Gamma Phi Alum Stahl competes in Transplant Games
Deborah Stahl ’77 lives everyday to the fullest, seeing each moment as a gift to be thankful for. She owns her own business and has been published in “Chicken Soup for the Working Women’s Soul.” None of those experiences would have been possible if it weren’t for a kidney transplant 25 years ago.When Stahl was 10 years old, she was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. Her diagnosis did not stop her from leading an amazing life, including participating in the Gamma Phi Circus at Illinois State University from 1974-1977, and on the women’s gymnastics team. In the circus, she competed in adagio, balance beam, uneven parallel bars, juggling and teeter board.Stahl is grateful for the transplant she received and knows that her life would have been totally different without it. In order to show others how important being an organ donor is, Stahl speaks at many conventions and tells the story of her family, a unique story because her brother also received a kidney transplant. Stahl said she hopes everyone will consider being an organ donor, and she will answer their questions and address their fears so they can make an informed decision.Because Stahl received her transplant, she was able to lead an ordinary life, going to college and having a child. Some of her best memories occurred at Illinois State University where she made enduring friendships in the Gamma Phi Circus, the gymnastics teams and in Hewett Hall.“The bond the ten of us made back then has stayed strong through births, deaths, marriages, divorces, happys and sads,” said Stahl. “We’ve met at each other’s homes, hotel getaways and even in Cocoa Beach for a week in the sun.”Stahl feels fortunate to be a parent to her biological son, Kevin, and her adopted daughters Eva and Simone as well as a foster parent to nine children over the past several years. She has continued her competitive endeavors in the Transplant Games, a competition for transplant recipients that is modeled after the Olympics. In a recent Transplant Game, Stahl placed second in the 50-meter freestyle in swimming.Stahl majored in parks and recreation administration with an emphasis on special populations at Illinois State. She has worked in a nursing home, residential treatment facility for disturbed youths, at Special Recreation Associations and now as an independent living counselor. Stahl also took over her grandfather’s business, Aiuppy Feed Store, after he passed away. She feels that her college major and her experience at Illinois State prepared her well for the career path she has taken. She learned the “people skills” she needed to work in the feed store as well as job-specific skills from her major.Stahl acknowledges that she received a second chance at life with her kidney transplant. “When you’re on dialysis, you are alive, but you’re not really living,” she said. “Now I’m LIVING! I don’t like to waste any time, and I always want to experience new things.” She said she has an appreciation for life and cherishes many things that most take for granted. Stahl said the Transplant Games are a venue where recipients can personally thank donor families, perhaps not their own donors, but those who have provided Stahl and others like her that second chance to succeed and be happy.