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Norcross liver recipient mentors, honors transplant champions

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips<br> Gwinnett grad Amy Tippins had a liver transplant when she was 17. Since then, she has been very active in the transplant community and recently started a T-shirt/apparel venture called RockScar Love. The shirts are made primarily for people who have undergone transplants, with messages unique to those that have them.

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips
Gwinnett grad Amy Tippins had a liver transplant when she was 17. Since then, she has been very active in the transplant community and recently started a T-shirt/apparel venture called RockScar Love. The shirts are made primarily for people who have undergone transplants, with messages unique to those that have them.

Amy Tippins was hemorrhaging and near death when the death of a stranger saved her life.

The Norcross resident and Providence Christian Academy grad had been sick for five years before she was diagnosed with multiple hepatic adenomas and was hemorrhaging from the tumors that had taken over her liver when, at just 17, she received a life-saving liver from an organ donor.

At a glance

Items in Norcross resident Amy Tippins’ line of sportswear designed to specifically honor transplant patients and their families and friends are available through the company website at www.rockscarlove.com.

It’s a gift, a second chance to live, that Tippins never takes for granted, so much so that over the past two years, the 35-year-old has gone through a process of discovering her passion and purpose in life.

While that sentiment could sound cliche when spoken by some people, Tippins is serious about living a life worthy of the second chance she received when that stranger’s family chose to donate his organs in the hope others could live.

Since her transplant at 17, she has remained active within the transplant community, mentoring others who are facing the same experiences she overcame and speaking publicly about organ donation. But in March, after almost two years of soul-searching and a decade-long career in financial services, Tippins decided to blaze her own trail, one that led to the creation of RockScar Love, a line of sportswear she designed to specifically honor who she calls transplant champions — those who have survived transplant surgeries — and the people who love them.

Tippins has teamed up with 24-year-old Lilburn native Kelley Shaw, a fellow liver transplant patient who works for a company that designs T-shirts, to create the look of each of the slogans.

The shirts bear slogans such as “Love me. Love my scar.” and “Transplant kid. Tougher isn’t possible.”

Other slogans range from inspirational — “Choosing to defy the preconceived limits of our minds, body & hearts” — to comical — “Organ recipient: Like new but more expensive” — and a handful are meant to inspire organ donation.

“I like things that inspire and there’s a lot of stuff out there that I feel is good for transplant and good for organ donation, unfortunately I don’t think it inspires questions,” Tippins said. “(My slogans are) vague enough sometimes to get people to ask questions. When you see a shirt that I feel is just a straight statement and it doesn’t leave something open to questions or interpretation, then you miss the chance to tell your story. I wanted to create something that allows you to tell your story.”

RockScar Love, with its inspiring and sometimes comical slogans, is a step in the direction Tippins is taking in following her purpose.

“The apparel line is my platform, what I want to build as my platform, but my message is more my purpose and my message is patients need to be stepping up to the plate,” she said.

That plate to which she refers is simply life — Tippins wants to see transplant champions rise above their situations and medical circumstances to live the most normal lives possible.

“There’s patients who have fears they can never go out in the sun again because we have a higher risk for skin cancer,” she said. “The reality is we can, we just have to take extra precautions. Patients can have extremely normal lives. They can work — at one time I was working 40 hours, 45 hours a week and going to school full time and keeping a home and had a boyfriend. That’s as normal as you get.”

Tippins said that while she sees many transplant patients thrive after their surgeries, some aren’t so readily motivated. Some can’t even remember what a normal life was like.

“I see patients sometimes who start to live in a place of fear or they use it as an excuse of why they can’t, why they can’t work out, why they can’t go back to work, why they can’t go on vacation,” she said. “It almost frustrates me and angers me as a patient because being a patient can be very hard and there’s really rough days sometimes but you have a responsibility. Nobody died for you but because of somebody’s death, in most cases, you got a new life and there’s a family out there who mourns that person. And they made a very unselfish gift in a very hard time of their life to give you a second opportunity and you have a responsibility to that family to not make them regret their choice. You have a responsibility to make them very proud.”

RockScar Love is one of Tippins’ steps in truly living up to that responsibility herself.

“I think this is kind of the starting ground of what I’m supposed to do with my life,” she said.