January 7, 2015

You make the difference.

Post-transplant day #393. You make the difference.

One life ends, another begins again.

A CF woman named Amy Mars Young passed away today at the age of 50 - a full 20 years beyond her own first end-of-life experience, thanks to organ donation. The lungs she received were able to give her, her friends, and her family 20 more years of love and living. Keep in mind lung transplantation was still in its infancy then - and she lived TWENTY MORE YEARS. That's a generation! What an excellent run!

Another organ donor recently passed away and in so doing saved the life of another Columbia-to-Duke CFer. My transplant friend Joe, whom I met the last time I was at Duke and whose mother Theresa I've been texting with, got his lungs yesterday morning. He's already off the vent and walking. I hope things go as well for him as they did for me.

In the meantime, I continue to pray for Heather James. She's experiencing a protracted recovery, slowed mostly, it seems, by an inability to ween off the vent. It's been two months and she's still in ICU. I just want to yank her out of there and take her on a brisk walk with me.

All these lives - my friends, friends of friends, myself, my love - have all been given new life...by strangers. Without exception, all of my transplant friends have been pulled out of the path of death by the simple gift a stranger made years ago - or yesterday. If you're going to die, you're going to die, as we all eventually must - but it doesn't mean your organs and tissues have to. You can be the autumn leaves that fall, rot, and are permanently gone, but which help push up next spring's blossoms.

Do you know that as I've driven around NY city in my little car for the last eight months, that I haven't seen a single other Donate Life license plate? New York State has one of the lowest rates of donor signups; one of the reasons behind the long transplant waiting lists here. It doesn't have to be that way.

I'm sure all of YOU have signed on the New York state donor registry and let your families know your wishes. But as I enter my second year, I entreat you to pass the stories I have told along to your friends and coworkers; people who may have no intersection with the world of transplant at all, but who, if they just understood the impact becoming a donor has, could make the difference between life and death.

Today I am reminded that as thankful as I am for the lives saved so far, we still have a lot of work to do.