|Posted by Lindsay Davis on March 25, 2014 at 2:55 PM|
Claire Blackwell is one of our wonderful volunteers at Agape Senior York. Claire has a very unique story which helps her relate and be a great asset to our residents and our Agape Senior York family. This is her story.
In September of 1989, at the young age of 5 years old, I was diagnosed with Type I diabetes. I struggled with the disease my whole life and because I wanted to act like a normal teenager, this resulted in diabetic complications throughout the years, i.e. right eye getting sewn shut for 2 ½ years, having a toe being removed and multiple organ transplants, just to name a few.
My father gave me my first kidney transplant because he couldn’t bear to watch me be on dialysis. Unfortunately, I still wasn’t cured of diabetes yet. His kidney was considered high risk because he was over 60 years old and I was still very sick from other complications so the first kidney didn’t last long. During the time of my first transplant, I was attending Winthrop University in pursuit of my sociology/anthropology degree. During 2011, I was still having complications with my diabetes while trying to finish school. I was preparing for my next big kidney and pancreas transplant while still attending classes. I was finally able to graduate from Winthrop University in December of 2011 despite my health issues.
I also had to attend certain required classes for getting a transplant. After being on a waiting list in Charleston, I was finally asked to come down to get my 2nd transplant on September 11, 2012. At 1:00pm on September 12, 2012, a helicopter flew in from Greenville to deliver my life saving organs. A lot of times the organs delivered might not be the right size but luckily mine were so that I didn’t have to leave empty handed. It was an 8 hour strenuous surgery and when I awoke, I was in thriving pain. Through the pain and swelling, I told myself that it was going to get better, that it was worth it and how thankful I am to the young man who was an organ donor that let my life start anew.
My transplant helped me feel like what I thought a normal healthy person would feel like, something I’ve never known. My first year of transplant was definitely not a walk in the park but I had so much to be thankful for. Being always entrenched in the medical atmosphere because of my health problems, I soon found that I wanted to pursue a career as a social worker or something comparable to use my experiences to assist others.
My good friend, Lindsay Davis asked me to come volunteer at Agape Senior York. I thought that would be a good idea since I like to talk a lot and I graduated with a degree that deals with people in their environment. I started volunteering in August of 2013. With the life enrichment team, I went with the residents to Lake Lure and Chimney Rock, where I probably had more fun than the residents! I instantly felt bonds as I made friends with some of the residents, and that sold me on continuing to come back. I had fallen in love with Agape!
I started to spend more and more time there and I have to say that making the residents feel good, really makes me feel good. Now I feel like I have a lot of new grandparents that I feel care for me just as much as I care for them. Even when I started having another medical issue with my blood in November, I still continued to go because I would miss the residents if I didn’t get to see them at least once a week. I had to undergo a 2nd amputation because of a bone infection in December. I would always have to check in and ask Lindsay about the residents and the latest news at Agape. When Lindsay visited me in the hospital, she brought a card signed by all of the residents, it made me so happy to know they were thinking of me.
As soon as I was able to come visit, I did and it was a great feeling to see the smiles on the faces of the residents. I always thought that I wanted to work with people who have had a transplant or were diabetic because it takes one to know one. Little did I know that I would fall in love with Agape, with their residents, as well as their staff. Now I know that I want to work with seniors and I am now working on pursuing my master’s degree in Social Work to possibly begin a career involving seniors and those affected by dementia. I honestly feel more of a complete person because of my experience with Agape. - Claire Blackwell