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A woman named “Joy” recently traveled from Indiana to Tennessee to meet the family who helped save her life through organ donation.
By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, email@example.com
Her social media posts show a woman holding a guitar in a field of sunflowers, singing as she strums a ukulele, dancing at the Indianapolis Kidney Walk, and balancing a pageant crown as she strolls the boardwalk in Miami.
In every photo Joy Araujo is smiling - even in the photo taken with her mom when she was in a hospital bed at IU Health University Hospital. That photo was taken five years ago after her second kidney transplant. Araujo received her second kidney transplant in July of 2017. In the days and months that have followed that life-saving transplant Araujo has focused on promoting the need for organ donation. She writes music and competes in beauty pageants around the country - focusing on positive body image, and encouraging contestants to “be their own kind of beautiful.” In her most recent pageant earlier this month, Araujo won the swimsuit competition. Professionally, she serves as a development specialist with the National Kidney Foundation of Indiana.
Even as she lives every day to the fullest, there was one thing that Araujo still needed to do. She wanted to meet her donor family.
August is National Minority Donor Awareness Month - a collaborative initiative of the National Multicultural Action to save and improve the quality of life of diverse communities. Specifically, the focus is to bring awareness to donation and transplantation in multicultural communities - African American, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Native American. According to Donate Life America and the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, last year in the United States it is estimated that: Multicultural Communities make up 60 percent of the people awaiting transplantation. Of that percentage, more than 30,000 are African American, 22,000 are Hispanic, 10,000 are Asian/Pacific Islander, 900 are Native American, and 1,200 are Multiracial. Interested donors can learn more at www.registerme.org.
Organ recipients and donor families may opt to send letters to donor/recipient families through the national donor network.
Araujo was diagnosed with Nephrotic syndrome at the age of 10. Over time, she began dialysis and received her first transplant in 2005. When she received her second transplant 12 years later, it was important to her that her donor family knew how thankful she was.
“His kidney has done very well,” said Araujo. The kidney she received was from Tyree Corley, 22. After his tragic death, his family made a decision that would save many lives through organ donation. Since his death, Corley’s family has gathered to honor his birthday, July 21, and the day of his death, July 28.
This year, Araujo traveled the six hours to Chattanooga, Tenn. to join Corley’s family. She met his mother, Lydia Murphy, his younger sister, India Corley, and Tyree’s two daughters.
“It was very humbling to meet Tyree’s family and inspired me to continue to live my complete and best life,” said Araujo. “I’m carrying on Tyree’s legacy. I’m living for me and a kidney donor so I have to do things that will make his family proud.”
In Tennessee, Araujo and Corley’s family members participated in a car show to raise awareness for kidney disease and transplant. They joined together for a picnic and games in a local park. They also shared stories about Corley. His family made special orange t-shirts (Corley’s favorite color) each one personalized in his memory. Araujo’s t-shirt included the words: “He gained his wings. She was given life.”
In a social media post Corley’s mom wrote: “Never underestimate the power and precious gift of being an organ donor. When Tyree’s life was terminated we decided to donate some of his organs. God took one life, but He was able to save six lives.”
Araujo is the only recipient the family has met in person.
“It was like a breath of fresh air knowing my brother was still alive through her and it felt so good to know that he gave her new life - that a tragedy turned into something so beautiful. She was so grateful,” said Corley’s sister.
His mother said that her decision about organ donation came from a personal experience. “In 2007, I needed a blood transfusion and if someone hadn’t donated, I would not have gotten the transfusion,” said Murphy. “I was nervous to meet Joy, and she was nervous to meet me but in the end, everything was so natural. It brought me so much joy to know that my son’s blood, his life is flowing through her.”