Transplant Recipient Meets the Family that Saved her Life

Kaitlyn Nicole Rouse (shown above) was just 16 when she died of an accidental overdose due to a lethal combination of the pain reliever fentanyl and the anti-anxiety medication xanax. It was June 20, 2011 and her Mom, Shannon, was the first one on the scene. When Kaitlyn was pronounced brain dead upon arriving at the hospital, Shannon had to make some fast decisions. One June 24th Kaitlyn's vital organs were harvested for donation. 

At the 5th Annual Lap4Life at Chadwick Lake Park last month, 16-year-old Briana Barker from Washingtonville got to meet the fast-acting Mom and thank her for saving her life. Thanks to Shannon, Briana was the recipient of her young teenager's heart. Shannon Rouse and her family flew up from North Carolina to meet Briana for the first time at Lap4Life.

The meeting held a certain familiarity for Shannon who became joyful at meeting Brianna. She described the encounter as "seeing someone you haven't seen in a long time." Briana has picked up some interesting character traits that Shannon was able to confirm are reminiscent of her daughter. Briana's eye color has even morphed into Kaitlyn's. 

Left Shannon, Briana, Briana's Mom and Maddalena

Maddalena Casabianca Reade is the event organizer at Lap4Life. The annual event is held in memory of her brother, Dr. Angelo Casabianca, to help raise money and awareness for Desmoid Tumors and Organ Transplant Research. Eleven years ago, at the age of 30, doctors found a Desmoid tumor in Dr. Casabianca's abdomen. The tumors are rate, but aggressive, affecting one in every 2-4 million people.  They can cause destruction to vital structures and organs. Little is known about their cause, treatment and prognosis. 

Over the past five years, Angelo’s legacy and giving spirit has continued on, each year bringing together an increasing number of survivors and families to celebrate life and promote awareness and support for Desmoid Tumors and Organ Donation.  This year participants bore witness to two families who were united by the gift of life, the very cause that the charity supports.   

Trophies were awarded to the top 3 male and female runners and the overall male and female walker.  But truly the winners were the visitors at Chadwick Lake that day who bore witness to living proof of generous kindness of strangers. 

Lap4Life is an incredibly well-attended fundraiser event that begins with a four mile lap around Newburgh’s scenic Chadwick Lake Park.  Participants of leisure can also enjoy a walk around the lake following the run, and a kids 1/4 mile fun-run begins following an early afternoon awards ceremony. All of the proceeds raised benefit the Desmoid Tumor Research Foundation and the New York Organ Donor Network.  

The Casabianca-Reade family gathers around a photo of Angelo

Maddelana wrote, "There is a desperate need for continued research both into the biology and treatment of Desmoid Tumors.  As well, Organ Donation needs not only more research to find new ways to improve outcomes for recipients, but also, greatly needs more awareness for potential donors, especially in Orange County NY."

Kaitlyn's mom Shannon now tours the country speaking out about the dangers of abusing prescription medications through her non-profit P.E.A.C.E. - Prescription Education Abuse Counseling Empowerment.

For more information please visit www.lap4life.org.