Lisa Pappas: Organ Recipient Success Story

Lisa Pappas is a woman who, clearly, loves life. You can hear the warmth in her voice as she tells stories of vacations with friends, and she ably meets the daily demands of a busy job as a patient services secretary in Rhode Island Hospital’s department of interventional radiology.

But Pappas, who nowadays radiates positive energy, has also overcome some serious health challenges. Complications from diabetes led to her undergoing two kidney transplants, in 2005 and in 2008.

Lisa Pappas and Dianne Ouellete

Pappas’ friend Diane Ouellette, who also works at Rhode Island Hospital as a radiology technician, served as the kidney donor for Pappas’ first surgery. The two remain great friends and travel buddies, most recently teaming up on a trip to the west coast. But complications following the first surgery eventually led to the need for a second transplant. Three years later, in 2008, Pappas received the lifesaving transplant she needed from a young man who lost his own life in an accident. “My second donor’s kidney was a perfect match,” Pappas says.

“Life’s been good since my second transplant,” says Pappas, a Warwick resident who enjoys spending time with her family and friends. “I’m living life to its fullest.” In her spare time, Lisa is also a very active volunteer for The Rhode Island Organ Donor Awareness Coalition (RIODAC), working to educate the public about the importance of organ donation. In March 2014, she attended an event to debut Alex & Ani’s new bracelet honoring organ donation and benefiting RIODAC and Donate Life America. Standing by her friend’s side for the evening’s festivities was Diane Ouellette.

In a letter that she sent to her second donor’s family, Pappas writes, “Thanks so much for the incredible gift you chose to give at such a difficult time. Because of your decision I am now able to enjoy life, not just live it."  

New England Donor Services reports that more than 114,000 Americans are waiting for organ transplants (according to the federal government’s latest figures, more than 5,000 of these individuals are in New England). In 2013, 260 individuals in New England lost their lives while awaiting a lifesaving transplant.

On average, 18 people in the U.S. die every day because of the shortage of donated organs and tissues. Approximately six of those 18 people are children. There are currently more than 300 Rhode Islanders on wait lists for an organ transplant, and more than 100 of those individuals are on lists outside of Rhode Island.

You can make a difference by signing up to become an organ donor. Visit the New England Donor Services website or contact Rhode Island Hospital’s kidney transplant program at 401-444-3285.