Stories of Hope

Stories of organ, eye, and tissue donation are stories of loss and also of hope. Donation gives every day people their lives back.  The Colby Foundation acknowledges with profound gratitude the organ, eye, and tissue donors, donor families, transplant recipients, and those waiting who have entrusted us to share their Stories of Hope here:

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Colby Cassani

Colby Cassani
This is the story of our Foundation's namesake. It is a story of profound loss; but, also of hope...and the healing journey of Colby's family. On June 3, 1993, 14 month-old Colby, left unattended in the bathtub by a babysitter, slipped under the water and drowned. Despite heroic efforts by medical personnel, Colby died at the hospital. His parents were given time to say goodbye in the hospital room. Colby’s mom, Starla, remembers, “I knew what was going on, but I didn’t want to hear the words... read more
Colby’s Heart Recipient - Brayden’s Story
Brayden was born in 1993 and although he was blind in one eye he seemed otherwise healthy. However after a couple of months, his parents realized that he was not gaining weight. It was then determined that he had Congenital Heart Disease and had two holes in his heart that would require surgery. The surgery was performed, but did not help. Five months after Brayden was born, his parents were told that his main chance for survival would be a heart transplant. His father, Joe, recalls that the... read more


My husband lived his life trying to be of service to others--giving his time and what he had to others in need. At some point, he told me that he had decided it was important to him to be an organ donor. We agreed it was a giving and loving thing to do. Unfortunately, his health declined over many years before he died. His lungs and his heart were in particularly bad shape. When he did die, we were convinced his poor health meant no one could benefit from his organs. Our daughter, who is a... read more
Connor and Thomas
"My name is Connor Cerato, I am 27 years old, and I am a hematopoietic stem cell donor. My story begins in October of 2020 when my father Dr. Thomas Cerato D.O. was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Multiple Myeloma (a white blood cell malignancy). At that time, my family’s life was filled with uncertainty and fear of the future. My father was given the opportunity to engage in a cutting-edge form of potentially curative treatment known as an allogeneic stem cell transplant where an ... read more
Jake was born on May 25th, 2007.  Aside from being smallish (a 6 pound, 2 ounce peanut), he was a perfectly healthy little boy, and a welcome addition to Holly and Andy’s family.  Their oldest son, Ben, was 21 months old when Jake was born, and he was thrilled to be a big brother.  Ben spent a lot of time comparing his feet to his brother's and acting silly to try to make him smile.  Jake developed some acid reflux that kept him from sleeping well, so he spent much of his short life in his... read more
Thanks from a donor's perspective: Sometime in the early evening, Wednesday, Nov. 23, I came to. It’s a strange feeling coming off anesthesia – like waking up drunk after a long nap. I was wrecked. Groggy. Bleary-eyed. Sore. From my left arm my eyes followed two IV lines up to the equipment that shared space next to my bed: A saline bag, a mechanical pump dosing morphine into my bloodstream, and a couple of oxygen and heart-rate monitors. After taking all of this in, my first cogent thought:... read more
Judy’s caring spirit, amazing smile and resounding laugh drew people to her. She was always there to lend a helping hand, provide an ear to listen and to give a smile that would brighten a cloudy day. Her career had always matched her personality. She chose to work with children first in a childcare setting and later, after completing a Masters program, she worked in a classroom environment. While focusing on her students’ strengths, she enjoyed actively engaging her students in the learning... read more
Patti and Chet's Story, a Donor and a Recipient Patti was the youngest of six children and loved the outdoors. In 1994 while on a camping trip, she called her dad Chet to tell him what a great time she was having. “I remember telling her to be safe and enjoy herself. It was the last time we talked.” Tragedy struck in the wee hours of the morning when Patti was involved in a car accident and near death. “There are no words to describe the feelings you go through at that moment,” said Chet.... read more
On June 29, 1990 I lost my sister Bizi in a terrible accident when she was just 29 years old. It seemed so unreal; what you would see in a movie. We received a phone call in the early morning hours, rushed to board a flight to her home town and when we got to the hospital we found out that we had lost her. My family was devastated by the loss and I was simply stunned. On that day I lost the sister who was closest to me in age and who represented many of my memories of childhood. We were... read more
IN HER OWN WORDS - LAURA’S STORY OF HER BROTHER TREY "My younger brother and only sibling, Trey, was in a serious car accident and after several days in the hospital he died from his injuries. It was Thanksgiving Day 2007. Trey and Laura I believe the timing of his death was significant. It forced us to approach even our darkest day with a spirit of gratitude. Trey and I both worked for U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, and you can’t be around Sen. Alexander for very long without hearing him quote... read more


  "I wanted to share my family's organ donation story," says Stephanie, remembering her dad Art who passed away last year, "and, at first, all I could think of was the word 'gratitude'."  Gratitude is what she feels for the 17 year gift that organ donation was for her family.  It is a gift that Stephanie wants to inspire others to give. "Our story begins after Dad's two year wait for a kidney on the donor list" she says.  "We couldn't know what God had planned, but we accepted it.  And then we... read more
When Beckham was born his family thought he was a healthy, beautiful, 8 lb 11oz bundle of joy. However, that ideal picture was shattered when he was diagnosed with Mitral and Tricuspid Valve Stenosis. He was quickly transferred to another hospital that could more readily assist newborns with such a grim diagnosis. Beckham 2010Immediately, the hospital performed a procedure to ease the pressure in his left atrium, but during the process they found further issues with Beckham’s heart. At 5 days... read more
In the immortal words of Buzz Lightyear, "to infinity and beyond!" This is the story of a little guy who is inquisitive and charismatic. His story is overwhelming and filled with lots of medical terminology, that shows just how challenged his start has been. However, through it all, little Carter has emerged from those "setbacks" much to his parents' joy and relief. "Carter is an energetic and charming little boy who loves going to school, riding his bike to the park and finding a new adventure... read more
Our friend tells his story: "I owe my life to a woman I have named "Angel." On April 15th at 64 years of age, I received a liver transplant. Had I not received it, my Story of Hope, which began with a diagnosis of hepatitis nearly forty years ago, would have ended by now.  I acquired hepatitis working in my career as a Medical Technologist. It first appeared as an acute illness, followed by thirty years when it lingered without symptoms. Then, on September 11, 2001, I was admitted to the ... read more
“Cornea transplantation made it possible for me to reclaim my independence; I could drive and read again, I no longer struggled with depth perception issues as I had before and I did not have to sit at home at night anymore” says Gina. In the late 1970s, Gina found it difficult to do her job due to significant vision impairments. "I had had problems with vision all my life, but I had completed my degree and had joined the Merchant Marines. I was working, but in order to advance in marine... read more
After their beloved son Colby died, the Cassanis' decision to donate his organs saved the lives of three others. The Cassanis' story is one of hope experienced through donation. Others have experienced the life-saving gift of hope through receiving a donated organ. We are pleased to introduce you to Jeffie. It is a beautiful autumn day, the kind that Jeffie enjoys most; where she can go out and see the changing leaves and the bright colors of fall. The fall of 1999 was not looking quite so... read more
Macie, an exhuberant and inquisitive child of two years of age, keeps her parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents busy.  However, the family doesn’t mind, because at four months old Macie was just struggling to stay alive.  After what seemed a normal pregnancy, Macie was born prematurely and with a severe case of cardiomyopathy (an inflammation of the heart that interferes with its ability to pump blood).  Although she was allowed to go home after her birth, she continued to have... read more
Manu is currently a first-year medical student and his excitement about medicine stems from the kidney transplant he received when he was 18 years old. Manu grew up in Pittsburgh and was plagued with a childhood illness that ultimately resulted in end-stage renal disease. He had been in and out of the hospital due to infections and surgeries and made many friends with other patients and staff alike. Having formed these relationships, he was very aware of organ transplantation but did not know... read more
“I was a healthy person all my life. I have been a runner for a long time and have had no problems with my heart.” This was the opening statement of our interview with Nate, a 31 year old who just celebrated his 2nd “heart” birthday. “It was on my daughter Mikaela’s first birthday when the problems started. I did not feel well and was sure that I had the flu. I just did not get any better,” says Nate. In fact, Nate started to go “downhill”. The doctor diagnosed him with endocarditis. According... read more
My name is Steve and I've lived for 50 years with cystic fibrosis. Cystic fibrosis patients usually develop very thick mucus in our lungs, harboring infections which create scar tissue.  This tissue gradually builds up to a point that our lungs cease to function properly. When I was listed for transplant in September 1997, my lung capacity was about 10% of a normal person's. I was on oxygen around the clock. I was on countless medications and required chest physical therapy. For four treatments... read more