MANCHESTER – Township resident Justine Applegate was among three transplant recipients announced as winners of the 2020-21 higher education scholarships through the Jessica Beth Schwartz Memorial Scholarship program.
The scholarship program is funded through the Transplant Foundation, the charitable foundation which supports the mission of Gift of Life Donor Program which is the non-profit, federally-designated organ procurement organization.
At just 12 years old Applegate’s active lifestyle was abruptly changed when she was diagnosed with Primary Pulmonary Hypertension. Her disease steadily progressed, and when she was 15, she discovered she would need a double lung transplant to survive.
Six months later, in February 2012, her life was transformed when she received the life-saving gift of a double lung transplant. Thanks to her transplant, she was able to graduate from high school and begin college.
Unfortunately, shortly after starting at Montclair State University, her health took a turn for the worse, escalating into in a month-long coma in the fall of 2014. Justine had to relearn how to walk and eat. It was determined that she was rejecting her new lungs.
As a result, she would require another double lung transplant. She waited for three long years before she would receive her second double lung transplant in August 2019.
“I am now nine months post-transplant and I plan on going back to school for social work and child advocacy,” Applegate said. This fall, she plans on studying at Montclair State University.
Since 1974, Gift of Life has coordinated more than 50,000 life-saving organs for transplant, and approximately 1.5 million tissue transplants have resulted from the generosity of donors and their families.
Working with 128 acute care hospitals and 15 transplant centers the program serves 11.2 million people in the eastern half of Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware. For a dozen years, Gift of Life has coordinated the most life-saving organs for transplant in the United States. Its annual donation rate ranks among the highest in the world.
Each year, the scholarship program issues $2,500 awards to transplant recipients seeking higher education. The scholarship was created in memory of heart transplant recipient Jessica Beth Schwartz who was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect.
Her heart and body began to slow down by the age of 14. Due to someone who said yes to organ donation, Jessica was able to experience eight and a half additional years of life.
“Each year I am inspired by the challenging journey these young men and women have experienced at such a young age,” Jessie’s mother and scholarship co-founder, Janice Schwartz-Donahue said.
She added, “I am grateful to have the opportunity to continue to honor my daughter’s legacy by helping these students pursue higher education.” A total of 65 students have been awarded scholarships since the fund was created in 2003 in her honor. One organ donor can save the lives of up to eight people, and a tissue donor can improve the lives of more than 75 others.
To be eligible for the Jessica Beth Schwartz Memorial Scholarship, students must be an organ or tissue transplant recipient under the age of 25, seniors in high school, or be enrolled in a two or four-year college, university, trade or technical school.
Contributions to the Jessica Beth Schwartz Memorial Scholarship Fund can be made along with inquiries about scholarship criteria, by visiting jessiesday.org. For more information on how to donate an organ or to register, visit donors1.org.