Photos of Denver girl inspiring organ donation around the world

DENVER -- One Colorado family is sharing their hard journey with hopes it could save another child’s life.  

A newborn going into heart failure at just two weeks old is a horrifying thought for any parent.

That was more than a thought for Juniper Gelrod’s parents as she had to be connected to a Berlin heart machine just days after she was born.

“It was a pump that actually went into her heart and came out of her stomach and was plugged into a 200-pound driver that pumped her heart for her,” explained Juniper’s mom, Joni Schrantz.

Juniper lived connected to the machine with 50/50 odds of surviving as she waited for a new heart.

As a way of dealing with the stress and pressure of the ordeal, Juniper’s photographer mom picked up her camera and posted pictures to social media.

“Just to sort of allow others to wait with us and see what it’s like to wait for an organ,” said Schrantz.

After six months of waiting, a new heart was found. Another family’s loss meant life for Juniper.

“It’s a very humbling experience to be waiting for something like that, so that your child can live. There’s a lot of guilt associated with it,” said Schrantz.

Juniper’s story is not only connecting her family to others going through the same thing, but it’s grown into something more.

Schrantz was asked to curate a National Geographic project inspired by journeys like Juniper's, and it's filled with photos that represent powerful life changing moments.

It’s a part of National Geographic’s 800,000 member online community of photographers called “Your Shot.”

“We’ve learned a lot of making the best of things and trying to stay optimistic and showing her what to appreciate about life,” said Schrantz.

The project was highlighted during April for Organ Donation Month, and in that time, more than 700 people have signed up for the organ donation registry through the project.  

Juniper is now 3 years old and doing great. She has no heart problems, but she does have to take medication and get frequent checkups.

Her mom hopes Juniper’s story will inspire you to sign up for organ donation because one life can save eight others. 

You can sign up online by visiting Donate Life Colorado’s website.


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