Donate Life Day 4.16.21

I had my first kidney transplant on 7/14/1995.  I was 34 years young, terrified by this new reality and pretty unaware of the magnitude of my sister’s gift of one of her kidneys.

It was a huge gift.

Today, April 16, is National Donate Life Blue and Green Day.  A day to wear blue and green to bring awareness to life saving transplants and especially a day to register as organ, eye and tissue donors and PLEASE tell your family your wishes.  Countless wishes are lost when the potential donor hasn’t shared them and the family decides otherwise.

Did you know there are such specific needs which must be met in death to be an organ donor, that there are only 3 in every 1,000 who meet the criteria?  Essentially a brain death must occur to have viable organs.  So, a stroke, a brain injury from a fall or car/motorcycle accident.  Essentially, thousands must register to yield the percentage needed.

To be clear, other deaths do supply skin, cornea, tendon donations, etc., but to be a major organ donor, a brain death is pretty much the only option.

This is also a day to think about being a living donor.  My sister was incredible to have given me one of her kidneys on that day.  Generous.  Selfless.

Same goes for Henry who gave me the same gift after my sister’s kidney failed.  Our anniversary is April 9.  Our surgery was in 2019.  Pretty cool to have such a special day fall into Donate Life Month!

What having 2 kidney transplants has brought to my life is gratitude most of all.  As humans, we forget to stay present and cherish our moments.  We get caught up in checklists and family drama and paying bills and wishing for more chocolate.

My first transplant led me to Purina which offered truly inspiring work among truly dynamic people.  I was able to maneuver through a devasting divorce and find myself living in a one-of-a-kind apartment complex surrounded by people from all over the globe.  It allowed me to travel to Denver for a work trip, which led me to send that fateful text which connected me to Henry.

These things could have been accomplished to a smaller degree if I’d been on dialysis that entire time.  But that was 22 years.  I might have actually died during those years.

Anyone needing a different organ transplant would have died.  Heart, lungs, pancreas…those organs can’t be supported like kidneys can with dialysis.  Without a transplant, death is pretty much assured.

It’s vital to know how every 9 minutes another person is added to “the list.”  Each day, 20 people die while waiting for a transplant.  This is just unimaginable.

“Don’t take your organs to heaven, heaven knows we need them here.”

Pretty much all of us are born with more kidneys than we need.  We can live a totally normal life with one kidney.  So being a living donor is a marvelous way to save a life.

I’m so grateful for my sister, Jenny, who gave me my first kidney back in 1995.  Back then, there wasn’t laparoscopic surgery.  No, they essentially cut her in half, from backbone to belly button, cut off her two lowest ribs and had to delicately extract the kidney from deep in her back.  She’s energetic and athletic and outgoing at 58!  She never missed a beat.

I’m incredibly thankful for my husband, Henry.  If you don’t know the story, we met in 2012 when I sent a text and got a wrong number.  We texted for a week, then met in person and fell in love right away.  It was probably only a few weeks after meeting when he told me he was O+ blood type and if I ever needed a kidney, he’d give me one of his!

That’s love, right!?!?

He turned out to be a match and two years ago, he generously gave me his kidney!!  Stop to think about this.  He gave me his kidney!!!

24 years later, the kidney retrieval surgery has changed markedly.  No more sawing in half, not with laparoscopic surgery!  The surgeon typically makes 3 incisions and, after severing the connecting bits, they just suck that kidney out right through the belly button!!

I’m so grateful for people who choose to be a living donor!  The recipient’s insurance pays for the surgery, and recovery is typically 3-6 weeks.  Henry’s FMLA paid his salary while he was out and he went back to work at 5 weeks.  Henry was in the hospital for 2 days.

He’s a HUGE advocate for living donation, finding it such a tidy process, he thinks anyone could do it.

As I write this I’m so filled with GRATITUDE!!

I’m grateful for my friends.  I’ve had a friend since first grade.  I’m 61 at this writing so that’s a LONG time!  I have other friends from all my schools.  I have others from jobs I’ve had.  I have friends from all over the world through working at Purina!  More friends made as neighbors from where I’ve lived/live now.  There are friends I’ve made through my love of music; radio stations or concert venues.  Friends from the programs I’ve been in.  Friends bring me the greatest joy in my life.

I’m also grateful for music, the tree outside my window, sunshine, laughing children, geese flying by, travel, our cats, food, authors, books, self-awareness teachers, my car, cozy blankets, morel mushrooms, my family, my nieces, my stepdaughters, their mom, my ex-husband, the ocean, the mountains and the desert, hiking trails, anything sparkly, old blue jeans, thunder storms, transformation, connections to The Universe..for life itself.

Joy, joy, joy and love, love, love!  Memories from last week or a lifetime ago!  Fun times, eating, laughing, crying, sharing, crabbing, hiking, driving, vacationing, coaching…loving.

I’m so incredibly grateful and feel so filled with love for this life I know.

I feel love for the people who ultimately read my writing and who I may never meet.

My capacity for love is huge and I’m endlessly hopeful that it’s made a difference.  Then I can especially be so incredibly grateful for my life-saving transplants which have allowed me to live so fully!!

Organ transplants make this difference.  Please register as organ, eye and tissue donors  or consider being a living donor.

Donate life.  The gift of organ donation is the greatest gift of all.

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