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Monday, June 1, 2015

A Gift Called Life

Two days ago, May 30, Trent had his second birthday in the month of May. The first, around mid-month, was his actual birthday. It was fairly low key and we enjoyed ourselves quietly. The second birthday passed quietly as well, but we did take a few moments here and there to acknowledge the day. You see, on May 30, 2012, Trent received his most recent kidney transplant. We don't know very much about the person whose death provided Trent, as well as several other people, with the wonderful gift called life. We know that the donor was a male in his thirties, and that's about all. From the way the kidney has been functioning, I am guessing he was fairly healthy. 

Trent will tell you that with each transplant he has had, there have been some changes to his tastes. Although many doctors discount it, a lot of recipients believe in transplant memories. The cells in the transplanted organs seem to remember things that were enjoyed by their "original owners." Something we have both noticed since this transplant is that Trent's taste went from "meh" to "yes, please!" with Mexican (okay, American style Mexican) food. And the Red Hot sauce that he couldn't understand my taste for? Yes, he's crazy for it now. And ice cream. Trent has known some people over the years, fellow transplant recipients, whose tastes and behaviors have changed as well. There was the woman who was over forty and received an organ from a teenaged girl. Suddenly this woman who hated chewing gum couldn't get enough of it. Every time anyone saw her she was chewing gum and blowing bubbles. She found out that the donor did, in fact, absolutely love her bubble gum!

There is a very serious side to transplantation that many of you may not be aware of, which is the desperate need for organ donors. An average of twenty-one people die every day in the United States waiting for an organ transplant. When Trent was in the hospital before his first transplant, he had a roommate who needed a liver transplant. Sadly, this young father of two little girls was sent home to die. The time for him to be successfully transplanted had come and gone, and he was no longer strong enough to live through the surgery. Some years later, a young man that I had trained while working at the bank also found himself in need of a new liver. His doctors told him from the beginning that his chances of having a transplant were very slim. He was about six and a half feet tall, and there was very little chance of a donor being both the right size and blood type to save his life. Rob died waiting for a transplant that would never happen. 

I am not trying to give any of you a guilt trip regarding your stance on organ donation. It is an extremely personal decision, and I support everyone's choices on this subject. For some, there are religious beliefs that forbid removing organs, and others may find the whole process unnatural or bizarre or even off-putting. That's all okay, and I support your choices. The reasons I am mentioning it are very simple. One is that the decision is entirely up to you. If you want to be an organ and tissue donor, that is wonderful. If you don't, that is also wonderful. But second, and most important, is that you should let your loved ones know how you feel about organ donation. Even if your identification says that you are a donor, your survivors will be asked whether your organs should be donated. If they don't know how you feel, their decision may be the opposite of what you wanted. Let your family know exactly how you feel so that they don't have to struggle over the decision on your behalf.

Remember that life itself is a gift. Enjoy it to the fullest, and remember that the time and love and relationships you share with others are the greatest gifts of all.

A note from The Lunatic:

If you are curious about the number I shared above, or other facts and statistics regarding organ and tissue donation, please visit Donate Life America.