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Couple’s bequest allows them to reciprocate the gift of life

Nov. 21, 2019, 11:05 AM

Larry and Sue Hill were among the donors who were recently honored for making a gift to VUMC. (photo by Susan Urmy)

by Nancy Humphrey

Larry and Sue Hill, of Norris, Tennessee, decided after Larry’s life-saving kidney transplant at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 2012 that they weren’t satisfied just saying thank you and moving on. They wanted to pay it forward.

They have made a gift to VUMC, thanking the institution for “the greatest gift you can receive,” the gift of life.

The Hills spoke on Nov. 12 at an annual event to fellow members of the Canby Robinson Legacy Circle of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which recognizes donors who have made a gift to the Medical Center through their will, retirement plan, life insurance policy or trust. The event celebrates community members who have made these forward-looking gifts to help secure the future of the Medical Center.

After a serious infection that was treated when he was only 18 months old, Larry went on to develop problems with his kidneys in his 40s. This was medically treated for years before he was finally placed on the transplant list.

After 908 days on the list, he received a phone call from his nephrologist, Anthony Langone, MD, associate professor of Medicine, that a donor kidney was on its way to VUMC.

Larry said he and Sue were impressed by Langone and the teamwork that went into his transplant.

“In addition to Dr. Langone and the surgeon, there was a nutritionist, a dietitian, social workers, nurses, phlebotomists, respiratory care, etc. We noticed how people work together at Vanderbilt and wondered how we could be a very small part of the transplant team,” he said.

“We made a commitment that we wanted to be part of this. We wanted to take action and not just sit back and receive. We wanted to make a difference,” Sue said, adding that they hope to inspire others to do the same.

Members of the Canby Robinson Legacy Circle also heard from Seth Karp, MD, the H. William Scott Jr. Professor, chair of the Section of Surgical Services, Surgeon-in-Chief of Vanderbilt University Medical Center and director of the Vanderbilt Transplant Center. Karp and his wife, Lauren, are also members of the group thanks to a gift through their will to support the Section of Surgical Sciences.

Karp told the group that solid organ transplants at VUMC have increased 70% since 2011, and the Transplant Center recently celebrated its 6,000th kidney transplant. In 2019, VUMC will receive about 80 donors, resulting in 150-plus life-saving transplants. Nationally, there are about 113,000 people today waiting on a life-saving organ, Karp told the group.

“Transplantation is an extraordinary thing. What we do gives people the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life,” Karp said.

He also praised family members who make the gift of organ donation during a tragedy.

“I think about these families. They’re in the midst of the most difficult thing they’ve ever faced — the death of a loved one. And in that setting they’re thinking about someone else. It makes me have a lot of faith in humanity.”

Karp told the group that VUMC is a leader in research around transplantation, a field where timing is critical.

VUMC is playing an integral role in helping to develop new ways to store and preserve organs until they can be used for transplant, and in rehabilitating lungs that were once considered unsuitable for transplant.

To find out more about making a difference in peoples’ lives, visit VanderbiltHealth.org/giftplanning or contact 615-875-1722 or giftplanning@- vumc.org.

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