Stacey would have been 51 years old today

by Denise Wirth, Stacey’s sister

Stacey would have been 51 years old today.

She was born in Taiwan, and was adopted by two North American school teachers who were working in Guam. She became a U.S. citizen when she was in preschool, while living in Hawaii with her parents and sister. The family camped and traveled often, which fostered Stacey’s love of nature.

Political activism and civil rights were at the forefront of her upbringing. She campaigned to become the first girl on the boys’ soccer team in high school, and throughout her life loved athletics and the joy of competition. She became a political activist in college, and a leader in multicultural and LGBTQ+ communities.

Most people know her from her time as a rock climbing coach, a personal trainer, or through soccer, cycling, gymnastics, Scrabble, her fantastic Climb-a-thon, or badminton. She tried every sport with gusto, but she excelled at and found her calling in rock climbing.

Stacey climbing at Cragmont (Berkeley, California), on October 8, 2006.

Many other people knew Stacey as the devoted part-time mom to Timon the dog. Throughout all her adventures she reminded us all to set goals, set goals, set goals (!!!) and to keep pushing ourselves to do our best with a smile.

Stacey with Timon.

Stacey fought hard with her lung disease, LAM, before receiving a lung transplant in 2004 and making the most of her gift of life. She was blessed once with this gift that extended her life almost 14 years, but she passed away after waiting in vain for over three years for a second double lung transplant.

Laura, Stacey, Denise, fountain at Stanford Medical Center
Stacey with her mom Laura (left) and sister Denise (right) at the Stanford Medical Center on September 19, 2017.

Naturally, she chose to donate her tissues so others could benefit. Stacey was able to donate her corneas, heart valves, lower extremity bones, and skin tissue, and this will help at least eight people to live better lives. Her corneas will offer the gift of sight to two fortunate recipients who will now see life kindly through her eyes.

Stacey was an athlete, a political activist, and an inspiration to everyone she met. She is survived by so many friends everywhere – in the rock climbing community, the transplant games community, her Bryn Mawr sisterhood, her Oshkosh North High School friends, her network of athletes, her circle of transplant recipients, the many friends and volunteers from everywhere who supported her with donations of time and money and hot meals, and the homeless street people whom she always acknowledged with generosity and compassion. Her family, mother, sister, nieces, brother-in-law, aunts, cousins. . .grieve. We miss her every minute of every day, and her laughter is still in our ears.

Stacey with her mom Laura.

In celebration of her life and to honor her values of freedom, justice, and equality, the family asks that donations be made to the ACLU in Stacey Li Collver’s name: or search for ‘ACLU Memorial Gifts’.

Thank you all so much for being on this journey with Stacey. In her memory, ‘Climb Your Dreams’.

Remembering Stacey

by Alyssa U., friend of Stacey

My dearest Stacey… the world lost a bright light yesterday as you took your last breath. You came into our lives after your double lung transplant, a gift from another family who, despite losing a loved one, shared their own beloved family member to help give life to others. This selfless gift gave you an incredible 13.5 years of life, a life which you lived fully and filled with love, compassion, friendship, warmth, optimism, hope, and laughter.

Alyssa with Stacey. June 17, 2018

You showed incredible optimism and hope in the face of long odds, and grace and composure when it was clear those odds were not to be beaten. You are our family, and I’m honored and privileged that you’ve included us as a part of your journey since we met you, and especially grateful that you and your mom Laura and sister Denise allowed me and B to be with you during your transition over the last week and a half. And even in death, you continue to be selfless and generous, donating your own body so your skin, corneas, bone, and heart valves can help others.

I’m grateful for the friendship we’ve shared over the last 12 years. We met at the climbing gym, not too long after I joined. You taught me how to climb, how to hope, and how to laugh even when things were looking down.

I remember the first time you took me climbing outdoors at Cragmont Park, and how absolutely terrified I was of my inevitable fall and the pendulum swing, but how your encouragement and support turned it from something terrifying into a giggle-fest. You always had great beta for me (“Remember to use your legs”), and sometimes hilarious but not useful beta (“Tommy Caldwell only has 9 fingers!”).

Stacey climbing at Cragmont (Berkeley, California) in 2006.

You were the friend I could go to with a joke, the friend who would laugh riotously, even when my joke was corny and not very funny. We shared a lot of those giggles — over my bad jokes, and over whatever funny thing was happening in our lives. Sometimes over not-funny things happening in our lives, but you always found a way to find humor in the situation. I will miss your laugh so, so much.

You were fierce and competitive, but your competitiveness was matched by the most generous spirit, and you used that to help lift up and support those around you even as you sought to improve yourself. You were our Transplant Games badminton gold medalist, and you wore that medal proudly, even as you said goodbye.

You touched so many lives, among them the children you taught how to climb and play badminton and become better people, and also your friends in your transplant and climbing communities. Your warmth and spirit made you so accessible, and you have such a large community supporting you.

Even though you’re no longer in this world, you will always be a part of our hearts. Climb on, my sweet friend, and climb high. I’ll see you again soon.

#donatelife #organdonationsaveslives

Goodbye, Stacey

by Isabel Stenzel Byrnes, friend of Stacey

Goodbye to a sweet, kind, socially brilliant, positive, determined and gentle soul, Stacey Li Collver.

Stacey graced my life for 15 years. We met sitting around a table at a lung transplant support group. We hiked, biked, climbed, swam, did boot camp together, walked, competed, medalled and advocated for organ donation together.

She was Godmother to both my dogs and they received infinite love from Stacey over the years. She taught me to take life less seriously, to let go of negativity, to accept and be at peace with the present, to set goals and to be open to receiving support for friends.

We said goodbye last night when she was full of joy, life, energy, hope and love at my workplace, Mission Hospice House.

She said she lived a meaningful life because she loved her friends and her friends loved her. To pay it forward, Stacey donated her cornea and tissues to give sight and function to those in need.

I am touched and changed forever by knowing Stacey. After 3 1/2 years on the list for new lungs, no donor was found to fit her size. Please sign up to donate your organs.

I love you Stacey!

Stacey left us this morning

by Denise Wirth, Stacey’s sister

Dear Friends,

Stacey left us this morning. She died just after 9 a.m., after a wonderful, joyful day and evening.

It is hard to describe how much this last week has meant to her, and how she has treasured and valued the chance to connect with you all. Stacey loved you. Her heart was so good and so big, and she loved you. We are crying rivers and we are glad that she is not suffering.

Grateful for a Good Hospital Visit

In Thanksgiving spirit today, the first thing that popped into my mind was that I was grateful that the kindness and skill of the Stanford Interventional Radiology staff. It made today one of my best hospital experiences yet.

I’m dozing after spending the day at the hospital for another procedure to replace the jejunal feeding tube. It was a quick, out-patient surgery that was necessary because the little balloon of the feeding tube inside my body bursted, letting the tube pull out too far.

In the pre-op room, I had three friendly nurses, including one of them who remembered me from 2 months ago. It is nice to go places where “everybody knows your name,” even if it is the pre-op room instead of a climbing gym.

I told them the reason I knew to come in [to the hospital] when the feeding tube started coming out was that I had a very painful experience a year ago. “I think the [original} feeding tube got displaced when I was rock climbing.” Apparently, that is not a very common reason, and they had a good laugh!

Both of the Asian nurses had tried climbing and told me about the their experiences. “You inspire me to try it again…it’s so… meditative..” Knowing that she was talking about her first time, I was confused. “Most people are scared to death the first time, and hang on for dear life as they near the top!” She said she was calm because trusted her belayer [friend holding the rope for her] completely. We continued chatting about climbing and how wonderful the sport is, because you get stronger and it’s also so fun.

After that, she said she (unfortunately) has the honor of putting in the IV needle. “Honor?” How sweet and respectful is that! She found a vein on my arm (IV’s on the hand hurt more.) She then succeeded in inserting the needle on the first poke, and it hardly even hurt…it felt like a little blood draw.

The nurse on the other side of me was also a gym climber. She said she should get out her harness and start climbing again, but she was worried that she was out of shape. So, I said it’s best to start out again on the slab climbs. That way, she won’t even notice a difference in a recent weight gain, because almost all her weight will be over her feet.

Back to business: after explaining to her that there is no way I could be pregnant right now, I was spared the pregnancy test. She went on to review my long medical history, and over 20 drugs and vitamins I take daily.

A young surgeon popped in with a smile, and assured me that the balloon on these feeding tubes burst at random, and I was not at fault. In fact, he said he was amazed that my previous tube had lasted a whole year. However, I did not have time to ask if he liked rock climbing, too.

A new nurse rolled me into the cold operating room. I only had mild sedation, so I was curious if I could watch…Remembering how listening to the Indigo Girls made me cry, ( since it reminded me of a transplant friend who had recently died) I chose to fall asleep to 80’s pop music…

In the recovery room, I awoke very groggy and feeling nauseated, but satisfied that I have a new “button” tube that stays inside now.

My 11-year Lungaversary today: November 22, 2015

Today is my lungaversary… I have survived 11 years!

Alyssa and Stacey on Stacey’s 11-year lungaversary.

There have been some dark times in the past 2 years, but knowing there is a chance for a better life through a second transplant lifted my hope! It is the light at the end of the tunnel. To focus on the light is the only way to gather strength and move forward. I have been on the Stanford lung transplant list for almost 11 months.

I am very thankful to my donor. It is a sobering thought to know that my first transplant would not have happened if my donor had not died suddenly, and passed her lungs to me, allowing me to live.

Thank you to my mother, Laura, my sister, Denise Wirth, and my friends near and far. You have nursed me through weak times, listened to me at stressful times, cheered for me during stronger years, and even collectively paid for the majority of my rent! (I need the bigger, 1-bedroom apartment in order for my caregivers to live with me, before or after the impending re-transplant.)

My transplant mentors, Mari Matsumura, the late Ana Stenzel, and Isabel Stenzel Byrnes gave me inspiration and hope and as they conquered huge health challenges, and guided me as a transplant candidate (and later as a recipient.) Isa brought delicious Japanese food over on Friday. This is her twelfth year, too. We are grateful to still be around!

I wish Ana were also here to grow older together, and see what a fine, loving, smart dog Timony has become! Timony must be guided by Rupie’s spirit. (Rupie was previous Stenzel dog.)

Tonight, Alyssa and Bryan came over and we celebrated this day by making bruschetta, attempting yoga, getting used to the selfie stick, and trying to fit into the chair together. (She said to sit on top of her, but I didn’t want to squish her!)


Hi Stacey! I am glad you are writing in your journal again. I’ve found your entire life story very inspiring and encouraging, that you could come back from a near-fatal disease and resume a happy and fulfilling life. There are sure to be some struggles ahead, but I’m glad for the most part you have been doing great!

Even for those of us with seemingly ‘normal’ and healthy lives, your story is very uplifting. I know that one of my own personal fears is that something could happen to me any day, be it get into some sort of freak accident etc., where my well-being is suddenly completely gone. But from you, I take some some solace that all is not necessarily lost assuming I could follow your example and deal with the crisis with grace and determination.

For now, though, I am going to try to avenge my FIVE-POINT defeat to you in Scrabulous! 🙂 -Felix

Stacey’s Climbathon Dec 2007

I would like to share my own experience of being involved in this year’s climbathon in December 2007. It was really nice to see how people in the community come’s together by word of mouth, through friend of a friend. It’s amazing how?numbers can double. The positive energy resonate in the rock climbing community.’It was great that we all accomplished the objective of climbing the height of Mt. Everest. All parties were children, and adults. You are never too old to climb, and never too young, as long as we were able to have fun, enjoy supporting each other, and being safe about this sport.’?It was great to see people come together, climb, meet old and new friends all for a good cause. I have a couple of photos to share in Stacey’s Journal of those physcally came to the facility at Planet Granite in Sunnyvale. There were just as many who have donated to the National Organ Transplant Organization. This was a very energized climb. Being fairly new to the rock climbing I found rock climbing to be very enjoyable. -AP