July 4th, 21 yrs ago, I gained my independence....my life once again. I was saved for a second time in my life by receiving the gift of life from a young woman who made the choice to become an organ + tissue donor years prior. When she made that choice to be a donor…. she likely did so unknowing that she would leave such a lasting legacy and save my life with her Kidney.
At the age of 10, I had already endured numerous medical procedures (my first at 2 weeks old). I was facing sure death if I was unable to receive a life saving transplant within a short period of time. I had been put on the national waiting list in the top priority category for my current health condition and age. Peritoneal dialysis was functioning as my kidney for the last couple of years, but my condition had become volatile and my young body unable to function long term. My family, friends, doctors, and many others lifted me up in prayer as they had all my life throughout the medical trials. They never stopped believing. They prayed for a healthy life ahead and a sense of normalcy. For that, I am grateful to each and every one of them....because they provided me with the best quality of life I could under the medical circumstances.
The morning of July 4, 1987, I received the letter from the State Police and the call from OHSU while I was camping with my family in Central Oregon. At that pivotal moment in my life I was calm, yet overwhelmed by the gift of life I was about to receive. My Mom and I caught a flight to Portland up to OHSU (the hospital) and I was on the surgery table within hours. Following the transplant that day, my kidney was "sleepy" and not functioning completely... I had to deal with some major complications for the first few weeks... As I was laying there in the hospital during the complications... I couldn't stop thinking I was within reaching distance…. within reality of a long life ahead, a normal life... if I was able to hold on, fight the good fight, and survive the next couple of weeks....but one day, my Father and I were watching a movie in my hospital room and talking about the "new" life I had ahead and the kidney started working without explanation. From that point on I knew I was now going to live a "normal" life without tubes and constant visits to the hospital. My Father, Mother, Grandparents, extended Family, Doctors, and I shared those conversations of hope since I was a little boy.
God, as the great physician, heard the prayers that were lifted up from family, friends, doctors, nurses, and folks that had knowledge of my condition. I am able to thank them daily by the way I live my life and what I do with the gift of life I've received, the legacy I leave. I constantly pay tribute to the woman whom gave me life by remembering her sacrifice... She accepted me unconditionally, and I accepted her..... She gave the ultimate gift by making the choice to be an organ donor and blessed me with a second chance at life.. She keeps me alive, and I keep her alive daily....
I sit back years later in prayer and reflection giving thanks. I am humbled daily that I had been given a second chance at life when so many of my peers did not have that chance. “Why me ?” ….. I've grappled and thought time and time again about the grace and love I received. It took me years to understand and accept what that meant. In that process God has given me such a heart to serve and live for those that have loved, supported, and encouraged me along the way... as well as for folks and families that have endured and/or are currently facing medical adversity. I have lost loved ones, friends and family, to medical situations and "natural" causes. For those of you who read this and can relate or have been impacted by the loss of a loved one...... my heart goes out to you and know that I pray for you…. The tears that are shed are truly tributes to their lives and the impact they’ve had…. Continue their legacy by remembering them daily in all that you do.
I think I am just realizing and accepting what grace and unconditional love truly is.... When I opened my heart to Jesus years ago…. I received hope, love, and grace... In the years prior I had difficulty understanding why God would love me so much, but realized he loves us all.... He loves us so much he is willing to bring us through all circumstances to be in relationship with him individually and in community..... It is amazing to experience that first hand so boldly.
I find comfort, strength, and encouragement in a scripture from the Word that speaks to my heart : “we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; character, hope” - Romans 5:3-4
When I sat down to write this…. my intention was to implore you to become an organ and tissue donor and give the gift of life… to leave a lasting legacy. Maybe by reading about my life, my transplant, and about the young woman whom gave me a second chance at life by her decision to be an organ + tissue donor... you would think about the lives you could change by becoming a donor too. Another recipient of a life saving transplant might have the chance to sit here and write about how incredibly grateful they are for your choice to become an organ donor years prior.
Throughout my years spent in the hospital and "living a normal life".... I've gone through a growing process that has provoked in me a vision to serve others that have endured or currently face medical circumstances too.... so I set out with folks alike to walk alongside the masses who are hurting, who are sick, and who are healed but still face a long recovery. We can all do our part and leave a lasting legacy by serving. Get involved in some capacity as you are lead.
I must give thanks to the many who never gave up on me. By their unconditional love and patience, their medical knowledge, and “never give up attitude” I was able to fight through the pain and the endless days in the hospital… without all of them I would surely not be the man I am today. Thank you Dr. Jenkins, Dr. Alexander, Dr. Barry, the OHSU Staff and Nurses…. and of course… all of my family and friends… for standing my by side and walking with me the entire journey thus far.
Some of the latest statistics for Organ + Tissue Donation & Transplantation :
+ Every 13 minutes, a new name is added to the National Organ Transplant List.
+ Approximately 100,000 people nationally – 2,500 regionally - are on the waiting list. More than 2,200 of them are children under the age of 18.
+ On average, 17 patients die every day while awaiting an organ--one person every 85 minutes. + Up to 30 individuals can be impacted by the organ
+ tissue donation of one donor + More than 46,000 corneal transplants are performed every year, returning the gift of sight to those who have lost their vision.
+ Nearly 900,000 tissue transplants are performed every year, greatly enhancing the quality of life for recipients.
PLEASE BECOME AN ORGAN + TISSUE DONOR, GIVE THE GIFT OF LIFE, & LEAVE A LASTING LEGACY
Oregon Health & Science University
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