17 Years Ago

17 years ago today, I got another chance. Again. My first second chance was 26 years ago today. I don’t really think things are coincidental, but I find it fascinating that my two transplants would take place on the same day, nine years apart, at roughly the same time. The difference between the two surgeries is that I received two kidneys my last go around and they seem to like me more than the rest of my original body parts do.

When I was waiting the first time, doctors weren’t too keen on living-related organ donation. But for the second go at it, my mom was tested and was deemed a compatible match. She jumped through the hoops, passed all the tests and then the transplant surgery was scheduled. Probably because it was described (at that time) as a very painful surgery for her, I never felt good about her donating a kidney to me. But I went along with it, not really knowing what to do — besides she got a pretty thorough, free check-up out of it. I checked into the hospital and as we waited for her room to be ready, I went into the bathroom to pray. Lord, if this is what You want, then I’ll go through with it. But if this is not what You want, You need to stop this.

No more than 30 minutes later, one of the doctors came to my room with a very concerned expression and said we couldn’t go through with the transplant. Even though they had all this information when we scheduled the surgery, suddenly, it seemed, my mom’s creatinine clearance was causing this doctor a great deal of concern. He felt it would be unwise to go ahead with the transplant. Relieved, I checked out and went back home. (Mom was ok—no later tests ever showed the same result as the one the doctor was worried about.)

Waiting for a transplant can be a tricky thing. It can be heavy stuff for the mind to grapple with. Even at 18, there was something unnerving about knowing someone had to die so that I could have a chance to live; knowing that someone’s family and friends were grieving, while mine would be rejoicing and grateful. With that in mind, I’d like to take a moment to thank some special people.

Dear Donor Family:

I have no idea who you are, but I want to thank you once again for thinking of someone like me while you were facing a great loss. I know that both of my donor families lost a young child and I cannot imagine how deep your pain was when you chose to give the gift of life to strangers.

I hope sharing a glimpse of my life brings you some measure of comfort and not pain. It hasn’t all been roses and sunshine, but because of you, I was able to graduate from college. After graduation, I had a job where I traveled and saw our beautiful country and met all kinds of people—many kind, a few not so much. I was able to do things like go whale watching in Monterey and skiing in Colorado. I eventually married the most handsome man ever (yes, he reads this). After some struggle with infertility, I actually got pregnant and gave birth to two beautiful girls.

As I write this, I hope with all my heart that time has eased your pain. Please know, even in my gratitude, I cried with you and do now as I remember you at this time. Tears of thankfulness and tears hoping and praying that you are doing well, that life has been kinder to you than it was then.

The choice you made to give so that I and others could live is one of the best reflections I’ve seen of Christ’s love in this life. Your thoughtfulness and bravery in a painful situation humble me. I pray that God has held you close and comforted you through the years.

If you have ever questioned if your life has made a difference, please know that you made an incredible difference in my life and I am grateful for you.

A thank-filled recipient

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