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Heather's Story

The Heather Trew Foundation is a living memorial to a young woman whose medical battles throughout her life never dampened her spirit. As a teenager, she spoke passionately about organ, eye and tissue donation. Heather fervently believed that anyone who needed an organ transplant should have the opportunity to receive one. Following Heather's death in 2007, the Trew Family created the Heather Trew Foundation for Organ, Eye and Tissue Donation, embracing their daughters dream to give others a second chance at life." 

The healthy, 8 lb, 10 oz girl born to Judy and Dwight Trew in June 1987 touched the lives of everyone she met. Full of energy, artistry and athleticism, Heather enjoyed every day of her young life. Yet, a seemingly simple, undercooked hamburger thrust her and her family into a medical battle that lasted more than a decade, challenging medicine, strengthening their faith, and leading them on a quest no one would have ever envisioned.


At age 7, Heather developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, or HUS, a life-threatening complication of E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria that she had unknowingly ingested while tasting an undercooked hamburger at a church picnic. She became very ill, and after developing renal failure, Heather was transferred to The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Children’s Hospital. Her brain function slowed to a mere 30%, creating fear of a stroke. Heather developed pneumonia and her condition deteriorated. Through the tremendous efforts of the medical team, Heather survived and returned home two months later with a home dialysis machine. She eventually recovered enough kidney function to be weaned off dialysis and returned to school. She required careful monitoring. MUSC and her dedicated medical team became her new home away from home.


Although in chronic renal failure, Heather worked hard to maintain the typical life of a preteen. Singing, art, ballet, church, modeling and friends filled her days. Her spirit always determined, she grew stronger and her peers knew little of her daily struggles. By age 12, as expected, Heather’s kidneys weakened to the point of failure. She needed a transplant, and unfortunately, neither of her parents qualified as a donor. However, her aunt, Christina Perkins, was a match and donated one of her kidneys to her niece. While the new kidney worked well, Heather’s recovery was complicated by an anaphylactic reaction that unleashed a rejection episode. Again, the entire medical team worked diligently to stabilize her. Heather experienced numerous rejections but with careful monitoring, she was able to return to her activities.


“Love of music, especially singing, started when Heather was quite young,” recalled her mother Judy. “It was one of the things in her life that always brought her joy and excitement about the future. She seized every opportunity she was offered to sing in public and dreamed of a day when she would sing to inspire and help others. During her teenage years she surrounded herself with music: listening, preparing and performing it compelled her to move forward. Convinced that all individuals who need a transplant should receive one, Heather planned to use her musical talents to help the cause of organ donation.”

But it was not to be. Over time, Heather developed osteoporosis from years in renal failure and taking immunosuppressive drugs. At 17, she suffered a broken back during a cheerleading competition and lived with chronic pain. Her physical activities now limited, she turned to jewelry design using Swarovski crystals she discovered during a family trip to Switzerland several years earlier. Her Guardian Angel bracelet, her signature piece, became hugely popular with her many friends. In 2007, Heather faced another rejection of her kidney, and later developed hemorrhagic pancreatitis. Heather died shortly before her 20th birthday.The importance of organ donation resonated with Heather throughout her young life. She passionately spoke about need for people to register as donors and discuss their intentions with family and friends. Embracing her wishes, Heather’s family established The Heather Trew Foundation for Organ Donation and Research.

Judy Trew, Tells Heather's Story

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