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For Immediate Release:
April 13, 2017
Media Contact:
Tania Leets


Transplant patients and families unite at National Donate Life Month event at Jackson Memorial Hospital

For more than 45 years, the Miami Transplant Institute (MTI) at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center has been making miracles—by giving a second chance at life to patients from all over the world. To celebrate National Donate Life Month, MTI is honoring patients who are celebrating one year post-organ transplant surgery.

Previous transplant recipients will share their stories of how transplantation has impacted their lives in the hopes of promoting awareness of the importance of becoming an organ donor.

MTI is one of the most comprehensive programs and the third largest in the nation with surgeons performing more than 450 transplants each year. It is also the only center in South Florida to perform every type of organ transplant.   
More than 100 attendees, including former patients, doctors, and transplant staff, are expected at the dinner.

The Guest Speakers/ Stories
Makinley Edwards was two months old when she was diagnosed with hepatoblastoma, a rare form of liver cancer. After failed attempts to remove the cancer, she was placed on the national organ waiting list for a new liver at eight months old.

Now almost age 4, Makinley is cancer free, healthy, and enjoys playing her favorite sport, soccer. Her parents, Michael and Nicole Edwards, will speak about their daughter’s journey of transplantation and how challenging it was for them as first-time parents.

“She was sitting up within a week after transplant,” said Nicole. “Thanks to Makinley’s donor, we’re able to see Makinley have a normal childhood.”

In 2006, Erika Rolle came down with a bad cold that wouldn’t go away. A few months later, Rolle was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy – a condition in which the heart muscle becomes enlarged and weaker, and often leads to heart failure.

The diagnosis was devastating for Rolle, an assistant principal at M.A. Milam 5-8 Center in Hialeah.

Over time, her conditioned worsened as her heart and right lung were retaining fluid. She was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and needed a heart transplant. While adjusting to her new life, Rolle formed a club for other patients in similar situations. The group would meet for lunch and dinner, share stories, and pray together. Her own prayers were answered October of 2015 when UHealth – University of Miami Health System transplant surgeons Matthias Loebe, MD, and Nicolas Brozzi, MD, led a four-hour surgery at Jackson Memorial Hospital to give Rolle a new heart. She calls that day her “second birthday.”
“Before the surgery, I did not see the balance of life – I constantly reflected on how I was living before,” she said. “It was like the Lord sat me down and said ‘you’re going to take a break and look at life.’ This is my second chance.”

Boca Raton resident Alec Blotnick always loved to play golf. However, in 2001 at the age of 51, he suffered a massive heart attack, followed by heart failure years later. Diagnosed with congestive heart failure, he turned to doctors at Jackson Memorial for help. In June 2015, he had a lifesaving heart transplant – and now he’s feeling better than ever.

Blotnick, now 67, traveled to Cleveland last summer to compete in the Transplant Games of America, a multi-sport event dedicated to promoting organ, eye, and tissue donation.

Not only did he play in the Transplant Games’ golf tournament – he won.

“It has been an awesome experience,” Blotnick said. “I took first place in my age division, beating out some good golfers, and was awarded a gold medal. I am thankful to the transplant team at UM/Jackson.”


Makinley Edwards, liver transplant recipient, and her parents, Michael and Nicole Edwards
Alec Blotnick, heart transplant recipient
Erika Rolle, heart transplant recipient
Don Steigman, chief operating officer, Jackson Health System
Luke Preczewski, vice president, Miami Transplant Institute
Giselle Guerra, MD,  medical director, Miami Transplant Institute and Living Donor Kidney Program


To celebrate National Donate Life Month, MTI is honoring patients who are celebrating one year post-organ transplant surgery.

When: April 14, 2017, 4:00 p.m.- 6:00 p.m.

Jackson Memorial Hospital
Ira Clark Diagnostic Treatment Center, room 259
1080 N.W. 19th Street
Miami, FL 33136

Editor's Note:

Media can park outside of the DTC.

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Jackson Health System
1611 N.W. 12th Avenue Miami, FL 33136