It was 25 years ago when my grandmother got the good news from University of California Irvine. “We have a cornea for you!” the young man on the other end of the phone announced. My grandmother was 80 years old and blind in her left eye. The hospital was about three hours away, and she needed to get down there as soon as possible.
My family prayed for that eye every day. Of course, we wanted her remaining years to be of high quality, but we had selfish reasons, too: my grandmother needed to continue frying meatballs and baking pizza for our family dinners on Sunday! Therefore two working eyes were in everyone’s best interest.
The car ride to the hospital was exciting on many levels, and my grandfather could not contain his jokes: “I wonder what your new ‘outlook’ on life will be!” he joked with my grandmother. “All this traffic sure will be a ‘blur’ by the time we get down there!” Thank God my grandmother was too ecstatic to care about her husband’s self-serving sense of humor. And excited she was. She traveled down the freeway with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for her donor.
Of course there’s the physical impact donors have on transplant recipients, but there’s also a special emotional impact. Needless to say, the family members on both sides of the situation have emotions ranging from peace to joy.
Given that April is National Donate Life Month, it’s a good time to think about your good health, and consider learning about your options when it comes to organ, tissue, blood and marrow donation.
1. Visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services site. This is where you can get additional information about donor and transplantation. Learn about statistics and facts, view and print a variety of materials and resources for your workplace or organization, and find out about ways to spread the word.
2. Decide to donate your organs and tissue. Sign up, let your loved ones know your wishes, and think about the fact that you alone can save the lives of up to eight people. That’s a beautiful gift all around!
The decision to donate is a deeply personal one. I saw firsthand how life was passed from one person to another, and the beautiful celebration that went with that on both sides. Take some time to educate yourself about donor requirements and recipient stories, and you’ll be able to make a decision that’s right for you. Just knowing there are currently 124,000 US men, women and children awaiting organ transplants is probably enough to make you want to find out more. Don’t delay.