What do each of these three individuals have in common?
Brad - a 34 year old husband and father of 2 sons, veteren of the military, college graduate and avid outdoorsman.
Jackson - a lively, energenic 3 year old who idiolized his big sister and cousin.
Mara - a strong, courageous, amazing, athletic, smiley 21 year old lady.
Before I tell you what they have in common, lets roll it back to September 1994 - the day I took and passed my drivers license test. While filling out the application with name, address, height, weight, birthdate, etc. I came across a little box that states “check here” if you want to register as an organ donor. I guess I hadn’t really thought about it until that day.... By checking the box indicates “you wish to register as a donor. Registering means that you authorize the donation of your organs, tissues and eyes upon your death. Your gift will be used to save and improve lives through transplantation, therapy, research or education. If you are 18 years old or older, your decision may not be overridden by your family or any other person, but it's important to share your decision with your family.” I am not a selfish person and by all means, if my organs can save or better someone else’s life when I am done with them - please, please take and use them. BOX CHECKED.
Years down the road in 2006, a news story aired about a little girl who needed a bone marrow transplant and that there was going to be a bone marrow registery drive. All it would take to get registered to see if you were a potential match for her (and everyone else on the waiting list) was 15 minutes of your time and a swab of your cheek. Simple as that, I arrived at the designated registery drive site in the bottom of the basement in an old church, filled out some paper work, used a cotton swab and rubbed it around on the side of my cheek & whaa-la - I was now on the Be The Match bone marrow registery which is the first step to be someone’s cure. A cure for leukemia, other blood cancers and bone marrow diseases. Now obviously when you register to become a donor it doesn’t neccessarily mean that you are going to be called. I have been on the registery for over 7 years and have not been contacted, however, if I ever do get that call - I am ready and willing to donate my cells.
Now back to Brad, Jackson and Mara:
If you haven’t guessed what these three have in common - it is that they have all received an organ or a tissue transplant.
|Brad and his wife Deanna during a hospital stay|
The news of Brad (whom I graduated high school with) being diagnosed with stage II Hodgkins Lymphoma--nodular sclerosis in the spring of 2011 was shocking. How could this be happening to someone the same age as me, who was in good health, very athletic, traveled the world, married with kids? I kept in touch with Brad through Facebook and followed his caringbridge page that he and his wife updated as he endured various treatments including chemotherapy, a transplant of harvested marrow from his own bone marrow, radiation & a bone marrow transplant from a donor. As Brad’s wife Deanna said on June 18th, the day of the bone marrow transplant “Yesterday across the world, an unknown person donated their bone marrow. They didn't know Brad or I and they didn't get paid. Yet, they selflessly donated their time and cells to Brad so he may have another shot at a cancer-free life. That kindness is immeasurable.”. I absolutely couldn’t agree more!
Brad battled this cancer and gave it his all. In his Dec. 19th post, he stated that 100% of the donor’s marrow took and the CT scan showed no cancer but there was a fear that GVHD is what kept admitting him back into the hospital. Sadly, Brad passed away 10 days later after he was rushed to the hospital and they discovered he had severe pneumonia, congestive heart failure, and had abnormally low white blood cells.
|Jackson and his "HERO" |
18 months post transplant
I met Jackson when he was a teeny, tiny 4 week old baby. His mom had contacted me to take his newborn photographs and had asked to have them taken in their home due to him just getting out of the hospital. I was glad to do so. This little guy was so sweet, I felt for him getting such a rough start to life. What I didn’t know was how tough the road ahead was going to get for him. He was born with posterior urethral valves (meaning he couldn’t go to the bathroom while in utero and all the urine backed up and damaged his kidneys). After four surgeries, he was in desperate need of a kidney transplant. Finding a match was proving to be very difficult do to his blood type and antibodies. After almost 6 months a match was found! This little guy was going to get a kidney - from his very own 20 year old cousin!! What a hero he is to that little guy. Recovery was a long road but Jackson is a year and a half post transplant and is a happy, healthy 3 year old.
|Mara holding her heart post transplant|
I had got to know Mara when she was in high school through a fellow bowling teammate. The summer before Mara entered her senior year, she and her family came out to get Mara’s grad pictures taken. I remember specifically the moment inbetween a backdrop swap when her mom, Heather, told me that Mara and her both had a heart condition and that they needed new hearts. Wow, I had no idea what to say. They both looked really healthy and Mara was into sports, how was that possible? Heather explained that it was hereditary and that her mom (Mara’s grandma) had died from it when she was just 3 1/2 years old. Mara and her mom were both diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disease in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick when they were both in kindergarten. Mom and daughter had a lot of bonding time together with yearly tests, doctors appointments and even having pacemakers put in on the same day. The time came though and Mara was first to receive a new heart in November 2012 and Heather received hers less than a year later in August 2013. These two ladies are so strong and positive, I admire them. Unfortunately, Mara went through rejection and was given an artificial heart a year later and sadly, while battling a blood infection this January - Mara passed away.
Now, getting down to the nitty gritty....
I CHALLENGE YOU
I challenge you to do a selfless act. Please consider becoming an organ and/or tissue donor! For the organs, they are no good to you once you have passed on this earth - why not pass them on to someone to give them a second chance at life? One donor can save or enhance the lives of more than 50 people.
Please visit the following sites to sign up (in some states, putting it on your drivers license is not good enough):
http://donatelife.net/ - Will have links to each of the 50 states sign up sites.
https://health.wisconsin.gov/donorRegistry/public/donate.html - Wisconsin site
https://www.lifesourcedonorregistry.org/donate.aspx - Minnesota site
http://bethematch.org - Nation Bone Marrow Donor Program
https://www.uwhealth.org/transplant/living-organ-donation-inquiry-form/39095 - UW Health Living Organ Donation
www.kidneyregistry.org/ - National Kidney Registry
Need facts and statistics first??? Here ya go:
Fact: Anyone, regardless of age or medical history, can sign up to be a donor. The transplant team will determine at an individual's time of death whether donation is possible.
Fact: Most major religions in the United States support organ donation and consider donation as the final act of love and generosity toward others.
Fact: If you are sick or injured and admitted to a hospital, the number one priority is to save your life.
Fact: When matching donor organs to recipients, the computerized matching system considers issues such as the severity of illness, blood type, time spent waiting, other important medical information, and geographic location. The recipient's financial or celebrity status or race does not figure in.
Fact: An open casket funeral is usually possible for organ, eye, and tissue donors. Through the entire donation process, the body is treated with care, respect, and dignity.
Fact: There is no cost to donors or their families for organ or tissue donation.
Fact: Every state provides access to a donor registry where its residents can indicate their donation decision.
Fact: Federal law prohibits buying and selling organs in the U.S. Violators are punishable by prison sentences and fines.
Fact: People can recover from comas, but not brain death. Coma and brain death are not the same. Brain death is final.
- Almost 100,000 men, women and children currently need lifesaving organ transplants.
- Every 12 minutes another name is added to the national organ transplant waiting list.
- An average of 18 people dies each day from the lack of available organs for transplant.
- In 2005, there were 7,593 deceased organ donors and 6,895 living organ donors resulting in 28,108 organ transplants.
- In 2005, 44,000 grafts were made available for transplant by eye banks within the United States.
- Approximately 1,000,000 tissue transplants are performed annually.
- According to research, 98% of all adults have heard about organ donation and 86% have heard of tissue donation.
- 90% of Americans say they support donation, but only 30% know the essential steps to take to be a donor.
Have I convinced you to sign up yet?
Give life - I challenge you!