Local Family Honoring Life-Saving Organ Donor With Fundraiser

Mike Mania meeting Ranea Pesaresi. (Photo courtesy Christine Mania)

  SEASIDE HEIGHTS – Mike Mania was diagnosed with sarcoidosis in the early 1990s. It wasn’t until 2013 that this diagnosis would change his life forever.

 The US Department of Health and Human Services defines sarcoidosis as “a rare condition in which groups of immune cells form lumps, called granulomas, in various organs in the body…Sarcoidosis can affect any organ. Most often it affects the lungs and lymph nodes in the chest.”

  While the disease lay dormant in Mike’s body for many years following his diagnosis, he started to feel the effects of his illness after an abdominal surgery in August 2004. According to Mike’s wife Christine Mania, his sarcoidosis began to “flare up” following complications with the surgery at the same time he was developing adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which is a condition in which the lungs begin to harden.

  “He was hospitalized for more than 4 ½ months with us almost losing him numerous times during his stay,” Christine told Jersey Shore Online. “After a long road to recovery, Mike’s lung disease progressively worsened.”

  Mike was in need of a bilateral lung transplant, or a double lung transplant. After numerous doctors’ visits, hospital stays, tests, and surgery, Mike was approved for the transplant in 2013.

  The date of his transplant approval holds a special meaning to the Manias. March 28: the birthday of Mike’s soon-to-be life-saving donor, Samantha Pesaresi.

  “The wait was long with the anxiety of waiting for “the call” where we would be told that they had lungs that were a match which Mike so desperately needed to survive,” stated the Mania family.

  On August 1, 2013, the doctors called Mike into the hospital, hopeful for a successful transplant match. However, the donor lungs were ultimately deemed not viable at that time and the Mania’s were sent home to wait.

  In September of 2013, they received another call. This one came with much better news.

Mike Mania struggled with his health due to sarcoidosis prior to his life-saving bi-lateral lung transplant. (Photos courtesy Sam’s Spirit)

  “Time was certainly not on Mike’s side since he was becoming very ill as each day passed and his window was closing to be able to receive a transplant. But, on September 7, 2013 at 3:11 in the morning, we received the second call that they had a match for Mike,” they stated.

  This match was Sam Pesaresi.

  The website created in Sam’s honor – samsspirit.com/about-sam – provides a little background on the young woman who saved Mike’s life.   

  “Known as “Sam” to her family and friends, Samantha Pesaresi was truly the definition of a “giving” human being. Sam would drop everything to help someone in need and never ask for a thing in return. She was endlessly grateful and thankful for all that life had given her and lived each day to the fullest,” read the site.

  Sam was a graduate of Albright College and a starter on the school’s hockey team. Following her accomplishments at school she began working at Sheridan Communications in Alpha, New Jersey and worked as an assistant field hockey coach for Woodglen Middle School in Lebanon Township. While Sam also had plans to attend Drexel University for graduate school, this dream never had the chance to become reality.  

  Sam passed away on September 6, 2013 from a catastrophic brain aneurysm. While she was an accomplished young woman at the age of 23, Sam still had only just begun to live her life.

  “Because of her giving and selfless personality, her parents thought it was only fitting for her to be an organ donor. This decision allowed Sam’s death to save three lives the day that she passed,” read the site. Sam donated her heart, lungs, and liver.

  One of these lives saved was Mike’s. Mike had his transplant surgery on September 7, 2013; the day after Sam’s passing. Since that day, Mike has had a “new lease on life,” his wife said.

  In honor of Sam’s life and her gifts to the world, the Mania family is hosting the Shore Sprint for Sam on March 30, 2019 in Seaside Heights. This is a fundraiser for Sam’s Spirit, a foundation created in Sam’s honor to raise money for scholarships and brain aneurysm research.

  After Mike’s successful transplant surgery, he and his wife began communicating with the Pesaresi family via letters through the Gift of Life Family House, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that works with Sam’s Spirit.

  “Some time went by and we began writing each other, we finally met at one of their walks [in 2016] that they have done in her [Sam’s] honor and have become friends and attend the functions that they have to raise awareness for organ donation, brain aneurysm research as well as scholarships in her name,” said Christine.   

  The Manias got to know Sam’s family a little more through continued correspondence. One thing they discovered was that Sam loved the beach. It seemed only fitting that the Mania’s choose the Jersey shore at Seaside Heights to host their fundraiser.

  “We thought it would be nice to host a walk ourselves in her honor for her foundation so we can give back for what we have received,” Christine told Jersey Shore Online.

  Mike is now five years post-transplant and doing better than ever.  

  “Life for Mike now is amazing, not only for him to be able to watch his children grow up, witness their accomplishments and milestones and any future accomplishments and milestones, but he no longer requires the need of oxygen tanks, tubing and no more of a struggle to breathe doing the simplest of tasks,” said Christine.

  While Christine admits that while there are still some struggles following such major medical conditions, Mike is happy to live life to the fullest with his children, ages 25 and 19, and his wife.

  Shore Sprint for Sam will take place on March 30, right around the anniversary of Sam’s birthday, at the Seaside Heights Boardwalk. You can donate by purchasing a special Shore Sprint t-shirt at inktothepeople.com/shore-sprint-for-sam. The walk will begin at Carteret Ave. where you can register and pick up your shirts.

  “You really can’t put a price on what our family has received and what the donor family has lost…but whatever we can raise is good enough for us,” said Christine.