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Posted: Jun 30, 2016 3:59 AM EDT
Updated: Jul 01, 2016 9:12 AM EDT
PEWAUKEE (WKOW) — In a lively studio in Pewaukee, Janet Ramsey and Jack Eigel meet for their dance lesson with instructor Catey Rice at Fred Astaire Dance Studio. Jack says, “Janet’s in Madison, I’m in Milwaukee, so we chose Pewaukee as a kind of halfway point. I got the better end of the deal,” he laughs.
Anyone can tell they’re great friends the way they look at each other, the way they laugh together and the way they dance together. But this is no ordinary friendship. And this story has no ordinary beginning.
In the summer of 2009, Jack’s heart had started to fail. But he had been given a second chance at life. Janet’s son, Chris, had given it with the donation of his heart at UW Hospital in Madison. Interestingly, Jack’s transplant made national headlines because he was born with a condition called Situs Inversus Totalis, where all his organs are reversed in his body. While it didn’t cause his need for a heart transplant it did present complications for surgeons. Ultimately, the doctors at UW were able to do the transplant. “My heart is now on the normal side, but it’s flipped,” Jack says.
Janet’s son Chris, meanwhile, was waiting to save lives. “He was 19, he became depressed and committed suicide.” Janet said Chris actually lived for five days and they were able to resuscitate him, but eventually they couldn’t stop the swelling on his brain.
Janet says Chris’ troubles began as a child. He had autism and aphasia. “Speaking and understanding English was hard for him. (Aphasia) is like dyslexia only for hearing and speech. His hearing was fine, but the words would get jumbled in his head. It was very difficult once he was out of high school to manage in a verbal world.”
But during high school, Chris realized he could excel at sports. Swimming was something he was really good at. By the time he was a sophomore, he was going to state.
It was also during high school Chris first talked to his mom about organ donation. As soon as he got his driver’s license, he signed up. “I had talked to (my kids) about it, but always believed they should make their own decision. He came back and showed it to me and I said ‘Why did you do that?” He said, ‘If I’m dead I can’t use them. Why not give them to somebody else?”
Jack may have wrestled with the idea of a transplant more than his donor, even though he was the one who needed the heart. “Long before you get a transplant you go through this guilt that there’s got to be some horrible accident and loss for you to survive. No one likes that. So meeting Janet and the donor family, Janet is wonderful,” he cried softly when talking with us.
Jack and Janet first met six years ago. It was at an event called the “Transplant Games of America,” kind of like the Olympics for people who have had transplants. They just happened to be in Madison that year. WKOW was there for the meeting. Janet says, “It’s the day of the Transplant Games, the day Chris hung himself and they ended on the day the transplants happened, so they’re showing me this and I’m like, ‘How can I not go? Someone’s telling me I should be there.'”
Jack happened to pick swimming as the sport he would “try” at his first games. He had never done competitive sports in his life. He couldn’t do basketball or track. So as he went down the list of possibilities, the only thing left was swimming. “I knew how to swim and we’ll leave it at that.”
Janet didn’t know if that was another coincidence, or another sign, but being Chris’ cheerleader and coach for years, she knew just how to help Jack that first year.
While many donors and recipients meet and some even keep in touch, Janet and Jack grow closer each year. In January of 2014, they danced together at the Kidney Foundation’s “Spotlight on Life” event and haven’t stopped, especially since ballroom dancing was added as an event to the Transplant Games. Janet says, “I wanted to keep doing it. I said ‘Jack it was so fun and it was fun doing it with you,’ so we just keep doing it.” Jack adds, “We don’t retain much!” “Yeah, we’re not moving up!” Janet laughs.
Janet says her time with jack doesn’t feel like time with Chris. But Chris’s decision to donate his organs helped her find new joy in life. “I’m dancing with Jack, who’s a friend my son brought me. The recipients are people who were so close to death and they want to live that life. And they are so invigorating and so full of life and you just want to be close to that. These people are going to live and I’m going to get to see what they’re going to do with their life!”
To learn more about the Transplant Games of America, click here.
To learn more about organ donation in the State of Wisconsin, click here.
Heart transplant recipient meets donor’s family at Transplant Games
Fred Astaire Dance Studios of Pewaukee and Family Promise are getting together to help raise awareness and take donations to help homeless children and their families. click to see list for donations
We except donations starting 12/2/2015 – 12/18/15.
Thank you in advance.
Riding and Rocking for a Cause
Scott Witthun from American Entertainment / American Minicycles and Fred Astaire Dance Studios of Pewaukee got together to raise money for the Children’s Hospital fund. Not only Fred Astaire Dance Studios of Pewaukee was present for entertainment but Stormin Gorman Thomas of the Milwaukee Brewers and The Green Bay Packers LeRoy Butler joined us for autographs and photo opts.
We raised over $1000.00 for the children’s hospital.
Big thank you to Scott Witthun for including us to raise money for a good cause.
Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Pewaukee and Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Menomonee Falls teamed up to raise money in honor of October’s Breast Cancer Awareness month. The event was hosted at the Pewaukee FADS studio. Among the attendees, who all donned pink attire, were recent and long term survivors and family members who have been affected by breast cancer. The event totaled $1,245.00.
Raising money was only the start of this evening! The biggest surprised followed by Mr. Glenn Schulz and Kristin Windisch. This couple met at Fred Astaire Dance Studios Pewaukee dancing individually at first, but the practice parties and a little push from his instructors made this wonderful relationship happen. Who knew that dancing together would eventually lead down the road to a love story and this very special moment in time. Fairy tales really do come true! FADS wishes the couple a long and happy life together.
After dancing a beautiful Waltz with her prince Charming Kristin said yes!!