Most young couples experience unbridled joy when they learn they are about to become parents for the first time.
Mark and Ivy Rhymes felt that joy back in June 2002, when, after four years of marriage, they learned they would be the parents of twin girls, Maya and Marley. However, their exuberance was tempered because that same day they also learned that Mark would require a second heart transplant.
“That was the best day and the worst day,” Ivy recalled. “He was in for his annual exam, routine testing, and they found out that his heart was not working as it should.”
One month later, Mark, a Southwest Philadelphia native who had his first hearth transplant in 1992, underwent a second heart transplant. The twins were born six months later, and Mark lived for five more years before he died in July 2008, leaving Ivy to raise their daughters on her own.
As a means of coping with her grief, Rhymes, now 47 and living in Coatesville, began running in 2012. She started with a 5K, and eventually worked her way up to a marathon in 2014.
This Sunday, Rhymes will be one of an expected 10,000 participants in the 24th annual Donor Dash sponsored by Gift of Life Donor Program. There are three different races — a 5K and 10K runs and a 3K walk — beginning at 7:10 a.m. Sunday from the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
While it is not a popular subject, organ donations and transplants play a huge role in the African-American community, according to Gift of Life Donor Program Vice President of Clinical Services Richard Hasz. Gift of Life Donor Program is a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that facilitates organ and tissue donations.
“This is extremely important in the African-American community,” Hasz said. “People should look at this as an opportunity to help their community and neighbors. It’s so important that you sign up to be an organ donor.”
Due to high incidences of hypertension and diabetes, African Americans are disproportionately represented on the waiting list for organs, both nationally and locally.
Gift of Life’s eastern region, which includes eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware, has 11.1 million residents. African Americans make up approximately 13 percent of region’s population. However, they make up 43 percent of those waiting for a kidney transplant (1,873 of 4,359) and 39 percent of those awaiting a heart transplant (34 of 98).
This marks the sixth time Ivy has participated in the Donor Dash. Both of her husband’s transplants were facilitated by Gift of Life.
After Mark died, Ivy donated both of his corneas, hoping that they might help someone in need of help seeing.
“I wanted to help someone just like someone helped us. And he (Mark) would have wanted that,” Ivy said. “The heart transplants allowed him to see the birth of our twin daughters. So it is only fitting that we donated to help someone — to give back what we were given.