Osage tribal member Tim Bishop will be riding in the 2015 Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, Calif.
Bishop, an organ transplant recipient, is one of 30 float riders on the Donate Life America float. The Rose Parade gets million of television viewers each year and Bishop will represent organ, eye and tissue donation, Oklahoma and the Osage Nation.
“I am proud of my heritage and proud of the lifesaving transplant I received,” Bishop said. He views himself as a symbol for donation and transplantation.
There are currently more than 123,000 people waiting for lifesaving transplants, according to a prepared release. Bishop encourages Native communities to learn more about organ donation.
“I hope after hearing my story, more Native Americans will consider joining the donor registry,” he said. “I want the Native American communities to be aware of transplantation as an option in healthcare.”
At 26, Tim Bishop, of Stilwell, Okla., had his whole life ahead of him. He was young and healthy; he was athletic, loved bass fishing and playing basketball and golf. Bishop had recently gotten married and his wife Annmarie was about to have their child.
On Sept. 11, 1999, the Bishops had their daughter, Plizia Marie. That same day was quickly overshadowed as Bishop was admitted to the hospital with severe fluid retention.
It wasn’t the first hospitalization for Bishop. He had battled fluid retention for approximately a year. He remembers “one of the first signs that something was wrong, was the swelling in my ankles. I can remember asking my wife about the swelling.” As he became more ill, fluid retention was in his entire body.
“I felt very ill, very tired and had no energy. I was just not myself,” he said.
So when Bishop should have been enjoying his newborn baby, he was referred to his current Nephrologist, Dr. Michael D. Coleman Sr., at Cooper Clinic. Dr. Coleman diagnosed Bishop with a kidney disease called Nephrotic Syndrome.
Tim and his wife knew very little about his illness so they did their own research to better understand the disease.
The diagnosis caused him to become angry. “I couldn’t understand why this was happening to me. I had no previous kidney problems.” Along with the anger, he started experiencing signs of depression.
On top of being ill, Bishop had a small child at home to care for. He got to the point where he could not work. He was forced to go on disability, so Annmarie took on the task of providing for the family. Bishop stayed home to take care of himself and baby Plizia. His daughter was too young to realize her daddy was sick.
Bishop’s disease continued to progress and in 2002, he was put on Peritoneal Dialysis (PD), which is dialysis performed at home. At the same time, Dr. Coleman decided to put him on the transplant waiting list for a new kidney.
“When the doctor told me I would need a transplant, I was shocked,” remembers Bishop. “I had no previous knowledge of transplantation before my illness.”
Bishop continued dialysis for two years while waiting for his lifesaving transplant. “I am a very impatient person,” he explains. “So waiting was very difficult for me.”
“My advice to people on the transplant waiting list is to be patient; your phone call will come.”
Bishop’s phone call did eventually come, on Oct. 16, 2004. This was the third phone call he had received saying there was a kidney available for him. The two previous calls resulted in kidneys that were not a match for him.
“When I received the third call, I was standing in line to buy my hunting license. The transplant coordinator said you need to go to the hospital right now, we have a kidney for you.”
“I knew this was the one and I felt very excited and overwhelmed.”
So Bishop and his wife traveled four hours to the hospital. Tim remembers, “We beat the kidney there.” The donated kidney came from a donor in New York and it was practically a perfect match.
He went into surgery at six the next morning and had almost immediate results from his transplant. “I felt better, looked better and was up and walking the next day. My appetite had come back.” After the transplant, doctors said he could have whatever he wanted to eat, which was a treat since he had been on a restricted diet for almost two years. Bishop enjoyed spaghetti and meatballs and a “big old glass of cold milk.”
The transplant went so well he was sent home from the hospital after five days. It was kind of scary to the Bishops to leave the hospital so soon considering Tim had just had a major surgery. The drive home was reminiscent of taking your first child home from the hospital. Annmarie drove very carefully. It took six hours for them to get home instead of the four hours it took to get there.
Bishop gives accolades to his doctor for such a successful transplant, “Dr. Coleman did a great job treating me throughout the transplantation process.”
He made a full recovery from the transplant in two months. After that he said, “I felt freedom; I felt alive again. The gift of life renewed my life.” He was able to play outside with his daughter and go fishing again.
Plizia was 5 years old when Bishop received his transplant. She was beginning to play basketball and t-ball and starting school. He was now well enough to participate in these major milestones with his daughter.
Even though Bishop was so ill, he looks back on that time with some fond memories. “While I was at home on dialysis and at home recovering from the transplant, it gave me and my daughter time to connect. Our father-daughter connection was growing. Plizia is now my best friend.”
His daughter is now 14 years old and she understands the importance of organ donation. Because of organ donation Plizia and her father are able to play basketball and go fishing together. This last October the Bishop family celebrated the 10-year anniversary of his transplant.
LifeShare is a nonprofit, federally designated organ procurement organization (OPO) dedicated to the recovery of organs and tissue for transplant purposes. We work closely with four transplant centers and 145 healthcare organizations in the state of Oklahoma to facilitate donation. Additionally, we strive to raise awareness for organ, eye and tissue donation and transplantation through public education.
LifeShare encourages residents to enroll in the Donate Life Registry. Oklahomans have three options to register as an organ, eye and tissue donor. Residents can sign-up when renewing their driver’s license, visit www.LifeShareRegistry.org and sign up online or call 800-826-LIFE (5433) and request a donor registration form.
For more information about LifeShare, please visit www.LifeShareOK.org.