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Being unable to eat and not knowing what was wrong, left Jamie fearing for her life.

I am one very blessed person and am so thankful for my miracle! I owe it to my donor, Gabriel, and his family to live each day to the fullest.

Jamie Pennington was a wife and mother; her life seemed to be close to perfect when she developed an unexplainable illness. The condition took her from being a 145-pound, very active, lover of food, a participant in home, church, and community to a weak 88 pound, shadow of her former self.  After making visits to several doctors, Jamie and her husband, Sean, had more questions than answers.  Doctors said her case was both unusual and unexplainable.

While searching for answers, Jamie found a new team of doctors to help discover the nature of her illness.  She learned she suffered from gastroparesis, an incurable disease that causes the stomach to become paralyzed and unable to process food.  After failed treatments with medications, a feeding tube was placed in her nose and went into her intestine, bypassing the stomach.  After about two months of tolerating the feedings and seeing some weight gain, doctors decided to place a feeding tube directly into her small intestines.

Around the same time, Jamie also had surgery to place a gastric pacemaker in her stomach to help electrically stimulate it to process food. The pacemaker worked for about a month, but the symptoms returned and were more severe.

For more than three years, she endured many ER visits, tests, chest tubes, blood infections, hospitalizations, severe allergic reactions, and at times Jamie wondered if she was going to live through the day.  In the midst of all this, Jamie believed that God has been faithful through every trial that she faced, and that this trial would be no different.

In the fall of 2014, she had surgery to have the small and some of the large intestine removed at the Cleveland Clinic.  It helped in some ways but made things worse in other ways.  By spring the next year, Jamie learned that an intestinal transplant would correct the situation.  In April 2015, Sean and Jamie moved from Illinois to Westlake, Ohio, to be closer to the Clinic and on June 5, she was officially added to the national transplant list. Miraculously, the next morning, she received the call that an intestine for transplant was available for her.

Jamie had an isolated small intestinal transplant, and within two weeks, she was able to eat food without getting sick for the first time in six years!  Her recovery went well, and Jamie went home from the hospital feeling great. In some ways, Jamie has her life back, but that life has fundamentally changed because of her donor's gift.  Jamie doesn’t take the little things for granted such as being able to sit at the table with her family and enjoy eating a meal with them. 

Recently, after corresponding with her donor's family, they shared the joy of eating a meal together to celebrate Jamie's regained health and to honor the life-changing gift of Gabriel Mejia, her donor. Jamie says “I am one very blessed person and am so thankful for my miracle!  I owe it to God, my family, Gabriel and his family to live each day to the fullest and give it my best.”