I’ve been under the weather for the past few days so I didn’t get my intended meal plan post out yesterday. I’ve basically been crawling out of the bed or off of the couch to get the bare minimum accomplished each day and then shuffle back to my flat out position. This definitely is not the time of year to get sick, but the sick germs don’t seem to care about what you are doing or need to be doing or what’s on the calendar.
Doing all that lying around I’ve been thinking about a news story that caught my attention last week. I normally know absolutely nothing about the sport of race car driving and normally would pay no attention to a racing story. Until last week. The horrific story of Justin Wilson grabbed my attention because of its terrible sadness and devastation. It also grabbed my attention because Justin Wilson chose to be an organ donor upon his death. This is a story that resonates with me as it has touched me in the past and continues to touch me.
If you missed the story, IndyCar driver Justin Wilson was struck in the head by debris from another car during a race in Pennsylvania. Wilson, who was only 37 years old, passed away, leaving a wife and two very young daughters. Wilson’s brother revealed that Justin had donated organs that helped save six lives. Six lives saved by this one young man. That’s pretty remarkable. That’s a remarkable story.
Organ donorship is not something that is talked about very often. I am sure there are varying beliefs and opinions on the matter. I have a personal experience and story to share.
My story goes way back to the weekend during law school when I was to be studying for my Tax Exam. Now this was going to be a pretty horrific weekend for me from the get go. Let me just say that I don’t think one day went by during my entire semester that I knew what was going on in class. I went to law school to avoid any type of math subject . . . and here I was being forced to sit through a tax class. It is the one class I remember being called on, and leaving, doing all I could not to let them see me cry. So, that sets the stage for my weekend of studying. However, I received a call on that Friday that my dad had suffered a severe heart attack and I needed to get there immediately. My weekend was spent in a hospital waiting room . . . half heartedly flipping through pages of my Tax book. My dad pulled through, but with a severely damaged heart. His life and lifestyle took a drastic change. He was forced to quit work and many of the physical activities he loved. He was 53 years old.
Fast forward five years and my dad and mom came to Atlanta to Emory University Hospital for a check up. My dad did not pass that check up. He was basically put in a hospital bed and told he could not leave without receiving a heart transplant. I’ll be honest here, that was definitely not the phone call I expected to hear. I don’t think I had even heard of such a thing as a heart transplant at the time. But, boy did I learn a lot from that day forward. I learned about organ donorship, transplant lists, protocol, rejection, organ matching, blood types and many other things. Our family went through the process of being interviewed and tested as part of the organ transplant application process. My dad was not healthy enough to return home and wait on a list. He was hooked up to life saving machines and merely had his hospital room and a small window to entertain him. My mom moved into the tiny little bungalow The Husband and I had recently bought. We had only been married a little over a year and weren’t quite ready for a permanent house guest! I think the mattress my poor mom slept on had been The Husband’s in school. Not too comfy.
My dad, being the attention seeker that he always was, stayed in that darn hospital waiting and waiting and waiting, longer than anyone had up to that point. During those four months, we visited him, brought him music and books, cooked meals and delivered to him, answered calls from all the sweet folks from my hometown, enjoyed visits from friends, and read and re-read get well cards. At home, The Husband and I tried to give my mom some peace and quiet in the evenings after her long day at the hospital. This wasn’t always easy in our tiny little house with paper thin walls! I think my mom also tried to do the same for us, as she spent hours sitting out on our screen porch thinking, talking on the phone and answering mail. But mostly during those long four months, we all waited.
If you’ve been around this site for long, you know I talk about everyone having a story. And I love to hear people and their stories. I know everyone that has been touched by an organ donor has a special and remarkable story. The event in itself is a story. This was a huge story for my family at the time. Well, the story gets a little better . .
This emotionally and physically exhausting schedule had been going on for about four months when I began feeling even extra tired. During this time, between hospital visits, helping with my mom, practicing law and traveling for work, I was also beginning to pack up our house to move. Yes, let’s just add a little more onto an already stressful situation! One particular day I was just too exhausted to even go to work. That was the day I decided to bite the bullet and take a pregnancy test. That was the day I had to call The Husband home from work during lunch to tell him the news. Since this was not especially on our “to do” list or in our realm of considerations it came as quite a shock. Such a shock that I was quite afraid The Husband would have a heart attack of his own. That was quite an exciting day. That was also the day, early in the evening, when we received the call. That was the day that my dad received his heart transplant. My dad was 58 years old.
Because someone was an organ donor my dad lived. Nine months later he was able to be there for the First Son’s birth. Because someone decided to donate a heart that perfectly matched my dad’s, he lived 15 extra years to see my three sons born and watch them grow. He was able to take them fishing, to breakfast at his favorite place, watch them play baseball in the backyard and spend time together during beach trips. At the time my dad received his heart transplant at Emory University, the longest lifespan had been nine years. He surpassed that. He was fortunate to never experience rejection or complications. That transplant was a true gift in many different ways.
That gift allowed for many more memories to be made, and stories to be had and shared. That crazy day in September 1995 is one of my favorite stories.
The First Son
Do you have a similar story? Do you have particular thoughts on organ donorship? Any experience with the process? And are you wondering if I passed that Tax Exam? Well, just barely, and only because I think my professor knew what had happened and took pity on me!
Enjoy Your Day!