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Life Stories: Every Day Is an Ice Cream Sundae with Whipped Cream and a Cherry on Top

Linda Cheatham Linda Cheatham

Kidney Recipient: Columbia, MD

As Linda addressed donor families and living donors attending a National Donor Recognition Ceremony sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, DC, tears slowly rolled down her cheeks. She spoke that day not only for herself, but for all other transplant recipients, ten of them members of her family who, like her, have needed kidney transplants. 

For Linda, “being here” means being president of one of the largest chapters of Transplant Recipients International Organization, Inc. and a Certified Public Accountant who owns her own business. It also means that Linda and her sister have participated 13 times in the Cannonball One Lap of America, an eight-day, 5,000-mile driving competition dotted with race track time trials and drag races along the way. Their Porsche Boxster, festooned with donation awareness decals, travels through 22 states spreading awareness of donation. One year during the race, two of Linda’s family members were waiting for kidneys: a cousin and the sister who was lapping America with her. “If Linda’s sister had received a call on the road that a kidney was available, then we would have raced for the transplant center! Any way you look at it, we were in a race for life!”

“To us, every day is an ice cream sundae with a great big glop of whipped cream and a cherry on top. We are alive. We are here and we thank you, thank you, thank you."

— Linda Cheatham

Once, Linda’s racing partner was a friend from her youth who happens to be a tissue recipient. During that race Linda had car trouble and came in lastbut crossed the finish line. To her, the finishing position doesn’t matter. “We do it because it’s fun, and because it makes people aware of the need for organ and tissue donors. That car gets a lot of attention, and each year we get to talk to a lot of people about becoming donors,” Linda said. The next year, Linda’s sisterwith her new kidneywas back in the race. “During the race we do TV, radio and newspaper interviewswe will talk to any one who will listen. And even though we were last of those who finished the race, we got a prize for finishing dead last and we were 4th in Class.”

Being last? No big thing. For this organ transplant recipient and her family, every day, truly every day, is an ice cream sundae with whipped cream and a cherry on top.

Story courtesy of Linda Cheatham and HRSA.


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