“You have less than five months to live.”
The violent blow set off an alarm in my head that blustery day in March 2002.
I was dying of liver disease. For two years the doctor had tried different medications to cure the disease eating away at my liver and now he was telling me the treatment failed. I gulped in all the air in the room hoping to prolong life beyond his words.
“All I can do now is put you on a waiting list. This is your only hope for survival,” he explained.
“A waiting list?”
“Yes, a transplant list.”
“No, it’s not a transplant list, it’s a death list,” I said. “I’m on a list waiting for someone to die so that I can live.”
“Basically, he said. The sympathy in his eyes annoyed me.
He made another prediction.
“There are 1400 Texans waiting for a liver, and it’s likely you’ll die waiting.” My only hope for survival–how absurd. He put me on the list and I went on with life. I was not about to give up that easy.
Things looked pretty hopeless for me. As I had done other times in the past, I put this catastrophe in God’s hands and prayed for a miracle.
Miracles do happen.
Unlike other transplant patients, I didn’t have to wait for a cadaver to get a new lease on life. In September of 2002, my youngest daughter saved my life.
The surgeons took a lobe of my daughter’s liver and implanted it in my body. What is so miraculous is the capacity of the liver to regenerate to a fully functioning organ after it has been divided. Both of our partial livers grew to a complete organ. She, like other donors, is the epitome of self-sacrifice, and unselfish giving. This child, that I gave life too, had now given me life. With that done, I became liver transplant patient #73 at the University of Colorado Hospital in Denver, Co.
But not everyone is blessed to have a living donor. Today there are 1600 on the waiting list. The quest to obtain organs and tissue is endless. About 21 people die every day waiting for transplants because of the shortage of donated organs.Unfortunately, donor blessings are often concealed behind the veil of overwhelming grief. I know that when an unexpected tragedy strikes a loved one, anguish is all consuming. The miracle of transplant is one thing–but having the vocabulary to address the grieving survivors is another. There is no easy way to approach people in this situation. It is important then, that before tragedy strikes anyone of us, that we keep our words and our actions human by giving permission beforehand that contributes to the legacy of life. This gesture of love keeps the surviving family from feeling victimized. Donors are heroes, they give hope to thousands awaiting the transplant they need to enter into a new Genesis.
We all have the capability to make life possible for others. It’s incredible but one donor can potentially save eight lives and improve the lives of 50 others. Our potential is so awesome. Donors affirm my faith in the basic human desire to help others even beyond life. I wouldn’t ask anybody to do what I wouldn’t do. I’m a registered donor. Although my liver is no longer usable, I have a heart, lungs, bone, skin, tendons, cornea etc. that I can contribute to a waiting recipient.
I share my story to give hope to those that wait in anticipation of a second chance and to encourage those of us that have the potential to brighten someone’s future. Leave behind the gift of life. Register today at organdonor.gov/register or at your local DMV–give your driver’s license a heart.
It’s been 16 years since I walked into the doctor’s office that blustery day in March 2002.