The Letter

“True stability results when presumed order and presumed disorder are balanced. A truly stable system expects the unexpected, is prepared to be disrupted, waits to be transformed.”- Tom Robbins

I’m an admitted procrastinator and nowhere is that more evident than in my stack of unopened mail. But this weekend it was the last few days before April 15, when annual taxes had to be filed and as part of that process I actually go through the mail stack to find needed tax forms. (Thanks for the Christmas cards, you guys!)

One of those letters was from the Red Cross. I have been a blood donor since I was first eligible to donate in a blood drive in my high school when I was 16. I have given ever since, admittedly sometimes mostly for the snacks when I was a poor college student (free pizza and peanut butter and jelly). I have been a platelets donor for 10 years or so, started because the Red Cross Center was very close to my work site in Winston-Salem.

While I love giving blood, I love giving platelets even more. Having had more than my share of friends and family members need them, mostly due to cancer treatment, I am passionate about it. I have blogged about it before. Yes it takes over two hours of your time, but it’s relatively painless and you get to lounge and watch a movie, and have snacks afterward.

Those who know me know my attention span and over time the folks at the Red Cross and I found the normal two armed version did not work well for me. Yes, I can forget that not just one, but two needles are in my arm. It never ruined a donation, but stopped a few prematurely and caused some “playing with needles” for others. When the Winston office got a one armed machine, they told me to always remind them I needed it. It took a bit longer to donate, but there was less chance for accidents when I had one arm free.

I have a high platelet count and could give a triple bag, so I was a welcome donor. Though every donor is welcome and needed. Platelets are liquid gold. Lives are saved because they are available. Though I have never had children, some people are walking around because of my blood and platelet donations. How amazing is that?

But this letter. It says I can no longer donate platelets. Something called HLA antibodies were detected in my blood. These are not harmful to me, but could cause a reaction called transfusion-related acute lung injury to the recipient. It can cause breathing problems or even cause death. To do more harm than hood to the patient..the antithesis of why I donate. It’s just one of those things…..they don’t know why it happens.

It’s been a crazy roller coaster kind of year for me, but this is probably the biggest down I have experienced. I’ve been able to donate more often than normal lately, and my great niece Sela and I had just talked about donating together again Friday night. She is 18 and went with me for the first time in December. Even walking away with two bruises arms (she had needles in both), she is ready to go again. That’s the bright spot….this special woman two generations younger than me is forging onward and will be able to continue to give.

I am still able to continue to donate whole blood or red cells and I will do that (it is interesting, and heartening, that this is an option). Still I am admittedly sad and disappointed that the “liquid gold” will no longer come from me. If you are able, consider standing in the gap for me.

Each loss in life appears to be replaced with a gift. In this season of disappointments and change to my life, I look with anticipation to what doors God will open next. Internally I am kicking and screaming a bit, but I am ready to transform as necessary. And grateful for the opportunities to live life well, but with a twist.

I guess it’s true that the only things that are certain are death and taxes.

Starting at 18……oh, the lives she can save!
The sticker from my last donation
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Sharing Your Stuff – And Giving Life

 “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”  Psalm 139:14 

“Don’t think of organ donations as giving up part of yourself to keep a total stranger alive.  It’s really a total stranger giving up almost all of themselves to keep part of you alive.”  Author Unknown

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”  Winston Churchill

“You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.”  John Wooden
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My friend Becky’s son Shane went home from the hospital yesterday.  He took with him a brand new pancreas and kidney.  Well, actually not new.  They have been gently used. Someone chose to share their life even beyond death and was his organ donor.  Because of that priceless gift, Shane will probably no longer be diabetic and will no longer have to be chained to a dialysis machine.  His life was changed…..in a matter of hours.  Instead of getting weaker from the effects of his disease, he will be getting stronger every day.

We often don’t like to talk about our own mortality….and so sometimes talking about organ donation makes us a bit uncomfortable.  But I hope you read this and share this….and if you aren’t already an organ donor and donation advocate, I hope you become one.

A few facts (from www.organdonor.gov):

  • Someone is added to the organ donation list every 10 minutes.
  • Each day an average of 79 people receive organ transplants; however, 18 people die each day because there is no organ available to them.
  • As of December 2010, the ethnicity of the National Waiting List was 45% White, 29% black, 18% Hispanic and 7% Asian.  While donors of all ethnicities are registered on a fairly proportionate basis to the population, some ethnicities are more prone to diseases that lead to the need of transplants. While donations cross ethnicities every day, blood and tissue matches are often better for people of the same ethnicity.  So while donors of all races are very important, black, Hispanic, Asian, and mixed race donors are especially needed on the US registry.
  • One organ donor can save up to eight lives.

 

    If you aren’t one of the 100 million who have agreed to let their organs help others in the event of their death, please consider joining us.  It is easy to sign up.  Here is a link to the state registries.   http://organdonor.gov/becomingdonor/stateregistries.html   (Friends in other countries, if you can’t find where to sign up, let me know.  I’ll bet I can find it!)

    Lest you think that me signing that organ donation card was easy, let me tell you the truth.  I said no at first.  The idea of it freaked me out.  It took me some time to think it through and let my logic conquer my emotions.  I still was a bit nauseous when I signed the card and gave my consent.  But that’s OK.  I finally came around and had peace about it.  Now years later I have confidence in that decision.   If you are struggling, talk to someone about it or at least commit some time to research and think about it.  Don’t avoid the issue.  Make an educated decision.

    Some very special people don’t wait until death to donate.  My friend Jen was one of them. She decided to donate a kidney to a stranger by going to a website, reading profiles of people with her blood type, and picking someone listed there. The first time was a charm.  They were a match.  Renee lives and thrives because of her decision.  I love their story.  I am proud and still in awe of Jen’s gift.  It’s been three years since it happened.

    Everyone does not have the calling of Jen (for instance, me!)  There are less dramatic ways to be a living donor. You can get on the bone marrow registry by a swab of your cheek.  Those expecting babies, consider donating that cord blood as a special baby gift to the world.  Donating platelets takes a couple of hours of your life (though you can do it quite often!). You sit in a comfy chair and watch a movie, and get snacks afterward.  Hardly a difficult sacrifice.  Donating blood takes even less time.  Scared of needles? Squeamish? You’re not alone.  The truth is you may go through a bit of discomfort.  As a blood donor since I was a 16-year-old student at North Iredell High, and a platelet donor for quite a few years too, I still have those moments I have to divert my mind or my eyes so as to not let that squeamish side of me rule my body.  I have come out with major bruises, I have left a puddle of blood at the refreshment table, I have fainted multiple times….but still I continue.  Why?  Somewhere on this planet people live because something I had more than enough of, and could replenish quickly, left my body and now flourishes in theirs. How cool is that?  Any discomfort is worth it!  What a privilege to be healthy and be allowed to donate.  Surely one of the reasons I was created.

    Our bodies are so very amazing and sometimes there is just no man-made substitute for its parts.  God’s work is best.  The day that you die, our world will never be the same.  I hope you live a very long life, because there are so many things for you to do, but we don’t come with a guarantee of years.  You are unique, you are special.  Your body, your self…it’s precious.  But you are mortal. And isn’t it better when you share your stuff?

    What if this choice to share will unchain someone from a dialysis machine, help the blind see, help someone breathe, help someone play tag with their child or help someone to be able to support themself and go to work every day?  What’s normal to you, would be a great luxury to them.  How would you like to know that when you are through with your body, instead of letting it just decay, you can give up to eight people new life?  It will cost you nothing yet it will be priceless for the recipient and those who love them…..and an encouragement to all who hear about it. After death you can continue to give life.  

    Thank you all who have made the choice to be an organ donor.  It’s a great way to continue the circle of life.  But don’t let it be your little secret…..talk about it.  Let everyone know it is your choice.  In the event of your death, don’t make those who love you and are grieving for you wonder what choice you would make.  Let them put your plan into action and get those organs to those who need them as soon as possible.

    Also, tell the stories of people like Shane.  Start conversations.  Let those struggling with the decision know there is someone they can talk to about it.  I don’t believe that organ donation should be done under any sort of compulsion, but instead because it is your choice.  One you believe in.  Because you want a great guy like Shane to live a life that is more full, more vital and full of hope.  So you can ease the fears of those who love them, like my amazing friend Becky and Shane’s precious boy Caleb.  That body you were given….it was a temporary gift that will be of no use to you one day.  A beautiful and amazing creation.  Something that serves you well now.  When you no longer need it, perhaps it can serve others.