(Sparta, NJ) - Allison Ognibene, 50, has enjoyed living and thriving in Sparta since she was only 5 years old. Over the years, she has made countless local friends who appreciate her warm and fun-loving personality.
Many of them also know her husband Bill, her adult stepchildren Christine, Andrew and Will, as well as their family dog, Lila. But many people who know Allison are surprised to learn that she is one of the longest-living heart and double-lung transplant recipients in the world.
“It is hard to believe that it has been 35 years since the miracle of organ donation and transplantation gave me a second chance to live life to its fullest,” said Allison, who underwent a successful heart and double-lung transplant on March 30, 1988. “I have always appreciated the caring people of Sparta who have always been there to support me. I am forever grateful to my organ donor. It is profound to know that so many transplant recipients, like me, are alive because of the generosity of others.”
As a young girl, Allison was diagnosed with Primary Pulmonary Hypertension (PPH - also known as Idiopathic Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension). This rare disorder causes elevated pulmonary artery pressure for no apparent reason. Unfortunately, PPH health complications claimed the lives of Allison’s father and both of her sisters.
“At that time, there were not many hospitals in our area that performed organ transplants,” said Allison. “I understand how fortunate and blessed I am to have been able to travel to the University of Pittsburgh to have my successful transplant surgery. Thankfully, medical advancements and technology are now saving more lives than ever before.”
While the transplant saved Allison’s life, she has since faced many health challenges, including a heart attack and several battles with cancer. Allison credits her strong faith, family, and friends with getting her through her toughest days.
“Getting through difficult times in life is made much easier when you have a strong support system,” said Allison. “Bill and the kids mean everything to me. My mother (Jane McCartney) has always been my rock, and my brothers have always been there when I needed them most.”
Today, Allison enjoys putting her passion and energy into her work as a theatre professor at Sussex County Community College. She is also a powerful advocate for NJ Sharing Network, the nonprofit organization responsible for the recovery and placement of donated organs and tissue in the Garden State.
As a member of the NJ Sharing Network’s Sussex/Warren Donate Life Group, Allison actively shares her transplant journey with others to encourage more people to register as organ and tissue donors. She also enjoys working with fellow volunteers to tie awareness ribbons throughout Sparta each April during National Donate Life Month.
“I am living proof of the power of organ and tissue donation and transplantation,” said Allison. “I have made it my personal mission to encourage as many people as possible to register as organ and tissue donors. Just one organ and tissue donor can save eight lives and enhance the lives of over 75 others.”
According to United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), there are over 100,000 Americans – nearly 4,000 of whom live in New Jersey – waiting for a life-saving transplant. However, the generosity of those in the Garden State is providing hope for the future. In 2022, the number of organ donors and organs transplanted in a single year reached all-time highs. This marked the fourth consecutive year NJ Sharing Network has reported new records in the number of organ donors, underscoring the clear trend of increased support for organ donation.
To learn more, get involved, and join the National Donate Life Registry as an organ and tissue donor, visit www.NJSharingNetwork.org.
PHOTO Caption: – (L-R) - Bill Ognibene, Allison Ognibene, Christine Ognibene, Andrew Ognibene, and Will Ognibene, along with their family dog, Lila
(Photo Credit - Courtesy of NJ Sharing Network)