2016 Transplant and Organ Donation Calendar: Deana Zorko

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Deana ZorkoDeana Zorko is a busy wife, mother of two active boys and a high school Spanish teacher. She got very sick with Type 1 Diabetes when she was 26 years old, and lived with its complications for almost 20 years. Her pregnancies resulted in high blood pressure and kidney damage, and she struggled with overwhelming exhaustion and low blood sugar.


Yet, even as her kidney function continued to decline and her life became increasingly limited, Deana continued to push herself to be there for her family and students. She remembers very clearly when she got the call to for her transplant, in April 2013. "It was very calming," says Deana. It was the end of the quarter, she was finished with grading and was feeling very organized. Instead of returning to school that Monday, she went to the hospital to receive a simultaneous pancreas-kidney transplant.


"In hindsight, I really don't know how I did it," says Deana. "It took every ounce of energy just to get out of the car and walk into school." But she felt so much better and more energetic after her transplant that she even switched jobs and schools. "There is no way I could have applied for this job and have been able to handle the rigor of West High School before my transplant." Her students at her old school were inspired and shocked when they found out she was listed for a transplant. "They had no idea how sick I was," says Deana. "They couldn't believe what I had been going through."


Deana found the courage to endure her illness with great fortitude. This strength of mind allowed her to think past her struggles. "I refused to give in to my self-doubt and fear. I had to find the courage to overcome the fear of what I couldn't control. I continued to remind myself that I wouldn't always be sick."


Her transplant continues to give her a new sense of well-being and energy. She juggles her sons' busy soccer schedules, traveled to Costa Rica with her Spanish students, teaches with passion and was awarded the 2015 World Languages Teacher of the Year State and Regional Award.