NEW ORLEANS - Every holiday season, some of Louisiana's hundreds of organ transplant recipients come together to celebrate the gift of life at Ochsner Hospital on Jefferson Highway.
They get together to share a meal and to share their transplant stories and they get a little emotional healing to go along with their physical treatment.
The holiday party looks like every other holiday gathering with people chatting, of course, some food and even a holiday tree.
But the transplant party is very different. Britney Dugas has attended the party every year for the past 13.
“I had gotten sick with a cold. I just thought it was a cold, and it just kept going on and getting worse,” Dugas said.
It happened to Dugas when she was ten years old. She says it was terrifying. What she thought was a cold was, in fact, congestive heart failure.
Like many at the holiday party, months of sickness turned around when they finally get the call that an organ is ready for them. She was lucky and got the call one day after she was put on the transplant list.
“They came here and they said that it's not definite, that they have to do all kind of tests. And they ran all the tests and it was like perfect match across the board,” Dugas said.
This year, Louisiana broke an organ transplant record: 170 donors gave the gift of life. It was the most in the state's history.
Seneca Johnson was in that donor number last year.
“I did it because, you know, that's my god brother and I wanted to save his life,” Johnson said.
She gave a kidney to her cousin Larry Mitchell.
1,700 hundred other people are on the organ transplant waiting list in Louisiana to get a transplant.
“If I could do it again, I would do it again,” Dugas said.
If you learn anything from looking around this room it should be that the need for transplants doesn't discriminate.
Any race, any age, the need for an organ can happen when you least expect it. That's exactly what happened to Dugas.
Thirteen years later she still doesn't know whose heart is beating in her chest.
“It's ok that I don't know. I'm still thankful,” she said.
Johnson said even though she lost a kidney, the surgery changed her heart.
“I feel like I give a lot more than I used to give,” she said.
Your body can save nine lives.
To become an organ donor, click here.