Personal experiences provide perspective on organ donation

In the past, I’ve written about the importance of organ donation, but never have I felt the impact as strongly as I have this past week. Over these last few days I have had to look at organ donation from a different angle.

As a toddler, our nephew Tyler needed a new liver. It was a rare inherited thing that caused it, and his family was most fortunate that his need occurred at a time that transplants could happen.

But there was a lot of waiting involved.

Praying for an organ donation is not an easy thing, you see, because for a liver to be available someone else has to die and a family member has to donate their organs. It is a complicated process. The tissues of the donor and recipient have to perfectly match. There is a long list of people needing a transplant and the person with the best match and in the most need becomes the recipient.

Families with a loved one in need of an organ transplant word their prayers carefully. Prayers are that someone who has just lost a loved one will choose to donate organs. Prayers are that a nurse or doctor will have an opportunity to ask if the deceased had ever expressed a wish to donate organs if the situation occurs.

When Tyler was eight years old, the long-awaited phone call finally came. Because they had their plans in place for so long, the family was at the hospital in no time and Tyler received a donated liver from another child who had been in a wreck. It was so exciting to see color return to his cheeks and to see him feeling better and better as time progressed. As he recovered, his parents got a letter from the mother of the donor. She met with Tyler more than once and took comfort in his health. Today he is a grown man, married, and has a career he enjoys in construction.

For our family, Tyler’s transplanted liver was a miracle from heaven and we have never forgotten the family who made the liver transplant possible. We are so thankful. I think all of Tyler’s relatives have that little red heart on our driver’s licenses that identifies us as potential organ donors.

Last week we lost a dear cousin. Lisa died suddenly and unexpectedly. When we got that sad phone call from her husband, he told us immediately that Lisa’s wish had been honored and that she was going to be an organ donor.

His words took my breath away for a few seconds. And I realized that as he made his sad telephone calls, other phones were ringing in other homes with very exciting news. An organ was available for transplant. As we cried for our loss of Lisa, other families were filled with excitement and hope for a match and successful surgery.

It will take awhile to get the news of how many lives Lisa was able to save. Sometimes a person is willing, but the circumstances do not allow donation. The waiting lists are long and somewhere there will be a match or three. We know the willingness was there in Lisa to do the ultimate Pass it On.

I’ve interviewed donor families before, but never truly understood their feelings before this week.

I’m proud and thankful for Lisa’s decision. Her soul has gone on to be with the Lord and she left behind her organs to help extend the lives of persons in need of a transplant.

I’m thankful for her husband who in his bereavement bravely saw to her wishes.

We will miss sweet Lisa, and the memorial service will be tough for us. But we personally know the joy and hope that a recipient family feels. That knowledge will be a comfort over time.

And I hope readers will remember this very personal story next time they are in line to renew a driver’s license.

When the register asks, “Do you want to be an organ donor?” I hope you will join our family in saying “Yes.”

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