The Heart of The Giving
Written and Photographed by Veronica Yankowski
In 1990, Maureen and Keith Jaret had their first child. Her name was Megan. While in utero Megan had developed an enlarged heart from a virus, and at seven months went into cardiac arrest and suffered a stroke. The Jaret’s were told that their baby would need a heart transplant. Maureen was an organ donor advocate and knew that the chances of finding a donor were extremely slim — in 1991 there were only 6953 organ donors and a waiting list of 23,198 people that needed some type of organ transplant.
Against all odds, on September 13 1991, the call came in that they had found a match for Megan. The Jaret’s were overcome with joy, but extremely upset for the parents that had just lost their child. Over the next six weeks they watched as Megan flourished and became stronger. It wasn’t long until she was crawling, starting to talk and playing with her toys. Joy quickly turned into sorrow when Megan died on October 23, 1991 from a massive infection. Despite her devastation, Maureen became an even stronger supporter of organ donations, and became a living donor in 2011 when a customer of hers needed a kidney.
Tragedy hit again for Maureen in December, 2017 when her husband of thirty years was diagnosed with liver cancer and needed a liver transplant. Keith was very sick and his tumor was growing at a very fast rate. Certain factors needed to be met in order for Keith to get the transplant. He met most of the requirements but the process was very slow to determine if he qualified for an actual transplant. Unfortunately, it was determined that Keith was not eligible to be on the list for a transplant. He died 44 days after his initial diagnosis. Maureen realized that not much had changed since her daughter Megan had her transplant 18 years earlier. As-a-matter-of-fact, statistically, things have gotten worse. In 2018 there were 17,554 donors and 113,759 people waiting for some type of organ transplant.
Since Keith’s death, Maureen has started an organization called The Heart of The Giving. Whether through literature, social media or public speaking, Maureen is determined to spread awareness about the importance of saving lives through organ donations and transplants.
Please check out Maureen’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/theheartofthegiving/ To find out how you can donate to her cause or donate your organs – it saves lives!!