Organ recipient Holly Werlein to
compete in Australia for World Games
By Kelsey Lauer 8/3/09
After what felt to her like a week-long nap, 24-year-old Holly Werlein
woke up with a new liver.
Mine was definitely a different story than most transplant people. I just
happened to be in the right place at the right time, she says of her
While she was at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio for an unrelated
appointment, her sister noticed that Werleins eyes were yellow. After a
test revealed elevated liver enzymes, doctors admitted Werlein to the
hospital. Three days later, her memory of events ended.
My parents told me that I was getting so sick that ammonia was building
up in my brain and that was why (I didnt remember), she says. They
finally did a liver biopsy on me and I had 20 percent function. You have
to have 40 to live.
They put me first in the nation for a liver on the waiting list. I got
one in eight hours, which is absolutely amazing, because people wait years
and months. I am so blessed to be here.
GOING DOWN UNDER
Three years after her transplant, Werlein is now healthy and is taking
full advantage of her new lease on life. A dedicated athlete prior to her
transplant, she is now planning to participate in the World Transplant
Games in Australia, Aug. 22-30.
Im just excited. So many opportunities that I never thought came out of
this unexpected transplant, and so Im just excited to go experience
Australia, she says. I am going to be doing volleyball, either indoors
or beach, and the 50 fly and relay swim.
Ive always been a huge athlete, and in high school -- I graduated in
2003 from Gaylord -- I was actually female athlete of the year in my
graduating year. I did swimming, volleyball and soccer. I just prayed I
would be able to do the same things after, and I can.
Bev Cherwinski, a single lung recipient who leads the Transplant Support
Group of Northern Michigan -- of which Holly is a member -- says that all
the members of the group are very excited for Holly.
She is so cute and so good at what she does, which is everything,
Cherwinski says. Shes got to get in there and do some more promoting for
us. Im sure shell do great. Were very proud of her, couldnt be
prouder. Im sure shell just add to it. We have all the confidence in
TWO GOLD MEDALS
Werlein also participated in the 2008 U.S. Transplant Games in Pittsburgh,
where she received two gold medals in swimming and two silver medals in
I met a lot of wonderful people who I still keep in touch with. It was
probably meeting everybody and the atmosphere of the games, she says of
her favorite part of the Transplant Games. It didnt matter if you won. I
had no idea what to expect. I mean, winning was great, but it was more or
less like the people that came in last, not last but that finished,
because thats a big deal. There are people there up to probably 80, you
know, and so for the person who finished last, everyones clapping,
everyones cheering really loud.
The normality of the scene, she says, was what struck her the most.
It made me cry, just to watch that transplant people can live a normal
life. I mean, Im 24 years old and I live a normal life. No one would
expect that I would have had (a liver transplant). Its just amazing what
organ donation can do, and Im trying to promote (it).
Now, Werlein spends most of her spare time trying to promote organ
donation; many people who can donate organs dont realize that they are
eligible, according to her.
I think people are unaware of organ donation. I really just want people
to sign up on the (organ donor) list, she says. Its so easy; you can
even go to the web site, Gift of Life Michigan, or you can go to the
Secretary of State. It saves lives, and you can live a normal, healthy
She said that she was more than one of 340 Buddies at the April 8 Buddy
Day who spent the day promoting organ donation in Secretary of State
offices across Michigan. More than 17,672 people joined the Michigan Donor
Registry during the April Donate Life Month, according to a Department
of State press release.
(Donating organs) can save eight lives and change the lives of 50
people, she says.
Its just amazing what it can do. I want everyone to be aware of how
wonderful it is, and Im promoting it the rest of my life. Please sign
Shes doing a good job of it, too, according to Cherwinski.
One of her great dreams is to become an advocate for organ and tissue
donation, Cherwinski says. Shes a great speaker on the subject. Ive
been trying to get in touch with whoever to see if we cant get her into
the promotional part of this organ donation, make a living at it. I hope
that comes true for her.
Werlein is currently raising funds to cover the cost of her trip to
Australia. E-mail email@example.com for more information.