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Thank You.

This is the day when Americans focus on all the things for which they are grateful, as part of Thanksgiving. I am always grateful for my family, the roof over my head, the good food I eat, my access to good medical care, the availability of meaningful work, free speech, and a whole set of less important (things like my stand mixer and my iPod).

I also have one big surge of gratititude every year for the young man who died and gave my mother years of life. About a week before Thanksgiving in 2002, my mother was on dialysis, and had been approved for a kidney transplant. Her kidney had failed several years earlier, as the result of poorly controlled hypertension, and she then began years of dyalisis which involved the insertion of a shunt, and thrice weekly sessions hooked up to the giant machine that cleaned her blood. She could no longer travel, she was often exhausted, and after a long life as a dynamic and involved person she felt useless and hobbled. She was on “the list,” but could not receive a transplant unless a donor was found who was a good match. My brother and I couldn’t donate because of our family history of hypertension and diabetes, which made it inadvisable for us to give up our own kidneys.

About a week before Thanksgiving that year, the “transplant beeper” went off, letting us know that a donor kidney had been found. In the middle of the night my father, mother and I drove the 60 miles to the hospital where the surgery would be performed. We were greeted by the surgeon, my mother was wheeled off to be prepped, and my father and I settled in on hard plastic chairs for the night. Off and on during the night, I prayed for my mother, the surgeons and attendants, my father’s spirits, and the family of the donor, who we knew had been killed in an accident. The next morning we were allowed to see my mother, already more pink and less yellow than the day before. The surgeon was cautiously optimistic, and although she would miss Thanksgiving dinner at home, we would all have much to be grateful for.

We subsequently discovered that the donor had been a young man attending a local high school who had died in a motorcycle accident. As a mother, I cannot imagine the pain that the boy’s family endured then, or that they feel to this day. I imagine that this week is always as sad and difficult for them as it is joyous for my family. I  hope that they know that by choosing to donate organs they gave many people the gift of years of loving their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, parents and children. There is nothing “right” about losing a child on the brink of his adult life, but if there is anything good, it is that so many lives were saved by the loving choice that his family made during a time of tremendous pain and grief.

Have you signed an organ donor card?

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About imagineannie

I feel like I'm fifteen - does that count? I'm lots of things, I get paid to be the Managing Editor for a local news publication, and I love my job. I am also inordinately fond of reading, animals (I have four), elephants, owls, hedgehogs writing, tramping in the woods, cooking India, Ireland, England, avocado toast, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Little Women, Fun Home, Lumber Janes, Fangirl, magic, Neil Gaiman, Jane Austen, YA books, not YA books, classical music, Salinger (OMG SALINGER), Brahms, key lime pie, indie music, podcasts, sleeping in, road trips, marmalade, museums, bookstores, the Oxford comma, BBC, The Miss Fisher Mysteries, birdwatching, seashells, kombucha, and stickers. Not a huge fan of chewing gum, jazz, trucker hats or dystopian and/or post-apolcalyptic fiction (but I'll try anything).

12 responses »

  1. Ann,

    Why must you turn years of preconcieved notion upside down today? Somehow I love / hate you.

    My father died suddenly one day, and I never got to even think about saying goodbye. They kept his body idling for a week while they harvested peices, it did not go well for me.

    Thanks, I think. It will be God that changes my heart, but it was you that changed my mind.

    Robert

    Reply
    • Don’t hate me. I can’t say I understand how it would feel to be on the other end, not even close. I do know, though, that the pain and rage of one family turns into hope and relief for another. That is better than the alternative.

      My money’s always on God for doing that kind of work, albeit on his own schedule.

      Reply
  2. Ann,

    You are preaching to the choir, here. I had the privilege of working in a cardiology practice for years and meeting some amazing people. Yes, some of them were “on lists” — not a happy thing. That families can make that unselfish choice at such a horrible time is a blessing indeed.

    Thinking about my mom a lot today, and your post causes me to be thankful for those who cared for her that last year of her Alzheimer’s when my patience was little and loss was great. A toast (of coffee) to those who give.

    Reply
    • It is a blessing. I don’t know if it makes them feel better, or if, maybe, it does but it takes a long time. I hope it does.

      I remember your mom well, and I always imagine her in Jacobson’s basement, where I most often saw her. I hope you go easy on yourself about what you could and couldn’t give during a stressful time – she would want to you be kind to yourself, I’m pretty sure.

      Reply
  3. Yes… *sniff*

    What a beautiful story about your blessed mother.

    I don’t know if there is anything in this old body worth using on someone else though. I am pretty much used hard! My eyes are shot, my lungs damaged from years of smoking ( I quit 6 years ago) my kidneys were never strong and my liver, well, I drink wine… a LOT of wine.
    I have great hair and teeth but somehow I doubt anyone would need those.

    That was a wonderful argument for organ donation though and I will talk to my doctor about it. Thanks for the reminder, Annie.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Trisha. She’s pretty nifty, and I’m glad that she’s still around to push all my buttons. 🙂

      I don’t know what all can be harvested, but I know that one donor can turn around the lives of multiple people. It’s kind of a miracle. Even those who don’t have viable donor organs can preach the gospel of signing the organ door card…some people really seem to resist doing it, and while it’s understandable, I’d like them at least to be fully informed.

      Reply
  4. Your story about Organ Donation highlighted the tragic shortage of human organs for transplant operations.

    Over half of the 100,000 Americans on the national transplant waiting list will die before they get a transplant. Most of these deaths are needless. Americans bury or cremate 20,000 transplantable organs every year.

    There is a simple way to put a big dent in the organ shortage – give donated organs first to people who have agreed to donate their own organs when they die.

    Giving organs first to organ donors will convince more people to register as organ donors. It will also make the organ allocation system fairer. People who aren’t willing to share the gift of life should go to the back of the waiting list as long as there is a shortage of organs.

    Anyone who wants to donate their organs to others who have agreed to donate theirs can join LifeSharers. LifeSharers is a non-profit network of organ donors who agree to offer their organs first to other organ donors when they die. Membership is free at http://www.lifesharers.org or by calling 1-888-ORGAN88. There is no age limit, parents can enroll their minor children, and no one is excluded due to any pre-existing medical condition. LifeSharers has over 13,000 members at this writing.

    Please contact me – Dave Undis, Executive Director of LifeSharers – if your readers would like to learn more about our innovative approach to increasing the number of organ donors. I can arrange interviews with some of our local members if you’re interested. My email address is daveundis@lifesharers.org. My phone number is 615-351-8622.

    Reply
    • Thank you, David. In addition to the experience with my mother, we lost a friend of my son’s in an accident when he was 8, and his parents donated enough of his organs to save or greatly improve the lives of many people. It is an amazing gift.

      I hope that people will see this and find out more. If you have any use for this piece in the promotion of LifeSharers, please, please use it.

      Reply

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