As transplant survivors, the founders of The Transplant House of West Michigan, Tracy Gary and Holly Werlein-Gary, have a firsthand understanding of the cost and emotional toll the transplant journey puts on patients and their caregivers.
Holly is a 16 year liver transplant survivor. After going into sudden liver failure for unknown reasons in 2006, Holly was miraculously in the right place at the right time when she received a transplant within 8 hours of being put on the national transplant waiting list after her doctors discovered that she only had 20% liver function. She has little recollection of being in the hospital and never knew she needed a transplant until she woke up with a new liver! She was listed under the Status 1 category and was first in line in the nation for a liver.
After Holly was in the hospital in Ohio for approximately a month, she and her family traveled from Michigan to Ohio for follow ups quite frequently. The cost of staying in hotels with her family added up quickly and traveling on the road for 6 hours was often exhausting, physically and emotionally. Knowing the toll it can take, Holly is on a mission to spread organ donation awareness and help others through the transplant process.
Tracy is a 4 years heart transplant survivor. His story began in 2013 after he survived a widow maker heart attack, stroke and come to find out he had, two previous heart attacks. Afterwards, he was referred to Spectrum Health Richard Devos Transplant Clinic in 2014. Due to only having 8-10% heart function, the team of doctors decided Tracy’s best option was to have an LVAD implanted in 2015 while he awaited a heart transplant. Just a month later, he had to have his LVAD replaced and then again in the spring of 2017. Consequently, Tracy was taken off the transplant list for four months. On May 5, 2018, he received his gift of life.
While on the transplant list for three years and countless hospital stays, Tracy’s family traveled from over 4 hours away. With the long wait lists at hospital facilities and the cost of staying at hotels, Tracy set a goal to help transplant recipients and their families/caregivers. He and his wife, Holly want to accomplish this by providing a place to stay at the Transplant House of West Michigan.