Saturday, May 20, 2006

the girl who is urging you to donate

Today I type in green. Why? Because green is the color for organ donation, and I think everyone should be aware of what an important choice this is to make. I'm (almost) 32, and I have been a registered organ donor since high school. I know that one day I will leave this mortal coil, but I hope that my leaving can benefit others. I've felt this way for as long as I can remember--even before I fully understood the process. I remember being very young, and hearing a story on the news about a little boy my age that needed a new heart. I told my mother he could have mine. She had to explain why I couldn't just give my heart away.
If only it were as easy as simply wanting to help. All the good intentions mean nothing if you don't fill out an organ donor card. So I urge you...Take the time today to research this topic and make your choice. I hope that it is one that will give the gift of life, but I respect each person's individual right to their body.
Now, you may be wondering why I am on this particular soap box. To answer that question, I need to introduce you to Judy. Judy is my "Florida Mom" and is as close to me as flesh and blood. (although I know my actual mother is a bit jealous over the fact...She needn't worry, I have enough love for two moms!) I've known her for years, moved to Florida with her family, call her son my brother, her husband my dad, and my kids are her grandkids. She is a sweet lady, with a slightly salty personality, a great sense of humor and more courage and fortitude than I think I could ever have. Judy has a congenital kidney condition, and, in the past five years, has finally degenerated to the point of needing dialysis on a regular basis. I think it's been at least three years now that she has been going in three times weekly to have all her blood cycled through a machine to cleanse it. It's invasive, it isn't comfortable, and it's debilitating. And she has been doing it for years. I'm not going to say she hasn't complained. Only a saint or a sadist wouldn't complain, and she is neither. But she has borne it. For three years she has endured this process, for the sole purpose of prolonging her life.
For two of these three years she has been waiting to get on the Transplant List. Two very long years, made longer with heart surgeries, insurance snafus, strokes, and depression. To be honest, in the darkest times, I thought the fight was leaving her and lived for a brief period trying to picture my life without her to prepare myself for what I felt was the inevitable. Thank goodness my pessimism was not fulfilled. Thank goodness she never gave up entirely. Thank goodness for these horribly invasive procedures that prolong her life. Thank goodness for the US Mail.
Today our mail carrier delivered another letter from TransLife, her transplant coordinator. And this one felt different. It was thick--not the usual single page reminding of an appointment, or another test that needed to be scheduled, or another deadline to be met. Mom and Dad have their mail delivered to my address--a remnant of a more nomadic time in their life--and when I picked this up, I knew.
I ran the letter over to their house and delivered it right to Mom's hand. She felt the thickness of it and started to shake. She gave it to Dad to open, while I sat beside her, holding on, as much to support her as to support me. Dad could not help but fulfill his tendency for the dramatic, and spent a solid minute reading it silently to himself and flipping through the attachments. Finally, he announced that she was finally a full candidate for a kidney transplant and officially on the state's transplant waiting list.
What a relief! The first thing I thought was, "Finally!" (My husband put it better when he said, "It's about F&^%ing time!")
We have more hope today than we did yesterday. More hope that Mom will be around to be "Grammy" to my kids. More time for her to become a grandmother in her own right when my "brother" has his first child later this year. More hope for celebrations to come, and everyday moments to live.
And yet, this wonderful feeling is accompanied by a "...But"
But, even though she has waited two long years and jumped through every hoop imaginable, this is still just the first step. She's on the list, but it's going to take someone, somewhere, losing their life and 1.) being an organ donor or have next of kin willing to donate, 2.) have that person be a viable match for my Mom to accept their kidney, 3.) have her be in the right position on the list to receive it (a mixed blessing, because the sicker you are, the higher priority you are), and 4.) have her health be bad enough to be a high priority, but good enough to undergo the operation.
This is the first step for her. The first step for you is to make your choice regarding your personal convictions on organ donation, and let your friends and family know. If you choose organ donation, I--and my "Florida Family"--thank you.


Tracy Lynn said...

Wonderful post. All of us who are waiting for transplant thank you. :-)

It's a difficult thing to be chronically ill, and dialysis is not an easy treatment to incorporate into one's life. I use a message board to vent called that your mom might like to visit.

I'll be praying for you and your family.

mIcHeLlE-o said...

I couldn't agree more girl!!! I've been an organ donor since I was able to get my driver license, it's even printed on it. I wish your adoptive mom nothing but the best. You are a wonderful person Julie and from one mom to another, I love you for that. Helping other people is what more people need to do. Your post was awesome tonight girl. It really made me think about how blessed I am to have what I have.

JenSmack said...

I know I told you already that I was an organ donor... but most of all I've told my husband. So that he knows for sure what my wishes are. That way they'll be no questions.

I am going to think positive thoughts for your mother and for the donor family - for when the time comes.

I can't wait to see this scrapped either...


CODA-Organ Donation Charity said...

Thank you. As a heart transplant recipient on Valentine's Day, 2004 I've started a charity to help transplant recipients pay for their anti-rejection drugs among other things.

Please feel free to visit our blog and website.

Jim Marshall