Thursday, June 6, 2013

change of heart

(Just a side note: I am having side effects of the brand to generic switch, riding them out to see if they go away as my body adjusts)

I worked with a man who had had a heart transplant. He use to kid us with stuff and then laugh and say "no, I've had a change of heart."

*groan* drum rift, cue the cheesy sound tract.

He would start each day as I helped dress him, by running his hand down the thick scar on his chest and thanking his donor and their family.

His words so powerful I can still quote them today twenty nine years later.

"Thank you for thinking of me when you were young and alive with no thoughts of death in you mind. Thank you for pausing in your grief to think of me and give me this gift."

My parents discussed organ and tissue donation with us since we were old enough to get a drivers license. I have been since I was 15.When I started donating blood at 16 I also signed up to be a bone marrow donor.

About nine years ago I received a call. The woman wanted to confirm I was still the person attached to the bone marrow donor card.  In a blurr filled conversation I was VERY excited to discover I was a match for someone!

In some strange way, it made my presence here on this planet someones prayer. Somewhere someone was thinking about me and praying I existed so they or their loved one could be saved.

I was so bleeping excited! The center for bone marrow donation posted out the forms to me to start the process of connecting me with the hospital I would go for the procedure.

Within a week I received a second call to go through a quick pre-procedural questionnaire. I was flying though until they asked "Have you ever had surgery of any kind on your pelvis?"

I paused, as my heart sank. "Yes."

I heard the tone in her voice change instantly. "I'm sorry," she said "that automatically disqualifies you from being a donor."

I explained what my surgery was about and that it in no way injured or damaged the iliac crest where they harvest marrow from.

"There are no exceptions."

"You mean someone is going to go without the bone marrow transplant they need to survive because of this insignificant totally irrelevant thing? What if I sign a waver?"

"There are no exceptions. I will be placing you on the list to be removed from the national bone marrow registry. You should receive notification of this removal in about a week."

And that was that. Me and my marrow were tossed out like trash.

I hung up the phone and glanced down at my two year old. What if it was a child? What if it was someone actually related to me? I was filled with a strange sadness.

I have thought of this person every since. Do they still live? Or is there a family who had to quietly go on living without someone, never even knowing that I could have possibly saved their loved ones life?

Years after that I was faced with an ultra sound of my 20 week old fetus and the doctor was pointing out the profoundly fluid filled kidneys. Until they did the next ultra sound I was not sure if my pregnancy was viable. It didn't take long to come to a peace within my head/heart. Even if my child was to die at birth, I would carry her to term. Not for me or for her. But for some mother out there who's baby would need mines heart.

As the pregnancy progressed her kidneys absorbed the fluid and she came out alive and healthy.

The night I delivered her, after everyone went home and I sat up all night with her. I felt that familiar sadness. My sitting here with a healthy child meant somewhere a mother was sitting with a child who would die before a heart became available.

I am bound to two people who I have never met, and have no idea I exist.

Those three experiences have left a deep impression on me.

Currently today you have to sign up to be an organ donor.

Which creates a shortage.

I wish they would make it mandatory that everyone is a donor UNLESS THEY OPT OUT. That simple switch would open up a whole new world for those on transplant lists.

1 comment:

  1. I just have to say this is one of the many trials we had with our son Kaeden. I wanted to help him live on I guess. I wanted to be able to help someone through my tragedy. It was hard to hear the words that we could not. We encouraged and discussed the decision of being a donor with our kids and all that are old enough agreed to do so. Thanks to 14 people I was given a transfunsion that saved my life. Thanks to a tibia donor I was able to walk and continue walking. I am sorry that you are not able to do so. I wish people can see the HOPE in this.