Growing the Transplant Family

Brother Tom Pentony, Richmond-Solomon Lodge No. 3, Philadelphia, was introduced to Brother Bill Soloway, Executive Director of the Masonic Blood+Organ Donor Program, in January 2022. Four months later, Tom underwent a life-saving liver transplant.

“I had been working to get on the transplant list,” Tom said.

“Once you get on the list, you’re still in limbo. You don’t know when or if you’ll get a liver. My wife and I had been going through this process for two years, and we needed help. You can’t do it alone. Bill made sure we were going in the right direction and doing the right things.”

That support did not stop once Tom’s transplant finally came to fruition. More than 16 months later, Tom and Bill still check in with each other regularly as part of the program. Bill advocates for and accompanies individuals to their doctor’s appointments and checkups both pre- and post-transplant. Bill received his own heart transplant in 2015 and is a member of Frankford-Brown Lodge No. 751, also in Philadelphia.

“The transplant is a treatment; it’s not a cure,” Bill said. “Even though patients can resume normal life, they’re still on immunosuppressant medications and get checkups every six months. I’m always available if they need to talk or an issue comes up and they need guidance. Whenever I’m in the area where they live, we make it a point to get together for a meal. We consider ourselves extended family.”

After healing from his transplant, Tom was eager to pay it forward and help others. Bill got him involved with organ donor support groups and charities, including the Transplant Recipients International Organization (TRIO) Philadelphia, of which Bill is President, and the Gift of Life Donor Dash. Tom and his brothers also support the Gift of Life’s Howie’s House in Philadelphia, which provides lodging and support services for family members of patients awaiting organ transplants in Philadelphia hospitals. A home cooked meal is provided every day by a civic organization, including local Masonic lodges.

Bill introduced Tom to Brother Elmer James “Jim” Hauss, Mitchell Lodge No. 81, Philadelphia, on Jan. 23, 2023. The two quickly bonded. Jim had been waiting for a liver for a year and a half. He couldn’t work, he owed rent and was in bad shape both physically and emotionally. To assist with his medical bills, Bill and Jim spearheaded a fundraiser for Jim at a local bar, raising $4,000. Jim received a new liver about six months later.

“It was important for me to help him [Jim] through the process because I knew what he was going through, as I’d been through it.” Tom said. “I tried to help him out, show him what to eat and how to manage his symptoms to lead a better life.”

Today, Jim is grateful for his second chance at life. He has a bright new outlook, thanks to the support from Bill, Tom and the Masonic fraternity as a whole.

“The biggest thing for me … I’m not an open person,” Jim said. “I didn’t even tell my family what was happening to me. Everything was new to me. Tom is the funniest guy in the world. When I was in the hospital, he was right there with me through my surgery. Bill and Tom have been with me through everything. What they did for me, I can’t wait to do for someone else. That’s how the journey works. It doesn’t stop just because you get a liver. It goes on and on.”

The Masonic Blood+Organ Donor Program has helped over 60 Masons or their family members in need of a lifesaving transplant. For more information on how you can join the program or how you and/or your lodge can help, visit MasonicBloodandOrganDonors.org or call 215-988-1958.

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