I was given the gift of life through an organ donation. I had a bilateral lung transplant due to respiratory failure from Cystic Fibrosis. My gift of life was graciously given through lung transplant on November 7th 2004.
Transplantation gives you a new perspective on life. I am looking at life through a different lens now. I have been able to travel both internationally and within the states. I've been to Canada at elevations my CF affected lungs wouldn't be able to tolerate. I've been able to run and participate in fundraising 5k's and can just grab the leash and go on impromptu walks with my dogs if I so desire. It's also the little things too like getting out of bed without a coughing fit in the morning. Or being able to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night without having to disconnect from my tube feeding pump. It's showering without oxygen and having the energy to stand the whole time. It's being able to get dressed and do my hair without getting so exhausted I have no energy to go out afterwards. I can take deep breaths. Chase my dogs around the yard while playing. Go on a walk to the market with my niece and nephew. It's such an amazing gift to be able to breathe!
Thankfully I am one of the fortunate one's who has been able to actually meet my donor family. We had an instantaneous connection! I'm so glad that they were receptive of me and have welcomed me into their lives. They have told me, the pain of losing Andrew has been soothed by getting to have me in their lives. As a recipient the best two words we can say to our donor families is "Thank You!" My donor's father said the least a recipient can do to honor the substantial gift they've received is to say "thank you". That has really stuck with me; and I tell recipients this advice and encourage them to write their donor families. Even if it seems insurmountable. Or, you're worried about how they will feel about you "showing off" by expressing how great your new life is to a grieving donor family. Let me tell you; don't make it that hard. Just say "thank you". If the donor family writes back and wants to get to know you, that's the time to express how their loved one has changed your life.
I love the family connection the people involved with organ and tissue donation share. I truly feel that I was given the gift of life to be an inspiration to others and to give back to those that gave to me. I had a mentor through the Barnes Jewish Lung Transplant program who helped me in so many ways before and after my transplant that I wanted to be able to the same for someone else. I did happen to have a great connection with my mentor and we were married a year after my lung transplant. We truly feel that we've made it as long as we have after transplant because we have one another. But, being able to see how much his life had changed and how healthy he looked really gave me hope for a better life. My heart and passions for people and living things encourages me to get involved! To give hope to others who are struggling, that is why I volunteer at Mid-America Transplant.