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Not All Heroes Wear Capes: A transplant recipient makes sure her donor is never forgotten

05/17/2018

Jessica Drey was in elementary school when doctors diagnosed her with Type 1 diabetes. From there, she suffered through complications her diabetes caused, such as heart disease, nerve damage and organ failure. She was also beginning to go blind, and her kidneys were failing.

Doctors told Jessica that she needed dialysis, since her body could no longer clean her blood by itself. For six years, Jessica went on dialysis for four hours a day, three days a week.

Jessica was exhausted. Because the dialysis machine was the only thing keeping her alive, she was no longer able to do the things she loved, like hiking, swimming, traveling or playing with her children.

Throughout these years of dialysis, blood testing and insulin shots, Jessica became severely depressed.

“I had no energy, my hair was falling out and I stopped producing urine – but the biggest impact was I had no will to live,” Jessica said.

 

Journey of Hope

Zakiyyah Elzy

Zakiyyah Elzy

Jessica’s doctors told her that she qualified to receive a kidney and pancreas transplant. After many tests and evaluations, she was finally placed on the transplant list. On April 29, 2015, after a year and a half of waiting and two false-alarms, Jessica finally got the call that there was a young girl – a cheerleader – who had been killed in car accident, and she was a match.

As Jessica waited in the hospital, she saw coverage of a car crash on the news. The anchor reported a car accident involving three cheerleaders from Sierra Linda High School, and that one of the girls was killed. She watched as the girl’s parents told the reporter about their daughter’s decision to be an organ donor – a decision she had made at a registration event at her high school.

“It was really strange to watch that report and somehow know that she would save my life,” Jessica said.

 

The young girl who saved Jessica Drey’s life was named Zakiyyah Elzy. Jessica knows it took a tremendous amount of generosity and selflessness for Zakiyyah to give her the gift of life.

Jessica refers to Zakiyyah as her “superhero.”

“For me, that means no more insulin shots, no more dialysis. I love life again. I live every day to the fullest, carrying a part of Zakiyyah with me every single day,” Jessica said.

 

Continuing Zakiyyah’s Legacy

Jessica with Zakiyyah's classmates at Sierra Linda High School.

Jessica with Zakiyyah’s classmates at Sierra Linda High School.

On Monday, May 14, Jessica visited Sierra Linda High School where Zakiyyah attended. She spoke to Zakiyyah’s classmates, friends and teammates about the incredible gift of life she gave to another person. The Sierra Linda cheer coach also presented Jessica with a varsity letter in honor of Zakiyyah.

Jessica emphasized the importance of registering as an organ, cornea and tissue donor to save and heal lives and give people a second chance. Jessica is using her second chance to keep Zakiyya’s legacy alive.

“Zakiyyah was born with the ability to change lives, and I promise to never forget what she did for me,” Jessica said.
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