Huth was a little girl and so sick she was afraid she might die, her mother would say, “Reach deep down and pull yourself out of this.”

Although her mom eventually succumbed to cancer, toward the end she still advised, “Be thankful. I’m thankful.”

So Magee-Huth is thankful, to the point of driving with her mother’s motto – “Be Joyous” – on her license plate.

Unfortunately, not everyone heeds the message.

“Some people still flip me off,” Magee-Huth joked.


Source: The (Joliet) Herald-News,


Information from: The Herald-News,

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