thought this was nice :) happy Sunday everyone, im stuck inside studying instead of enjoying this beautiful Florida skydive weather
Sacramento man, 69, honors his heart donor with birthday skydive
By Niesha Lofing
Published: Saturday, Apr. 18, 2009 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
It was Bob Jennings' first time sky-diving, but it was his heart's 101st.
Jennings, 69, is a heart transplant recipient. On Friday, the jovial Sacramento grandfather jumped from a perfectly good plane in celebration of his birthday and in honor of the 22-year-old woman, an avid sky diver, whose organ donation upon her death saved his life.
"I was trying to think of something out of character for me to do for my 70th birthday," said Jennings, whose birthday is Sunday. "I came up with sky diving. … It seems appropriate in remembrance of what Elizabeth gave me."
In 1995, Jennings was diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy, a virus that weakens the heart. After being in and out of the hospital for months, he had only a few weeks to live when he received Elizabeth Polyniak's heart on May 16, 1996.
Polyniak was on her way home to San Jose on Mother's Day from a sky dive when she was in a fatal car crash.
She worked at a sky-diving business in Hollister. Her last sky dive was her 100th, said her mother, Kris Elliot.
"She just loved it," said Elliot, who watched Jennings jump Friday. "She did it with her whole heart."
Polyniak had signed up to be an organ donor when she was 21 and told her family to donate her organs should something happen to her. Her death resulted in five organ transplants and other tissue donations.
"Elizabeth came along just at the right time for Bob," Elliot said.
April is Donate Life California month, intended to raise awareness of organ donation. The Donate Life California Organ and Tissue Donor Registry has signed up more than 4.6 million Californians through the Department of Motor Vehicles and on its Web site since its April 2005 launch, said Tracy Bryan, a spokeswoman for Golden State Donor Services.
Jennings is a two-time transplant recipient – he received a kidney transplant in 2001 because of complications from anti-rejection medication.
Jennings credits his new heart with many things, like renewed health and still being able to work full time as a financial planner. But most of all, he gets to enjoy his family.
His six grandchildren – siblings Kyle Jennings, 11, Samantha Jennings, 6, and Mickenzie Jennings, 3; and siblings Kate Jennings, 7 and 4-year-old twins Rachel and Erik Jennings – were born after his heart transplant.
"Without that transplant, I would never have seen any of them," he said.
All six children crowded into the hallway of the hangar at SkyDance Skydiving in Davis on Friday to watch as their "Pop Pop" donned a blue jumpsuit, cap and gear.
Mickenzie and Samantha agreed that their grandfather was brave, but neither wanted to follow him skyward.
"No, I don't want to because it's dangerous," Mickenzie said.
The kids wished him happy birthday as he dangled hundreds of feet above the ground, his red-and-white parachute dancing in the afternoon breeze.
"What a thrill!" Jennings said after he and his tandem instructor landed.
When asked if he was scared, Jennings shook his head no.
"Your fear goes away," he said of the moment after he jumped from the plane. "Well, remember that it's my first time, but that heart has been through it a hundred times before."