Our next “fall down seven times, rise up eight” inspiring story comes to us from Jim Stavis. Stricken with life- threatening illness, Jim not only became successful in business as an entrepreneur, but more recently became a sought after author and speaker who motivates others to never give up, through telling his story of overcoming diabetes through a triple organ transplant over a decade ago.
Today Jim is still going strong and inspiring people worldwide with story of overcoming adversity. Here is Jim’s story in his own words…
When Hope Is Your Only Option
By Jim Stavis
When I was 17 years old, I was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes (Type 1). At that time back in 1971, diabetes was not as common as it is today. It has grown five-fold globally since that time.
Back then, I was given a very gloomy health forecast, which included a life filled with kidney and heart disease, blindness and amputations.
I was told I would be lucky to see my 50th birthday. Plus, I would need to take insulin shots daily and be on a very strict diet for the rest of my life. All of this was a lot to digest as a teenager. But, I had a choice.
I could view this information as somewhat of a death sentence that would ruin my life or I could use it as a motivator to get my life on a track to fulfill all of my dreams and ambitions. I chose that option.
As my life unfolded, I’m not going to sugar coat it—diabetes was a bitch for me to contend with. It affected virtually every area within my life, but I never allowed it to define my life.
I went to college, started a business at a young age and ultimately built a successful steel distribution company that is now 30 years old and counting.
I got married and raised three successful children, who all are not diabetics, thankfully. I’m still married today, which is for 37 years, and my wife has been through quite a lot with my health odyssey.
In spite of the diabetes and the dreary forecast, I never used the disease as an excuse to prevent me from attaining my goals. I could not deny its existence, but I would not be the person I am if it were not for having to overcome the adversity.
Ultimately, it was medical technology that would save my life and alter the forecast I had been given. In 2005, as I was turning 50 (my predicted expiration date), with a failing heart and kidneys, I was listed for the transplant of a heart, kidney and pancreas, to also eliminate the diabetes.
A triple organ transplant had never been attempted anywhere, or at any time is what I had been told by Cedars Sinai. But, I knew this was my destiny. I knew that my entire life and the disease I had fought was a prelude to this rare transplant surgery.
I jumped at the chance to be given a second chance at life with these donated gifts. I would be the chosen one. The call came in November of 2005 when a 17-year-old boy in Lompoc, California, had died in a car accident.
Since then, I have become close with my donor family, which is rare, and we have a very special bond. Two years ago, I rode along with them on the Pasadena Rose Parade float for Donate Life, a day I shall never forget.
Now, 12 years since my transplant, I have dedicated my life to the cause which gave me life, organ donation. The process is one that saves lives, but there is still a shortage of organs.
Currently, there are more than 120,000 people waiting on lists for life-saving organs across the country. Somehow, I miraculously received three of them and I am no longer a diabetic.
For the majority of my life, I lived with diabetes, watching my diet, monitoring my blood sugar levels and having to contend with the constant fears that diabetics must endure. One day we hopefully will find that cure. We are getting closer.
My story is one of great perspective and gratitude. The reality of getting a disease as a teenager gave me a great understanding of what it meant to be “not normal” as I set out in life.
I was able to use it to my advantage to motivate me and figure my life out sooner than might have been the case had I not had the disease.
It also gave me an understanding of what it took to overcome adversity. I understood how important a strong belief system and attitude are in achieving success.
In my book, When Hope Is Your Only Option, I dive into all of this. I explore the concepts of destiny, luck and circumstance, how to find your source of hope, and what you need to do when things still go wrong.
This book is a not just a transplant story. If it were, it would have limited benefit to the reader, as most will never be confronted with a transplant.
But it is a story of how to find hope, in spite of adversity and then gain gratitude in knowing you can triumph in spite of the odds against you.
I’ve broken it down to three fundamental concepts: Endure, Hope and Prevail. First, you must endure the hardship, then find your hope and belief system and then ultimately bask in the glory of overcoming it all.
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