Person Of The Year 2014: Maureen Tracy

By on December 24, 2014
Maureen Tracy, MyVeronaNJ.com's 2014 Person of the Year, with Mario Teixeira, who received her kidney donation.

Maureen Tracy, MyVeronaNJ.com’s 2014 Person of the Year, with Mario Teixeira, who received her kidney donation.

Maureen Tracy wants you to know that she is not a saint. She is not a hero. She simply did something that she was called to do. Something that many other people, in Verona and beyond, could do if only they understood it better.

What did she do? In 2014, Maureen Tracy, a full-time working single mom of three, donated a kidney that saved a life. For that selfless act, the readers of MyVeronaNJ.com picked her to be our first Person of the Year award winner.

As MyVeronaNJ.com entered its sixth year of publication, we decided it was time to recognize some of the people whose spirit of community service makes Verona the town that it is. We went back through the stories we had published in 2014 and asked readers to choose from among five candidates: Steve Forte, for organizing the public school referendum; Lucas Freschi, for getting more youth into environmentalism; Maureen Milmoe, for her fundraising for breast cancer; Brett D’Alessandro and Kevin Clarke, for helping homeless veterans; and Maureen Tracy. Tracy finished only a handful of votes ahead of D’Alessandro and Clarke.

“All the stories are so amazing,” says Tracy. “Each was about how they took something that happened to them in their lives and turned it around.”

MyVeronaNJ.com brought you some of Tracy’s story back in August, but there is much more to know. Beginning with the fact that, ever since one of her children recovered from a serious accident, she had been looking for a way to “repay the miracle”. She found it on a Jersey beach late in the summer of 2013 when a distant cousin by marriage told her that she had tried, unsuccessfully, to donate a kidney to her husband, who suffered from kidney disease. “Hmmm, I wonder if I could,” Tracy recalls thinking. It stayed only a thought until the Christmas holidays, when Tracy decided to learn more about being an organ donor.

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For most of us, “organ donor” is that box that we check on our drivers license application, something to be done only in a distant future. But roughly 6,000 people each year in the United States are “living donors”: people who donate a kidney, or tissue or part of their liver and go back to their daily lives. Living donors can make for a more successful transplant. Statistics show that 92% of patients who received a kidney from a living donor were still alive five years after their operation, compared with 83.4% of those who got a kidney from someone who had passed away. The United Network for Organ Sharing says that more than 123,000 Americans are waiting for some sort of donation right now.

OrganDonationFactsBecoming a living donor isn’t as hard as you might think. Tracy, who runs in her spare time, went through a few physical and psychological tests to make sure that she was healthy enough to be a donor. She said nothing to her cousin’s family, waiting to make sure that she was a good match. After a final blood test at Saint Barnabas showed that she was a near perfect match, she made the call to Josette Teixeira and her husband Mario, who would be receiving the kidney. “I told them, and Mario couldn’t even speak,” Tracy says. “They know me and they know my personality, but they were shocked.”

Tracy grew up in Verona as Tracy McFarlane in a family of nine sisters and two brothers and graduated Verona High School with the class of 1987. One of her children is now a sophomore in college, another is in Verona High School and the youngest is at H.B. Whitehorne.

Her children were top of mind as she made the decision to donate. “At first, they were scared,” she says of their reaction. “If it was ever going to interfere with my family I couldn’t do it.” Then a teacher, she made plans to have the donation surgery done during spring break. (The transplant recipient’s health insurance usually covers the cost of a transplant. A donor does not pay for a donation, or get compensation for it.)

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And then life, in its inimitable way, threw a monkey wrench. Tracy was called to interview for a new job that she knew would be a perfect fit for her skills. So perfect, that she knew that she would have to postpone the surgery to accept it. But there was a glitch in the hiring process and so Tracy was able to donate the kidney, go back to teaching after an eight-day break and, three weeks later, start a new job. “It was a little tricky”, she admits now. “I look at that as a blessing too. When I decided to donate a kidney, things changed. Everything fell into place.” She resumed running too and competed in the UNICO Labor Day 5K in Verona Park this past September.

Josette Teixeira remains in awe of it all. “For us, Maureen is the person of the year, actually, the century,” she says. “What she did for my husband is beyond selfless and we could never do enough for her. She has become a part of our family.”

To learn more about becoming a living donor, contact the NJ Sharing NetworkUnited Network for Organ Sharing or OrganDonor.gov. Six New Jersey families will participate in this year’s Rose Bowl Parade to honor donors and transplant recipients.

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