In this episode:
Bella, the President and Founder of Alexander’s Hope, has a long-standing history of non-profit work and volunteering. At the age of 12, she traveled to Uganda where her heart was opened to non-profit work. She saw the world through a new lens and was inspired by the people she met who were not brought down, but rather up, by their life circumstances.
Bella’s younger brother, Alexander, is the kindest person she knows. In 2017, the lives of the Chaffey family were forever changed. At the age of 19, Alexander began experiencing chest pain that was attributed to panic attacks. For several months, he worked to alleviate his “anxiety” yet experienced another “panic attack”. That summer, the family vacationed to Arches National Park. Half-way through their descent down, Alexander experienced intense chest pain and was unable to continue hiking. Bella and her sister, Sophia, ran in search of a park ranger. Alexander was carried out of the park on a stretcher; believing that this was another panic attack, the Chaffey’s finished out their vacation.
Knowing Alexander was suffering something beyond panic attacks, his mom pursued additional evaluation. Alexander was immediately referred to medical imaging and was ultimately taken by ambulance to UW Medical Center where he was diagnosed with a bicuspid aortic valve and was in dire need of a heart valve replacement. Too weak for surgery, Alexander was taken for a coronary angiogram. During the scan, his heart stopped, and he was resuscitated. Ultimately, Alexander received a heart valve replacement and was placed on ECMO. Within one week, doctors concluded that Alexander needed a heart transplant. His heart was removed, he received an artificial heart and was placed on the transplant list. Miraculously, within eight days, a donor heart was found for Alexander.
The identity of the donor and family are unknown; if she could, Bella would hug them, thank them for the beautiful gift for Alexander and all of those in his life. The donor and his/her family gave the ultimate gift – the gift of life. There is no way to thank someone for that.
The vision of Alexander’s Hope began taking shape while Alexander was in the hospital. Researching heart transplant and organ donor statics, Bella and her mom uncovered a need to inform the public about organ donation and transplantation. Bella’s experiences and education had perfectly prepared her to form her own non-profit. The mission of Alexander’s Hope is to spread awareness of organ donation and to alleviate misconceptions. They are working with the state of Washington to update Driver’s Ed videos discussing organ donation, targeting youth when applying for their driver’s license. Alexander’s Hope partners with Nick of Time, an organization that provides EKGs to high schools to test for undiagnosed heart conditions and teaches CPR and AED operation. Bella’s ultimate dream for Alexander’s Hope is a truck or physical space to enable screenings and to extend the reach internationally.
To the approximately fifty-percent of Americans who are not organ donors, Bella would like to clear up misconceptions, share Alexander’s story – and those like him – whose lives were saved by the gift of an organ donation, and stories of those who did not receive an organ. On average, 21 people die daily waiting for an organ. One donor can transform the lives of 75 people.
It’s been almost two years since Alexander’s heart transplant. He’s doing fantastic. He’s taking classes and searching for his passion in life. He’s on Alexander’s Hope Board of Directors and involved in speaking engagements to enthusiastic audiences.
How to get involved with Alexander’s Hope? Become an organ donor and encourage others to do the same, advocate for and donate to Alexander’s Hope, host an event, request and proudly wear Alexander’s Hope swag.
Get your kids and loved ones screened. You can’t tell someone has a heart condition by looking at them. It never hurt anybody to be sure.Bella C.
Thank you for listening!
May our stories help forge your path forward. I hope you’ll stay tuned for our next episode and in the meantime, learn more about my story on my blog.