Back out on the Playing Field

Jan 13, 2016

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by Cecily Kiss

Ellery Howarth is an 18-year-old freshmen at Brigham Young University. She is studying to become an anesthesiologist, and hopes to be a mother someday. When she got her driver’s license almost three years ago she checked yes to organ donation. She knew that her religion supported organ donation, and when she asked her mom, Holly Howarth, about donation she said, “why not? If you’re dead you’re not using them anyway.” She didn’t know that three years later she would receive a life changing tissue donation.

Howarth tore her meniscus in June of 2012. A torn meniscus is a common injury in which forceful twisting causes certain tissue in the knee to tear. She was playing soccer when she tore her meniscus. Howarth has played soccer since she was 4-years-old. At the time of her injury Howarth played on Skyline High School’s girls’ soccer team, and on the all-girls competitive soccer team “Avalanche.” Howarth played the position of Striker for Skyline High. Howarth also played basketball for three years before she tore her meniscus. She played in Junior High, and she also played on the Skyline girls’ basketball team. Playing sports was her life.

After her injury, simple things like walking to class, getting up and down stairs, and exercising were painful. Her doctor told her she would probably never be able to play sports again. “It was the end of my world. I was planning on playing soccer in college. Soccer was my identity, and then one day it wasn’t anymore,” Howarth stated.

Last year Howarth’s doctor told her that she needed a tissue transplant. She had undergone four surgeries on her knee since her injury, but her meniscus was still deteriorating. Howarth learned that she would be receiving tissue from a deceased donor. Howarth said, “I didn’t know much about tissue donation before my surgery, I didn’t know that they could give me someone else’s tissues. It’s kind of cool. Part of me is sad because someone young and healthy passed away. I am so sorry for the family’s loss, but I am grateful also, because of this transplant I am able to lead a normal life and be healthier.”

On November 9th, Ellery underwent a meniscal transplant surgery. The surgery took five hours. Luckily, Howarth has had the support of her entire family during her four week recovery. She has been staying at her parents’ house in Holladay, Utah, since her surgery. Spencer Howarth, Ellery’s older brother, said, “It’s been so hard to see Elle go through so much pain due to her torn meniscus, she loved playing sports and she was really good too. She has been really brave throughout the entire process. I’m so grateful she was able to have this transplant surgery. I can’t wait until we can go snowboarding together and do active things as a family again.”

Howarth most likely won’t be able to compete in sports again, but thanks to her tissue transplant she will be able to be active again. “When I signed up to be an organ donor when I was 16-years-old I never really thought about tissue donation, but tissue donation is going to change my life significantly. I can’t wait for that moment I can walk around and not be in pain. I can’t wait to snowboard again, and I’m really looking forward to being able to run,” Howarth said, “this injury and transplant have taught me that I’m more than what I do, and I can get through hard things. Life doesn’t always go as planned, but I have learned to adapt.”


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