Thursday, November 1, 2007

I am an Organ Recipient...

Several things have happened to me in my life recently that make me feel pushed to tell my story. It is a tragic story, a terrible story, it's an unfair story, and yet, it is beautiful.....

When I was nine years old, in 1980, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Nurses and doctors told me that I could lead a healthy, full life, then they would turn away and shake their heads in pity. I had no idea what a horrible, thieving disease diabetes was.

Before I was 25 years old, I had lost half of five of my toes, had suffered severe, painful nerve damage in my feet and stomach, had several laser surgeries on my eyes to try to prevent blindness, and had been told to never have children (think 'Steel Magnolias'). They were 'watching' my kidneys.

When I was 25, I also lost a child. She was not a planned baby, but she would have been loved. But it was not to be. And it was all because of the diabetes. Then, when I was 33, I found doctors who would work with me to allow me to have a child as safely as possible. It was my life's dream, to have a baby of my own. I still don't know why it was so important to me, but it was.

Adam was born on April 12, 2004. He was very early, but he was perfect. He still is. He is a bright child, and has brought me joy and light that I never imagined I could have. My husband and I have been very blessed. But it was a difficult experience, and the pregnancy left my kidneys severely damaged.

I went on kidney dialysis in January of 2007. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am very high-energy. I am a Type AAA personality. I need to be perfect, I procrasinate, I want professionalism at all times. I go until I fall into bed. I like it this way. Being on dialysis was difficult, but not impossible. But I also knew it would not last.

Because of all the severe diabetic complications, I was convinced that I would not live to see Adam graduate from kindergarten. Doctors say I was probably right.

We were living in San Diego at the time. On April 10th, we went to Disney to celebrate Adam's third birthday. We had a great time! As Adam was meeting Lightening McQueen on the 11th, we got the call. There was a donor, and we were to come back to San Diego to check into the hospital. I was going to get a double transplant.

On Adam's birthday, I received a new kidney, so I would no longer be on dialysis. And I received a new pancreas, and would no longer be diabetic. This has changed my life.

Adam and I now share a special day. It is Adam's birthday, and my rebirthday. Everything has gone perfectly, and I don't ever remember feeling this good. Ever.

I think of my donor often. I don't know her name, know very little about her. But I know that her family must have suffered, and still suffer. To give me the gift of life, she died. The guilt I feel over that is incredible, but at the same time I remember that she would have died anyway, and perhaps, just perhaps, the decision made by her family to donate and save other lives, gives them some hope. Some feeling of control over an uncontrollable situation.

These are not my organs, and this is no longer my life. I will do better this time. I will give back. I will do for others. I will treasure every moment. I will not sit quietly when others suffer. I will love my family. I will love my son and husband with every fiber of my being. I will never take my life for granted.

I grieve for this woman who gave me my life back. I grieve for this mother who gave my son his mother back. I grieve for this family, who saved my life. And I grieve for the families who will never receive this gift.

I am an organ recipient. I am also an organ donor. My organs will never be used to replace bad organs for someone else. But perhaps they will take my organs and learn from them. I will donate to science, and perhaps that will save someone else's life someday.

Take nothing for granted, and always be thankful. And don't forget to mark that little box on your driver's license.

If you aren't an organ donor, please reconsider.

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