Organ Donation Debrief

How often do you hear people say they struggle to justify taking care of themselves? You, perhaps, are one of them. After all, it is a fairly common phenomenon these days – especially among women, mothers in particular, and also high achievers, business women, and general go-getters (none of which is mutually exclusive, I should take a moment to point out). Is it so unusual, after all our acculturation to become nurturers, givers, and team players that we should struggle to say “No, I need to do this for myself?”

Are you an organ donor?

Yes?

Then it’s not just about you.

I participated in an organ reclamation surgery today. My first. The donor was young. Brain dead. An accident. My heart bleeds for his wife; she was so glazed over when we went to collect him from the ICU, so numb when she leaned over to give him a final kiss. When we entered the operating room, he was warm, pink, and dead. He left cold, empty, and deader.

I’m in my twenties. I have a boyfriend (and a sister, a mom, dad, dear friends, cousins, co-workers), and I know I’ve been lucky. I’ve lost great-grandparents, and grandparents who were ready to go. A little over a year ago, a high-school acquaintance was killed in a bike accident, but years and miles from the intermingling of our lives muffled the blow.

Dear God, it’s cases like these that strike fear into my heart. In the course of an afternoon I met a man (the body of a man), looked his family in their eyes, and then watched him die (a second death).  That could be me; my sister, mother, girlfriend, cousins, or lover could be opened on that table.

I have a faint inkling this is not my forte (she said, sarcastically). I empathize, I cry, I high-tailed it out of there like nobody’s business to go run in the park with the sun on my shoulders. I’m still processing. But I also cannot help but think of the liver he gave; one spleen; two kidneys; multiple nodes and vessels.

While the trauma I witnessed is only a fraction of what our donor’s family must feel, somewhere out there, people are stepping back from death’s door because of him. As we speak, that liver is nestled in up to three new homes. Those kidneys are cached and pumping away. For at least five other families, today was the best day in the world.

So back to the topic of self-care. If vanity isn’t a good enough reason for you to move your body, eat the green things, meditate, and relax, do it for a stranger. Do it for 5 strangers, 10 strangers, do it for the 50 strangers whose lives could be touched by a choice you make today. Do it because none of us is guaranteed a long life, or functional organs. Do it because you are among the most generous human beings on the planet. And in the meantime? Stay safe, because I love you, my friends, and I’m not ready for grief like that.

 

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