Local woman encourages organ donation after lifesaving transplant

INDIANAPOLIS — Between doctor visits and checkups, Jaelyn Kinchelow is already looking forward to what’s next.

“I plan to get out of here and hope to go back to school soon,” she said.

At 24, she can’t wait to finish her last semester of nursing school, but these days she’s found herself on the other side of intensive care.

“I think being on the side of the patient helps a lot because I’ve been in the medical field for over ten years,” she said.

At 14, Kinchelow would survive a heart attack and emergency open-heart surgery. Considering herself a fairly healthy person, she says it started with chest pain during track training at school.

“I was running with my best friend and I was like, something’s wrong. Something’s wrong,” Kinchelow said.

Planning to tell her trainer when she was done with her round, Kinchelow finally broke down. What was causing the dehydration issues turned into something much worse, an ischemic heart attack.

“My main coronary artery tore so I had no blood flow to my heart,” she said. “They removed a vein from my leg and put it in my heart.”

“Without this operation, I would have died. They thought I wasn’t going to make it,” she added.

The past decade has been filled with constant aftercare and checkups at Riley Hospital for Children. It wasn’t until January, when she started to feel sick again, that she had to discuss a heart transplant.

“I didn’t want it,” she said. “I was like, I don’t need a heart transplant. Like what?”

In efforts to save his life, Kinchelow and his family chose to go ahead with the process.

Just days after her birthday, Kinchelow will be preparing for a life-saving gift later.

“I got the call on March 27 and had surgery on March 28,” she said.

She has been recovering for just over two weeks and was recently transferred to IU Methodist, where she is still getting used to her new addition.

“I think just having a new heart makes me feel good because my heart wasn’t working so well,” she said. “I was always tired, and now I have all this energy and it’s really just an adjustment.”

Kinchelow would only spend less than 21 days on the waiting list, but the wait for so many others could be longer.

“We have a large number of patients waiting for organs,” said Kathy Bichaukas-McDonald, RN and heart transplant coordinator at IU Methodist Hospital. “Several of them die, every month, here in Indiana.”

National statistics show that more than 100,000 people are still on the waiting list.

According to organdonor.govalthough many adults support organ donation, only 60% are actually registered as donors.

Bichaukas-McDonald says people often have reservations about donating because of concerns about where the organs might end up.

“I think they’re concerned that their organs aren’t going where they need to go, that they’re not going to people in need, and that they might be going to people who maybe have a financial advantage. or economic benefit.” Bichaukas-McDonald said, “but Indiana Donor Networkk does an amazing job of making sure the owner’s organs go to the right people.

For Kinchelow, who originally had never considered being an organ donor before, she changes her mind after her own experience.

“I wasn’t really a big donor. It wasn’t a priority of mine,” she said, “but when you’ve been through it, or you know someone who’s been through it, you learn very quickly how bad it is. important.”

Although the focus is on rest and recovery at the moment, she knows that her transplant will be part of her future, even beyond the physical sense.

“Whether it’s advocating for people as donors, I just know there’s something bigger I need to achieve,” she said. “With this whole transplant thing, it’s going to take me quite far… Farther than I thought I would before.”

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