Episode 55
Release Date 4/28/2017

Show Notes: On episode 55 of The Gifted Life Podcast we welcome Dr. Christine Durand back to the microphone and hear about expanding options for potential kidney recipients. A new medicine is curing Hepatitis C and it’s providing a way for more donors to save lives. Dr. Durand tells us about the Expander 1 project. Then we talk to a kidney recipient who participated in one of these pilot trials. Her experience is a testimony to how Hepatitis C donors can help save more lives than ever before. In our favorite part of the podcast, we honor Hero Steve Melancon, and then we answer a listener’s question right here on episode 55 of The Gifted Life Podcast.


Episode 54
Release Date 4/14/2017

Show Notes: On episode 54 of The Gifted Life Podcast, we are talking about new HOPE, namely the HOPE Act. The HOPE Act, enacted into law in 2013, paves the way for people living with HIV to become organ donors to potential recipients living with HIV. Dr. Christine Durand chats with our hosts about HOPE in Action, a research study piloted out of John Hopkins University that puts the HOPE Act into practice and is saving more lives. We then welcome in studio guest Dorian Gray Alexander. Dorian hosts a radio show, Proof Positive, is an advocate for the HIV+ community, and a member of a popular male dance group in New Orleans called the 610 Stompers. He talks with hosts about the implications of the HOPE Act and even teaches them some dance move during a break! We honor Hero Anthony Eichmann, talk about getting ready for National Blue and Green Day, and run into a two-time Superbowl champ with the Giants, who's raising awareness about the need for more registered organ, eye & tissue donors. Don’t miss this action packed episode of The Gifted Life Podcast. 


Episode 53
Release Date 3/31/2017

Show Notes: April is National Donate Life Month and on episode 53 of The Gifted Life Podcast we are opening the archives with LOPA’s Director of Clinical Excellence, Michelle Duvernay. Hear how organ procurement has evolved since the first transplant of a kidney in 1954. We journey from a 1980's world of pen and paper, sparse fax machines and pagers, to the technology that has revolutionized saving lives in America. Our hosts wrap up the discussion with Michelle and welcome Wade Liu. Wade is Vice President of Product Development for Transplant Connect and a self-professed HUGE fan of The Gifted Life Podcast. He tells us about the software his company has developed to assist in streamlining organ recovery and transplantation. Plus, Sally and Wade talk about how this software also assists in supporting donor families after their loved one has given the Gift of Life. Lori and the rest of The Gifted Life team honor Hero Tina Brown, and we answer a listener’s question about connecting donor families and recipients. We are gearing up for National Donate Life Month celebrations like Blue and Green Day and hope you will join us!

Episode 52
Release Date 3/17/2017

Show Notes: On episode 52 of The Gifted Life Podcast, we are talking about eye donation for National Eye Donor Month. We launch this episode with Jason Woody, CEO of Lion’s Eye Institute for Transplant and Research(LEITR) and Chair for Donate Life America. Hear how LEITR is not only restoring sight through eye donation, but also conducting research to battle eye diseases. Ever wonder what a patient needing a cornea transplant goes through? LEITR’s Medical Director Dr. Lewis Groden educates about a recipient’s journey before, during and after cornea donation. Followed by donor mother, Dawn Futch, who tells our hosts how her family honored a decision that her son made to be an organ, eye and tissue donor, and the importance their family puts on continuing to give back to others. Plus, Dawn tells us more about her son, Michael-Gene Futch, and how he finally got his wish to see Africa. Guest and recipient, Samantha Shoemaker, takes our call to help answer a listener’s question about cornea donation with her first hand knowledge, right here on episode 52 of The Gifted Life Podcast.

Episode 51
Release Date 3/03/2017

Show Notes: Have you ever wondered about how "The List" works? We have referred to the waiting list in several episodes and asked Mike Pressendo, Director of Communications at United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), to explain how it all works. Mike also talks about an amazing new video UNOS created, How to Rock a Bucket List and Save a Life, and the real life stories it was based on. Next we welcome in studio guest, Ricky Fernandez, a transplant social worker with Tulane Medical Center. Hear about the myriad of services a transplant social worker provides to help patients, families and caregivers work through the transplant process. We honor one of the Heroes that inspired UNOS’ Bucket List video, Kristina Chesterman, and answer a listener’s question right here on episode 51 of The Gifted Life Podcast.

Episode 50
Release Date 2/17/2017

Show Notes: We have reached episode 50 of The Gifted Life Podcast. This is BIG! Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts and her sister, WWL TV’s Sally-Ann Roberts, are here to share their story with us! The sisters made headlines when Sally-Ann donated her bone marrow cells to save Robin’s life. Learn more about how this duo “makes their mess their message” and teaches the world about selfless acts of donation. Learn all about registering as a bone marrow donor as Lori, Joey and Sally are joined by Mary Halet from Be The Match, the national bone marrow registry. Discover the differences between registering as an organ, eye and tissue donor and a bone marrow donor. Mary also dispels some myths about bone marrow donation, she educates us about the process, and chats about services and resources provided to both recipients and donors. We honor two Heroes in our Honoring a Hero segment. Hear about two friends who signed up on the Be The Match registry, and saved the lives of two strangers. Help The Gifted Life Podcast team celebrate episode 50 by sharing with your friends and encouraging them to subscribe so they don’t miss an episode.

Episode 49
Release Date 2/03/2017

Show Notes: On episode 49 of The Gifted Life Podcast we welcome guest George Weiner, CEO of Whole Whale, and technology expert. Learn how George and his company are examining national data to help register more  organ, eye and tissue donors throughout the United States. He also shares tips for making an impact by spreading awareness and facts on social media. Then Lori and Sally welcome Lauren Puckett to the podcast. Lauren is currently waiting for a Hero to save her life. Her story touches on almost every aspect of donation and transplantation, and is a testimony of positivity you don’t want to miss. During our family support segment, Sally gives strategies for focusing on the good things, even when it feels like life is going all wrong. Kristi Mayfield is our honored Hero, and we answer a listener’s question about where they can get Donate Life goods here in episode 49 of The Gifted Life Podcast. 


Episode 48
Release Date 1/20/2017

Show Notes: Episode 48 of The Gifted Life brings us a firsthand account of the magnificence of the Donate Life Rose Parade Float. Bonita Wilson talks to our hosts about her trip to Pasadena and what it was like to see her son’s likeness, Ricardo “Buck” Brown, on the Donate Life Rose Parade Float. Experience the excitement of this self-proclaimed “country girl” going to California for the first time. Then, guest Brianna Doby fills us in on some practical methods of volunteering and spreading Positive Rhetoric (also the namesake of her company). Brianna shares ideas about how to encourage others to register and produce informative conversations about organ, eye and tissue donation. Sally talks about four emotions often associated with grief: pity, sympathy, empathy and compassion. Find out how to decipher between each emotion, and navigate them when assisting a loved one. We honor Hero Anthony Washington and answer a listener’s question about corresponding with a donor’s family all right here on episode 48 of The Gifted Life.

Episode 47
Release Date 1/06/2017

Show Notes: Happy New Year! Episode 47 is our first episode of 2017. The Gifted Life Podcast Team thanks you for listening and sharing our podcast. We are excited to share one of the fantastic events that kicks off the New Year celebration in the Donate Life community, the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. The Donate Life Rose Float features donor floragraphs which are portraits created with floral materials. The 2017 Louisiana floragraph honoree is Ricardo “Buck” Brown. We catch up with his mother and his kidney recipient after they see his floragraph for the first time! Lori and Joey welcome guest Reecie Gilmore. She has a passion to urge parents to discuss organ, eye and tissue donation. This led her to work with Maddie’s Footprints, a nonprofit that helps parents who have lost an infant. Sally tackles the topic of anxiety and depression. We learn valuable information about the correlations between these two conditions. Clinton Ryan, our hero, is honored in a special way as his mother shares his story. Lori and Joey answer a listener’s question about getting involved in 2017. All that and more on this episode of The Gifted Life Podcast.

Production Team: Kirsten Heintz, Chillon Latiolais, and Troy Perez.

Meet the Hosts


Lori Steele Community Educator

Lori Steele
Community Educator

Describe your role at LOPA:

My job is to maximize organ and tissue donation awareness and increase Louisiana’s donor registry. I work with our partners in schools, civic groups, businesses, churches, etc. to reach audiences interested in having a healthy discussion about donation. We have a strong volunteer base – made up of donor family members, recipients and those waiting on a transplant. Together, we give as much information as possible. Our hope is that those listening will see donation in a positive light and make an educated decision about donation – when they are ready to do so. We want them to take what they learned during their time with us and bring that information back home. We hope it sparks ‘another’ conversation…and another…and another.

What do you enjoy most about your work or working for LOPA?

I work closely with donor family members, recipients and those waiting on a transplant. Spending so much time together, we really become ‘a family’. I love what I learn about life from each and everyone of my new family members. They live life to the fullest! They don’t sweat the small stuff! They want to ‘pay kindness forward’! They encourage hugs! They share emotions! They want to make our world a better place! All that – hopefully – rubs off on me, my husband and our children!

Lori's background:

Lori Steele officially joined the life-saving team called the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency (or LOPA) in 2010. Before that, Lori worked in TV News. She was a TV anchor and reporter for TV stations in the Lafayette and Baton Rouge areas. Starting in 1999, Lori ‘unofficially’ became LOPA’s media liaison – helping to promote organ donation awareness when possible. Lori fell in love with LOPA’s mission after covering a ‘Celebration of Life’ as a fledgling reporter. At that event honoring a HERO – an organ donor - she signed up to be an organ donor and has helped to promote the cause ever since. In 2010, following a national competition for organ donation awareness, Lori was named ‘The Most Enthusiastic Employee’ award for her ‘outside the box’ efforts to gain attention for the cause.

Interesting fact about you or what do you enjoy doing in your down time?

FAMILY is most important to me! I am a mother of 4 and my husband and I concentrate on making the most of our quality time together. A majority of that time for us, fortunately, is spent with those we have had the pleasure of meeting through LOPA. I am tickled that my 7-year old daughter knows more than most about organ donation. She thinks everyone should be a donor because in her words, "why wouldn’t you want to be?" FUN FACT: She volunteers "THE MOST" to speak at organ donation awareness events (she tells the stories of her ‘organ donor’ friends) and to play the part of our mascot – DEAUX NATE!


Joey Boudreaux, RN, BSN, CPTC Chief Clinical Officer

Joey Boudreaux, RN, BSN,
Chief Clinical Officer

Describe your role at LOPA:

My job is to oversee organ recoveries throughout the state of Louisiana. One of my areas of focus includes maximizing a family's gift of donation through the utilization of the latest medical treatments of patients who have suffered severe brain injuries. I hope that their loved ones can save as many lives as possible. Another area of focus is to insure that the surgical processes and packaging of organs are performed with the utmost level of proficiency.

What do you enjoy most about your work or working for LOPA?

The thing that I enjoy the most is when a donor family gets the opportunity to meet their loved one's recipients for the first time. It is truly a life changing event for everyone involved. I also enjoy working with a staff that embodies our mission with an incredible passion throughout their day to day lives.

Interesting fact about you or what do you enjoy doing in your down time?

I spend most of my downtime exercising, playing golf or just hanging out with my wife, friends, or family. The longer I work for LOPA, the more of an appreciation that I have for those things.


Sally Gentry, LPC-s, FAPA, BCPC Family Services Coordinator

Sally Gentry, LPC-s, FAPA, BCPC
Family Services Coordinator

Describe your role at LOPA:

My role with LOPA is dedicated to maintaining and extending quality follow-up services for all our donor families.  Some of our supportive services include phone and written contact with families, grief counseling, emotional support, assisting with donor family and recipient requests for communication, facilitating direct contact, addressing issues or concerns, and interfacing with transplant centers and with other departments within LOPA. In addition, I see my purpose as one of being with families going through the labyrinth of emotional turmoil and helping them to see what good can result from a tragedy. Our department helps families focus on celebrating the life of their loved one and to see how one’s life can impact many others by saying YES to donation.      

What do you enjoy most about your work or working for LOPA?

I enjoy listening to family members reminisce about their loved one and how and what he or she did on a daily basis in life. One of the more rewarding parts of my job, is to hear the joy and excitement from a family and recipient when having the opportunity to meet and embrace one another for the first time. I am reminded of the emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and spiritual benefits of one-on-one contact.  A celebration of new found relationships.   

Interesting fact about you or what do you enjoy doing in your down time?

Sally came to work with LOPA in 2000 to design and implement a family services program. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor and holds Fellow status and Board Certification with the American Psychotherapy Association. She has been active in the mental health field for many years providing crisis intervention and counseling services to individuals and families affected by suicide, families of homicide victims, and adult bereavement and grief counseling.    

My spare time is spent working in my yard and playing with my dogs and horses.  I’ve always been an outdoor person and find great satisfaction being in nature.  The peace and quiet allows me time to think and be grateful.

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