Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Give the gift of life long after you are gone.

original run date April 17, 2012
Chariton Valley News Press

My column is usually pretty laid back and meant to  beentertaining but this week I would like to take the opportunity to reach out to all the readers of CVNP and ask a big favor.
This week’s feature story is a topic that is near to my heart. As I did the interviews for the piece, the conversations certainly took a very personal turn. In June 2004, my family went through a deeply emotional loss. Our daughter (and sister, granddaughter, niece, cousin, and friend) Jeana, died from head trauma following a fall. We were able to hold onto her for a little while with assistance from modern medicine (machines) but brain trauma was more than her body could compensate for and we were forced to make the decision no family ever wants to make.
For reasons none of us know or understand, our family was not approached about Jeana being an organ donor. Later in the evening, we received a phone call asking for a tissue donation, which we quickly agreed to. Although the life saving donation of vital organs could no longer be made, we chose to make the life-enhancing donation of corneal and heart valve tissue. It is a decision we will never forget or regret.
Early in our marriage, Larry and I had discussed organ donation and how far we wanted life saving measures to be carried through in the case of a medical emergency. It was never a conversation we ever dreamed of having with or about our children. As we were faced with the decisions we had to make in the hours after Jeana’s accident, it was not a topic that crossed our minds. As I said before, we don’t know why we were not approached about the possibility of Jeana being an organ donor. She would have been a perfect candidate to save the lives of many.
As I was doing research earlier this year trying to find ideas for stories to write, I looked up all the “national month” designations online. The April designation of “Donate Life” screamed at me to do something in honor of my daughter’s 19th birthday on the 21st of this month. After the shock of her death wore off and we were left to accept our life without her, I vowed to do the best I could every year on her birthday to celebrate the gift of her life just as we always had. This year, that “celebration” is by getting as many people as I can to sit down with their families and talk about organ and tissue donation and become a registered donor.
It is not a topic most parents want to talk about with their children but the importance of the conversation is many fold. If something happened to you today, would your children know what your wishes are in regards to organ and tissue donation?  Would you as parents, if you were faced with that decision, think about reaching out to another family with this life saving gesture?
As your kids reach the age of taking that wonderful driver’s exam and test, please use it as an opportunity to talk to them about organ donation. Set an example by becoming an organ donor yourself. If you are not already a registered donor via the driver’s license renewal process – jump online and register. Make sure your family, closest friends and minister all know your wishes in case of death.
Pull that driver’s license out of your billfold and sign it!  If you need a permanent marker that won’t smear or fade, feel free to stop by the CVNP office. We have fine point sharpies ready to legalize a gift that money cannot buy. We will even be a witness if you need one. If you think you are registered but not sure, we’ll help you look it up.
Even if you think you are not eligible to be a donor because of current health or past illnesses, please sign it anyway. Tissue donations of skin, corneas, bone, and tendons could be possible. It may not save a life but think of the ways it can enhance the life of a burn victim or someone suffering from limited mobility. I often wonder about the recipient of Jeana’s corneas. If any of her outlook on life transferred – oh what an outlook they have now!  There is truly some solace for me in knowing her death was not completely without meaning. Someone, somewhere is able to live a better life because of the gift she was able to give.
My family all know my wishes to be an organ and tissue donor. As a matter of fact, my two kids serve as the witnesses on my driver’s license. Larry had the insignia put on his license at his last renewal date.  Should the time come for our registry to actually be used, it won’t make it any easier on the family to say good-bye but at least they won’t have to worry about making that decision in a time of stress, sorrow and hardship. Maybe someday, after I leave this world behind and join my daughter, someone will benefit from my heart, lungs, kidney, pancreas, intestine, and liver as well as all the tissue I have left to someone still living life to the fullest.
As Jeana’s birthday rolls around this year, we’ll find some way as a family to pull together and “celebrate” her life. As hard as we try every year to keep the tears from flowing, they will still fall. Because my eyes are still in good shape, I’ll still be able to see her image in pictures. I know somewhere someone can also now see their family and friends because of Jeana. Maybe that thought will help absorb a few of the tears. In the meantime, please “show me your heart” and join me on the Missouri registry for organ and tissue donation. Give the gift of life long after you are gone.   Please register with your state organ/tissue donor registry wherever you are from!!

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