April 10, 2009

Giving life.

My dad during his visit in Boston Summer 2007

Don't think I've forgotten about my 4 topics for the month of April. Some of you may or may not be aware that April is "Organ Donation" month. So slap on a green bracelet, check your driver's license, and if you've got a heart (or ORGAN DONOR) on it then you're one person who can save many lives.

Five years ago one person was able to provide my dad "the gift of life." My dad received a heart transplant on January 19th, 2004; it was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The day before his transplant is still one of the best days of my life to date; my friend Megan and I went walking around the town I attended college at, it was a perfect winter day....snow, sun, and just the perfect amoun to cold. On that walk we must have talked about everything but on the way back to our home I asked Megan what her top 3 wishes would be. Sorry Megs but I can't remember what yours were. Anyway she asked me the same question and I remember one of my wishes were for my dad to be healthy again. That night/the next morning I had a dream that my ex-boyfriend and I were together again, happy, just hanging out and talking....then he put his hand on my heart & smiled and then I was woken up by my phone ringing. Being upset that I was disturbed by my happy dream I ignored the phone call until I heard the "you've got a voicemail" beep. I saw on my phone that the missed call was from my mom and when I checked my voicemail she told me that the doctors had found a heart for my dad and that he was getting a transplant. It's hard to describe how I felt when I heard that message, all I wanted to do was hear it again and just hop on the next plane to Seattle.

The memory of when I arrived at the hospital for my dad is a bit of a blur. I just remember feeling shocked....this is what I wanted to happen but it was all so surreal. When the heart arrived and the surgeons were ready for my dad, I walked with them as they took him to the OR (I wanted to watch but family members aren't allowed to view their relative's operations). It was hard to watch them take him (the expression on his face was hazed (because of the medication they had given him pre-op)) because I didn't want to lose sight of him.....one never really knows how the surgery will go.....I didn't want him to miss his 2nd chance at life. Once a patient has the ok for a transplant everything seems to happen much too fast. The patient and family members don't really have a moment to process what's going on. Anyway, after about 6 hours? 8 hours? The transplant was successful. My dad had a new heart and his 2nd chance at life.

He was in what I call a coma for a while....there were some complications or issues that came up because of the transplant but he's a strong man. The recovery time did require some patience but my dad was educated about his situation and therefore prepared. Five years later he and my mom are planning a 3 week cruise around Europe for this summer. He's traveled abroad to countries like Greece and Chile. Walks everyday; just does what he can to stay in shape. Takes all of his medication and on schedule. My dad, now retired,
goes around Washington State talking to high school age kids about the importance of organ donation and loves it. It's his way of giving back. He's making the best out of the amazing gift that was given to him; he's doing what he can to make sure he doesn't miss a beat.

Being an organ donor is a voluntary choice but a beautiful and very gracious one. Please don't think that you're just one person and that it wouldn't matter if you didn't check the "Organ Donor" box when you're applying for your driver's license. On the contrary, it matters very much, you're not just saving one life...you're saving many; a heart could go to someone in Oregon, the kidneys could go to someone in California, and so on and so on. Please check out
Donate Life's website and Life Center Northwest for more information on becoming an organ donor. These websites can help you understand about the importance of talking about it with your family members or which religions do allow it.

For those of you getting your driver's license don't forget to check the "I want to be an Organ Donor" box. For those of you who have your DL and don't have Organ Donor on it....look into getting that changed. Organ donation changes so many lives in such positive ways. I'm so thankful for the gift that has been given to my dad.

Have a very safe and happy Easter or Passover.

***To get a better back story about my dad's experience please click

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very cool Redwing! You and your dad are an inspiration to us all. I'm all over the organ donation stuff, but I'm a terrible wimp when it comes to blood donations :-7


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