April is National Organ Donation Awareness Month. Year-round, not just in April, this is an issue for hundreds of thousands of people.
Every year in the US, more than 24,000 people’s lives are saved because of organ transplants. And so many other people are healed, because of the gift someone has left behind.
In my own case, I have always been aware of the importance of organ, eye and tissue donations. At age 17, I signed up to be a donor. I even had a poem tacked to my bulletin board about this issue. (Geek alert….)
This is not easy to think about. Or talk about. What an amazing gift, however, when someone makes the decision to become a donor after they have passed away. Many – most – people shy away from the conversation. It’s a personal decision; an extremely personal and intimate decision. Once you’ve decided this is something you want to do, though, it’s easy to let others know.
And it makes a difference, for those 24,000 people (and their families!) who have another opportunity for life, and for those people who can be healed. Did you know that up to 50 – fifty! – people can be helped through one generous and brave person’s decision (and their family’s decision to support their wishes)? That’s a lot of people.
We have seen first-hand the impact these decisions make.
We have a friend who struggled with a liver disease since he was a young teenager. After years of waiting and struggling and getting sicker by the day, month and year, he received a liver transplant a couple years ago. He and his family celebrate his “liver-versary” every minute of every day. He will be able to see his daughters grow up, will walk them down the aisle at their weddings, will know his grandchildren. For that, all of us who know him and his family are grateful.
Two weeks ago today, our 23-year-old son lost his best friend in a sudden and tragic accident. Because of friend Allen’s foresight, and his family’s knowledge and acceptance of his decision, he was able to save the lives of four people through the donation of his organs. Additionally, Allen’s eyes and tissue will help heal countless others. We salute Allen and his family. In the midst of the sadness and despair, his family was able to know that Allen – our funny, sweet, goofy Allen – gave comfort, courage and life (!) to people he didn’t even know.
Want to know more? Please visit http://www.organdonation.org or http://www.life-source.org. They have facts, statistics and information to help you decide whether this is a gift you can and want to give. Me? I decided long ago.
Bless the people who have made this decision (and their families for supporting it). And bless those whose lives have been saved or made whole by this wonderful gift.
In case you are wondering, here is the poem I hung on my bulletin board all those years ago:
To Remember Me
Robert Noel Test (1926-1994)
To Remember Me
At a certain moment a doctor will determine that my brain has ceased to function and that, for all intents and purposes, my life has stopped.
When that happens, do not attempt to instill artificial life into my body by the use of a machine. And don’t call this my “deathbed.” Call it my “bed of life,” and let my body be taken from it to help others lead fuller lives.
Give my sight to a man who has never seen a sunrise, a baby’s face or love in the eyes of a woman.
Give my heart to a person whose own heart has caused nothing but endless days of pain.
Give my blood to the teenager who has been pulled from the wreckage of his car, so that he might live to see his grandchildren play.
Give my kidneys to one who depends on a machine to exist from week to week.
Take my bones, every muscle, every fiber and nerve in my body and find a way to make a crippled child walk.
Explore every corner of my brain. Take my cells, if necessary, and let them grow so that someday a speechless boy will shout at the crack of a bat and a deaf girl will hear the sound of rain against her windows.
Burn what is left of me and scatter the ashes to the winds to help the flowers grow.
If you must bury something, let it be my faults, my weaknesses and all my prejudice against my fellow man.
Give my sins to the devil. Give my soul to God. If, by chance, you wish to remember me, do it with a kind deed or word to someone who needs you. If you do all I have asked, I will live forever.