Organblog

Organ Donors: Unsung Heroes

As an employee of The Center for Health Affairs, I’m proud to contribute to the organization’s effort to support the region’s healthcare providers and ultimately the health of the communities they serve. The Center is a proud community partner of the City Club’s event on April 14, titled, “Unsung Heroes: Behind the Scenes of Organ, Eye and Tissue Donation.” When I was asked to post a blog for this event, I needed no encouragement. This topic, is near and dear to me.

I’ve always liked the month of April. For starters, my birthday in in April. But beyond that, this “season of light” makes new life so visible. The world seems greener, and our spirits begin to lift. I’m genuinely excited to see the first crocus poke its head up, signaling me to put pansies in a pot on the front stoop. April is also National Donate Life Month (NDLM), instituted by Donate Life America and its partnering organizations in 2003. Having been personally affected by organ donation, April is also a time of gratitude. 

My third child, Paul, was born with biliary atresia, a life-threatening condition in infants in which the bile ducts inside or outside the liver do not have normal openings. Paul also had small, misshapen, kidneys filled with cysts. Transplantation was his only hope for survival. 

Finding a new liver for Paul was the top priority. He was promptly added to the list via the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS). We also began investigating living donation. Both my husband and I were evaluated and eligible to be his donor. A number of factors – most significantly my size − made me the preferred choice, though we also had to consider what made sense for the needs of our other children, work and how to balance it all.  Even after the decision, size was still a concern, as even a portion of my liver, was too big for his tiny body, so the waiting began − waiting for Paul to grow big enough for a living donation; waiting for weekly lab results; hoping for minimal disease progression; waiting for the sound of the beeper, indicating a donor had become available. We struggled with the knowledge that what we waited for to save Paul’s life, could mean another family’s ultimate loss. Yet, we were determined to get him to grow, and packed calorie after calorie, into his little body. He endured 24-hour tube feedings, multiple medications and constant poking and prodding by doctors and nurses. And it worked!

At the age of eight months, and 18 pounds, Paul received a living liver donation from me. As for his tiny misshapen kidneys, they managed to last a lot longer than anyone guessed. At 8 years old, Paul received a second organ donation. This time, his father was the donor! All of us are healthy, active and of course, big advocates for organ, eye and tissue donation. We are proud to volunteer, share our story and support Lifebanc in their mission to save and heal lives through organ, eye and tissue donation. We salute the transplant centers at Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals of Cleveland and the work they do to save and heal lives. We encourage everyone to register to be an organ donor now

Come out and cheer on the participants at the Transplant Games of America, hosted by Lifebanc, Eversight and Greater Cleveland Sports Commission this June 10th-15th in Cleveland. Look for Paul, Dan and me as we cross the 5K finish line!

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