Five new organs and one year later...


White (left) honouring Hanks on the first-year anniversary of Hanks receiving five organs in a simultaneous transplant, as well as his work as a spokesperson for the Organ/Tissue Donor Life Goes On programme. — TNS

One year ago, Phillip Hanks was enduring the first of two surgeries.

One was almost eight hours to give him a new intestine, stomach, liver and pancreas.

The following day, Hanks was back on the operating table to get a kidney.

The father of six received a multivisceral transplant – a simultaneous transplant of multiple organs – at Indiana University Health in Indianapolis, United States, last April (2021).

Since then, Hanks, of Joliet, Illinois, said he doesn’t want to say it’s been easy, but his health has been “smooth sailing”.

No hiccups on the health front, no drama.

In fact, Hanks celebrated his 51st birthday on April 23 (2022).

He’s still driving to Indianapolis for hospital check-ups, but not as frequently.

“I feel great. I’m back in the gym slightly, trying to get more strength,” he said.

Organ donation ambassador

On April 26 (2022), the end of National Donate Life Month in the US, Hanks was celebrating the transplant milestone in Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White’s office, surrounded by family.

White had read the Chicago Tribune story about Hanks’ journey in 2021, and recruited him to be a spokesperson for his office’s Organ/Tissue Donor Life Goes On programme and registry.

As one of 12 spokespeople, Hanks has been talking to youth in schools and at secretary of state facilities in the area.

He said he’s averaging a couple dozen talks every two weeks, and even shot a public service announcement.

White calls it a “perfect match”.

“He’s been there, done that, and now, he’s able to tell his story and spread the news of this wonderful programme.”

White presented Hanks with a commemorative framed car license plate with 5ALIVE on it.

A family friend made a replica of his dream car (a 1967 Mercury Cougar XR7) in cake form to commemorate the occasion of his second chance at life through organ donation.

“Phil has been so incredibly instrumental and inspiring to the programme.

“Our mission is to strengthen the Illinois organ and tissue donor registry through outreach and registration initiatives, and one of the ways we are able to do that is partnering with individuals, organisations, faith-based institutions, learning institutions... we have coordinators go out and lead the charge and serve as advocates to help us with that mission,” said Connie Boatman, director of Life Goes On.

“Phil hit the floor running. It’s been incredible to have him on board.

“As you know, so many minorities (in the US) believe that organ and tissue donation doesn’t work or they have questions about it, and we’re constantly working to debunk those myths.

“He’s a prime example that organ and tissue donation does save lives, and it doesn’t matter your race, ethnicity or gender.”

Boatman said since White’s tenure in office, which began in 1998, Life Goes On has registered 7.3 million people for the donor programme.

Family support

Hanks still gets teary-eyed when reliving April 26 (2021).

He was on the transplant list by Dec 31, 2020, and received his organs four months later.

Hanks’ wife, Tiva, calls it a miracle.

“I’m feeling very blessed,” she said.

“We were reminiscing about the actual day: He was asking me questions about what was I feeling? How did it go? How long did it take?

“It was a mind-blowing experience.

“I was there by myself in the middle of Covid-19 and it was scary; I spent a lot of the time on the phone with my aunty.

“My family was really my rock.

“I spent all that time in the waiting room just talking on the phone, texting the family, giving them updates on where they were in the procedure, and then afterward, she and I talked to the doctors and were feeling very grateful that everything went so well.

“It was an out-of-body experience to say the least.”

Hanks was beaming from ear to ear about his supportive family getting him through it all – sister, aunts, sons and daughters.

On Apr 26 (2022), his four-month-old granddaughter Gianna Guyton was by his side, serving as motivation.

“We don’t realise how close we are to it until it happens to us, that’s why it’s important for us to get involved,” Boatman said.

“That’s why what Phil does is so important because you have to have representation.

“He is an awesome representation that it does work.

“Black people do get organs and you don’t have to be rich, you don’t have to be a celebrity.

“It’s important that we educate ourselves and we exercise our due diligence to share our positions with our families to let them know what our wishes are.” – By Darcel Rockett/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service

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