Tuesday, February 14, 2017

National Donor Day – a special kind of Valentine

Today is National Donor Day – a day to highlight the very special gift that those who agree to become organ donors give to the 120,000 of us currently waiting for new organs in the United States. It is the kind of gift that words fall short of. Hallmark doesn’t make a card for this. How could they? 

I’ve noticed from the experience of some friends who have received their lungs that the time frame before you are allowed to contact (through UNOS) your donor family has changed. They told me in my transplant education that while I was still in the hospital, I’d be given a card to send to my donor family. It is, of course, up to them whether we ever make contact. I know if they are willing, I will want to do it. 
I can’t imagine writing that kind of thank you note, especially while still in the hospital – but I could never not do it! I’ve been thinking of writing a note and having it in my things ready to go so that it is well thought out, and ready to go. 

What do I say? I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it lately. Do I tell them about my anti-bucket list? (It’s the list of things I’m looking forward to doing when my lung function is normal again.). Do I tell them about my life before the transplant? How does that not sound like a resume for my lungs? I want them to feel that their loved one’s lungs have found a good home, and that I am somehow worthy of such a gift. Just thinking about it makes me teary. 
A few weeks ago I was watching a medical drama. I used to love those kinds of shows, but have been watching them less frequently these days. This particular episode (fiction) followed a family as they decided to donate their loved one’s organs. They went from hope to resignation. I know better to believe that this dramatization was anything like what families donating a loved one’s organs might experience. Spending a lot of my time in the medical world, I know these shows make sacrifices of fact and reality for the needs of an hour-long drama all the time. Still, even so, I was balling. I think I cried for 40 minutes. 
I think about this family whose path will cross with mine someday a lot. 

So, on this National Donor Day, let me just say THANK YOU! to the live donors and donor families out there. What a gift you give us. It isn’t just the gift of life, it’s the gift of hope. 

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