National Donate Life Month – Are you an Organ Donor?
In the time it takes you to read this post, comment, “like” it on Facebook, and tweet it, another name will be added to national organ transplant waiting list. That’s a new name on the waiting list for every 10 minutes that passes so states the United Network for Organ Sharing.
Today roughly 18 people died because they didn’t receive a life saving organ donation. Roughly another 18 will die tomorrow and so on.
April is National Donate Life month and it’s an organization that I am extremely passionate about, for as you may already know, my niece Zoe received a new heart at only six years old on December 2nd, 2008. It was because of another family’s decision to donate their son’s organs that our Zoe turned nine this March.
We have come so far in these short two and half years. I’ve watched my niece return to activities that she loves like dancing and I’ve watched my youngest child form a loving attachment to her, which she of course eats up as any girl would.
I can’t tell you what it was like while my niece was sick, I wish I could but only my sister knows what life was like and how she felt as she watched her daughter get sicker and sicker. I know I said many a prayer, bargaining, wheeling and dealing with God if he would only see that we needed her here and give her another chance at life.
However, in asking God for us to keep Zoe here in this life with her mother and all of us that love her, we realize that we were asking for the unthinkable at the same time; something that no mother in her right mind would ask.
The unimaginable: take another child so that the one we love could stay on this earth a little longer.
While we hoped and prayed for miracles, I explained to my own young children, what was happening to their cousin and praying for the strength for the words to come out right, for them to understand without me having to tell them what really needed to happen in order for Zoe to get better.
Fortunately not every organ donation needs to happen the way my niece's did. People can opt to become a living donor. Meaning a living person can give an organ such as a kidney, or part of an organ to another living person, which is of course, pretty cool.
We went from thinking that the worst case scenario would be that Zoe would need a heart transplant to knowing that a heart transplant would be her only option in about seven months. In less than 48 hours in 2008, Zoe went from trick or treating to sitting in a hospital room getting weaker by the day.
I remember one night in particular; we were at a benefit for Zoe and we got a call to come to the hospital. Her blood pressure was dropping dangerously low and the medication they were giving to bring it back up didn’t seem to be helping much. When we got to the hospital the room was abuzz with doctors and nurses, checking her vitals, administering more medicine, and swapping out IV bags.
My eyes settled on a nurse who came in and looked at Zoe and then made a fist and placed it on the center of Zoe’s chest. I didn’t know what she was doing until I watched her take out a measuring tape and measure across her fist and then Zoe’s chest. She wrote the numbers on a small sheet of paper and was gone. She was finding out just how small of a heart or how large of a heart they could accept. That was earth shattering to me and wrote home the severity of Zoe’s health. Though we didn’t say it, we knew the doctors were expanding their search as far as they could go; the search for a heart had become national.
We realize that we are blessed. It is the trifecta of blessings if you ask me, because we know that we have her here with us and we know that doesn’t happen for everyone who waits on the national transplant list. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, the average wait time for a heart is three to eight months for a heart, eight to 15 months for a liver, 15 months to two years for a lung, and three to five years for a kidney (as of 2010).
As we begin National Donate Life month, I am reminded of the family that gave us the ultimate gift two years ago. It means more to us than most people will ever know. It’s important not only to myself but especially my sister, that we do all we can to support such a worthy organization, not just for ourselves but for all of the people who have been touched by organ donation and remember those who have given other families the greatest gift of all.
Have you or someone you know been affected by the gift of organ donation? I’d love to hear how organ donation has changed your life or someone that you love.