Julie M. Allred, a two-time pancreatic islet cell transplant recipient, will have the ride of a lifetime on New Year’s Day. That is the day she will join 29 other transplant recipients from across the country on the annual Donate Life float in the Rose Parade.
Julie was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at the age of 10. She faced several challenges those first few years, not the least of which were daily insulin injections and a strict diabetic diet. The challenges continued throughout her teenage and young adult years. In fact, her parents were told she would probably not live to be 30 nor would she ever have children.
Against the odds, Julie married and had a little girl while still in her 20’s. However, by the time she turned 40 she was beginning to experience daily episodes of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. She was forced to stop working full-time and was in jeopardy of losing her driver’s license. “I was losing control” she said. “Diabetes was controlling all aspects of my life and that of my family.”
In February of 2011, Julie was accepted into a clinical trial to treat Type 1 diabetes by transplanting donor islet cells, the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. The closest participating center to Julie’s Concord, NC home was Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, GA, the sponsor of her ride on the float.
Julie received her first islet cell transplant in 2011. She received a second one in 2012. Because of the transplants, Julie is now able to live a normal life with her husband, David and their daughter, Meredith.
She is employed as a school nurse with Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools and part-time with Carolinas HealthCare System as an urgent care nurse. Julie has been an advocate for donation volunteering with one of North Carolina’s two organ procurement organizations, LifeShare Of The Carolinas, and the statewide organization with the mission of inspiring North Carolinians to register as donors, Donate Life North Carolina. HonorBridge is North Carolina’s other organ procurement organization serving most of the state. Next year, she is looking forward to participating as a member of Team North Carolina in the 2014 Transplant Games.
In addition to Julie, two other LifeShare Of The Carolinas volunteers, Nicole Siva and Renee Rhodes, will be represented on the float.
Nicole Siva, a donor mother who lives in Belmont, is celebrating the fact that, Nefeterius Akeli McPherson, the woman who received a transplant from her daughter, Taitlyn, has been selected to ride on the float. Nefeterius was diagnosed with secondary sclerosing cholangitis, a rare bile duct and liver disease as a first year law student. Despite her condition, she graduated with honors and passed the Texas bar exam. In 2011, she received her life-saving liver transplant from 12-year-old Taitlyn Shae Hughes. “It was so gut-wrenching to discover that a child saved my life,” she recalled. “Thanks to Taitlyn, I have been able to return to the legal field, enjoy traveling and spend time with family and friends. Organ donation sees no race, gender, age, financial status or social class, and that is a beautiful thing.”
Renee Rhodes, a donor wife, will honor her husband, Travis’ memory with a floragraph on the float. In the spring of 2003, Renee and Travis took their son to watch the boat races at a local lake. Shortly thereafter, Travis told Renee he wanted to start racing boats too. After seeing his eyes light up, how could she say no? Late one night after being out in his new race boat, he told Renee that if anything ever happened to him in the boat, he would have died doing what he loved. Never in a million years could she have imagined how true those words would become just a mere week later. Renee lives in Asheville where she volunteers with LifeShare Of The Carolinas. This past summer she was honored to learn that Travis’ photo is one of 72 floragraphs selected nationwide to tower above the Donate Life Float in the 2014 Rose Bowl Parade.
This holiday season, Julie, Nicole and Renee are pleased to encourage fellow North Carolinians as well as individuals across the nation to register as organ donors:
- Nationally, more than 121,000 men, women and children currently await lifesaving organ transplants. Over 3,500 of them are right here in North Carolina. Hundreds of thousands more will need cornea and tissue transplants. Fortunately, one donor can save or enhance the lives of more than 50 people.
- Sadly, and average of 18 people die each day due to the lack of available organs.
If you are not already registered, you can join today by signing up at your local DMV office or online at Register as a Donor. This online registry allows you to create or update your donor record at any time. Joining the North Carolina registry means that, once you turn 18, you have made a legally binding decision to become a donor at the time of your death. Just like your will, it is a decision that cannot be overturned by others. Whether you’ve been registered for years or are just signing up now, please make sure your loved ones know about your decision to save lives through organ and tissue donation.