Volunteer Stories

Maggie Kim

Maggie Kim

Ambassador

How long have you been involved with Transplant House? Why did you get involved?

"Maggie has been a Transplant House volunteer for the past two years as an ambassador. Her primary responsibility is to be the "go-to" person for the patients and their families in the apartments she ambassadors. She checks in with each family frequently to make sure things like the appliances, utilities and furniture are running smoothly and are in good condition in the apartments. She tries to help if possible with unforeseen details that often come up as each family is getting situated and comfortable in their new home.

Maggie started volunteering after having two liver transplants in 2009 at the University of Washington Medical Center. Being a patient herself, she can relate with other patients about the experience, and can only imagine the extra burden and stress of having to pack up and temporarily relocate to another city for the transplant and recovery.

What is the most rewarding part of volunteering for Transplant House?

Maggie is constantly inspired by the transplant families as they are incredibly resilient, strong, loving and grateful people going through tough times with serious health problems. She feels very rewarded to get to meet them and help them during the special time when they are either waiting for their transplant and/or recovering after the transplant.

Maggie mentioned that one of the best parts of volunteering is seeing the young patients who have received their organ transplant start living the next very different chapter of their life. It is a reminder to appreciate the simple things in life such as being healthy, family and friends.

What do you hope for transplant patients in the future?

Maggie wishes that transplant patients still waiting for an organ keep their hope and faith and know that they are the strongest people. She hopes that transplant patients who have received their gift of life recover well and quickly, and that they thoroughly enjoy their new life and sharing their magical experience with others.


Dr. Jorge Reyes

Dr. Jorge Reyes

Board Member

Professor of Surgery and Chief of the Division of Transplant Surgery at the University of Washington.

How long have you been involved with Transplant House? Why did you get involved?

"Affordable housing is not always readily available or affordable for patients while they wait for a transplant or are going through their recovery process. The hospital doesn’t necessarily provide support, except for a couple of centers in the US. Housing support is not common, and the effort to find temporary housing for patients and their families is expensive."

Dr. Reyes arrived in Seattle in 2004 after running the pediatric transplant unit at Childrens’ Hospital of Pittsburgh. While there were many transplants happening in the Pacific Northwest region at that time, no support programs for temporary housing was available to patients and their families.

According to Dr. Reyes, temporary housing support is necessary for the patient population; it is not covered by insurance and many hospitals don’t have ability to structure adequate support. Successful transplant patients sprang to action to build a program that would provide this service to sick patients and their families, and Dr. Reyes was inspired by this call to action. Upon seeing the hope and inspiration former patients were providing to current patients, he couldn’t help but get involved with Transplant House.

What is the most rewarding part of volunteering for Transplant House?

Dr. Reyes notes how patients take pride and joy in helping other patients. Current patients are very sick and some are very close to the sense of hopelessness that they won’t get their organ and continue to live. Transplant House reenergizes hope for sick patients and contributes to their overall health and well-being.

What do you hope for transplant patients in the future?

Dr. Reyes cites continually reassessing the need for housing support for patients and their families and the importance of Transplant House being able to grow as the need grows. He would like to see more houses become available to patients in the future and for Transplant House to maintain solvency over time.

“When you are in a different city, it can be challenging. Taking the bus or shuttle, getting sleep, reconciling anxieties – these are all things that can add stress. Transplant House accommodations allow patients and their families to cook for themselves and feel comfortable in their environment while they wait. Transplant House helps during the waiting period and facilitates the process of being sick to becoming well again. Sick patients can interact with successful transplant patient volunteers, and this interaction breeds hope. Transplant House thinks they are just providing a place to sleep for patients, but really, it is providing them with hope.”


Steve Lantz

Steve Lantz

Board Member / Housing Committee Chairman

How long have you been involved with Transplant House? Why did you get involved?

I have been associated with Transplant House for a little over 3 years as the chairman for the Housing Committee. I was asked by Larry Winn, chairman of the T.H. Board, if I would like to help out.

Larry and I have known each other for over 35 years because we worked together in the art publishing industry. I had witnessed Larry's progression over the years towards and ultimately having his liver transplant in 2002. Larry said he needed to somehow pay back for that life saving experience. He decided that the very newly organized volunteer organization called Transplant House would be the vehicle for his efforts to give something back. He quickly came to head it up and help it grow to what it is today.

Larry knew my strengths in business while working in customer service, orchestrating trade shows and doing facility management. There was a natural fit for those needs as they related to Transplant House. When I started three years ago, there were 5 apartments; we are now at 22 apartments.

What is the most rewarding part of volunteering for Transplant House?

It is gratifying to be able to help someone who is in real need. Many of the patients and their families have already been thru so much before ever arriving at Transplant House. They have been sick (depending upon their specific organ issue) in different ways. Whether it be heart, lungs, liver etc. it has been a exhausting journey physically, emotionally, financially for not only the patient but all those associated with them.

Some arrive to wait for the operation to happen. They need an organ but none are available; yet they need to be very near the hospital incase the phone call comes. All the while, they can be getting weaker. The uncertainty must be frustrating, worrisome and make life edgy to live on a daily basis. There is the hope that the phone call comes; yet in the same breath know that someone had to pass to make it happen for them-- a renewed chance of life. Plus there are no guarantees that the operation will be a success. There are so many variables.

Then there are those who arrive from the hospital having had their organ transplant. However, they cannot go home yet (always their greatest desire after having the operation). They have to wait approx 2-3 months after their operation to be sure there are no "bumps in the road". If there are, they are very near the hospital and the doctors for help. Rejection might happen. Or perhaps, they have other health issues that arise form the operation that could not have been anticipated.

As a volunteer, I feel that if they can live with all this turmoil, I surely can find the time to help provide a pleasant, clean and as stress free as possible transition during this most difficult of times in their lives. We do our best to make it a home away form home for them.

What do you hope for transplant patients in the future?

I think the most exciting thing is the advances that are being made in medical research. There is a program being shown on The Discovery Channel or Public TV recently that is absolutely mind boggling in it's possibilities. They show the work being done where the goal will be to replace a defective organ with a new organ that was grown with the stem cells from your own body.

Ultimately this means that there will not be the organ rejection issue as your new organ was grown from your own cells- not foreign material that the body is always trying to reject. Transplant House could be out of a job in 10 years as there would not be a long wait for a new organ (as they would grow one ahead of the transplant). Plus, there would not be the rejection issue after the operation so no long waiting period before going home for most patients.