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Jesse Pagel presenting a check to Versiti Blood Center of Wisconsin to support Organ Donation

Jesse Pagels

Marrow Donation, Organ & Tissue, Recipient, Treatment

An avid runner and trumpet player, Jesse was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in 2003. After undergoing chemotherapy, radiation and a bone marrow transplant, he was cured. Unfortunately, the treatment damaged his lungs. Not only could he not run or play trumpet, he needed new lungs to survive. In 2013, a match was found and Jesse underwent a life-saving double lung transplant.

Looking for a way to give back – and reconnect with his passion for running – Jesse founded the non-profit Cream City 5K. Each year, the event not only donates its proceeds to Versiti, but is also brings awareness to the gifts of life that organ donors and families provide to Jesse and other patients in need.

Our partnership with Versiti is important, because they are on the frontlines of organ, tissue and eye donation,” says Jesse. “I received this incredible gift, and through this event, I’d like to help other people.”


In 2003, Jesse Pagels, a professional trumpet player and runner, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. After undergoing chemotherapy, radiation, and a bone marrow transplant he was cured of the Leukemia. Unfortunately, the Leukemia treatment had an unintended consequence. In late 2004, Jesse began developing pulmonary fibrosis in his lungs. By 2006 he could no longer play the trumpet or run, and as the years passed, his condition grew worse. Daily tasks grew increasingly difficult. Eventually, his lung function decreased to the point where he needed to use supplemental oxygen 24 hours a day, and in 2012 he was placed on a lung transplant list. Thankfully, in August 2013 Jesse received a call from his transplant center that they had a matching set of lungs for him an he received a double lung transplant. Because of this gift of life Jesse is once again a runner and trumpet player.

In October of 2015, Jesse founded the non-profit Cream City 5K as a way to raise awareness and support organ, eye, and tissue donation. Proceeds from the Cream City 5K will be donated to Versiti Organ and Tissue, a federally designated organ procurement organization supporting the transplant community in eastern Wisconsin. as well as other organizations that support organ donation throughout Wisconsin.

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