Almost five years ago, my sister changed the lives of five people. She gave them a new chance at life by losing hers.
Heidi collapsed at work and was rushed to the hospital. When I got the call, I hurried to the hospital not sure what to expect. I was worried but not prepared for the news from the ER doctor. Have you been there? Hearing the words, but feeling like you are looking in from the outside. Dangerously high blood pressure. Possible brain bleed. Severe condition. It was like being in a dream and I was unable to wake up. “Wait. What? No, I’m sorry that can’t be right. There must be some mistake.”
There was no mistake. The doctors confirmed she had a massive brain hemorrhage. Looking at the scan was surreal. Even as the non-medical person in my family, I could see that the brain that concocted delicious recipes, created beautiful cross-stitch and loved to give was gone, irreparably damaged forever.
We lost her. How could we possibly make sense of it?
Psalm 34:18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
The only way was to allow for Heidi’s legacy to live on by giving the most precious gift, a second chance at life. A 71 year old male received her right kidney, a 60 year old man has her left kidney, a 62 year old woman her lungs and two young women received the gift of sight. Gift of Life helped us navigate a heart wrenching time and ensured that Heidi would be treated with dignity and her death would not be in vain. Gift of Life is a non-profit organization that works as a liaison between donors, hospitals and transplant centers.
Did you know?
- Nearly 116,000 people are currently waiting for an organ transplant
- Each organ donor can save up to eight lives
- Each day, on average, 88 lives are saved by an organ transplant in the United States but 22 people die daily waiting for a transplant
People have different ideas about organ donation. Oftentimes misinformation and fear keep people from signing up to become a donor. When my time comes, if there is anything left worth giving, I want my family to respect my wishes and donate my organs. If I am no longer in need of something, why wouldn’t I give it to help someone else?
2 Corinthians 5:1 For we know that when this tent we live in now is taken down – when we die and leave these bodies – we will have wonderful new bodies in heaven, home that will be ours forevermore, made for us by God himself and not by human hands.
We heard from a few of the recipients. A pastor who had lived with kidney disease for 30 years and waited four years for a transplant. The woman who was once again able to breathe deep and enjoy time with her grandchildren. It was healing to read their letters and I was grateful to see that Heidi’s death was not the end of her story.
It wasn’t the end of our story either. October 1, 2016 my precious great nephew CJ was born with End State Renal Disease. For most of the first year of his life, daily dialysis was required to do the work for his non-functioning kidneys. Soon after his first birthday he was placed on the transplant list for a new kidney. Every time the phone rang his parents would hope, both excited and terrified. Just before Christmas, CJ got his shot at life when a young woman lost hers. As happy as I was that CJ was getting his kidney, I know what it was like to be on the other side. The pain and disbelief, wondering how to make sense of it all. As I pray for my nephew to continue to get stronger and for his “bean” to stay healthy, I pray for the family who lost someone they loved and thank them for their generous gift.
If you had the power to save someone’s life, would you do it?