Just the other day I saw a news story about the province of Nova Scotia considering making organ donation upon death the norm unless a person specifically chooses to opt out. Canada is nowhere near the top of the list of countries with the highest organ donor rates in the world. Spain is on top and the US is ahead as well.
I know this is a complicated issue and I am sensitive to it, on both sides. I don’t have the easy answers here. I wish I did. Some say that proposed suggestion is a civil rights infringement. I can see where they are coming from, of course I can.
April is Organ and Tissue Donation Month and this past week was National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week
If you’re having a hard time keeping that all straight, you’re not alone. I find it difficult when just about every day, week, and month represent some organization or important cause of some kind. It’s definitely necessary, but with all the causes needing their own dates to help bring awareness to the issues, the calendar fills up quickly.
This is most important to me, obviously, because of how necessary organ donation has been for my family. I am determined to use this blog as a platform to discuss these things and to help spread the word. Without the internet and social media it wouldn’t be this easy for me to do. I can write, but it doesn’t help anybody if people don’t get the chance to read it.
I was used to the way we’d done it. As a child I didn’t think twice about my parent’s choices. Of course I was nervous for them when they went in for surgery, putting their lives at risk, small comparatively, but still present. I worried for them and held my breath until they were both out of surgery and recovered. Really though they were adults and I was the child. They were the parents. There was no question.
When it became reality, as an adult, that my baby brother (even if he was in his twenties) would be depending on the organ donor list the second time around, a whole new reality formed around the situation. I had no idea how I would handle the feelings and fears that go along with the transplant list.
The wait and the uncertainty were the first things, but that would fade away the moment I realized he was getting his chance.
It felt like ages, for him more than me, that he was on dialysis this time, but really it was only three years. I say only, but dialysis can become awfully tedious when it goes on day after day, month after month. For those who are on dialysis for extended periods of time, years and years, it becomes routine, just one more thing you do, like brushing your teeth, going to work or school, or cleaning the bathroom. Sure, it’s unpleasant, but the alternative is unimaginable.
This week will mark one year since the evening I received the call that they contacted him with a kidney. I was exhilarated and anxious and ready to rush off to London to be by his side.
When that call was almost immediately followed up by another to say it was a false alarm, the rush abruptly ended and we were back to waiting.
Within a few months it would happen for real. It went smoothly for the most part, and he has felt 100 percent better ever since.
What I wasn’t prepared for were those feelings of morbid curiosity and sadness for the people also involved, somewhere on the other side. They lost their loved one and would never get to see them again. I felt guilt for that and I felt guilt for feeling guilty. My brother was well again and that was the main thing. I didn’t have to know anything concrete about anyone or anything else. That’s just life I suppose and that’s what I now know firsthand makes these issues anything but black-and-white.
The reality is that people do die and we are able, with modern medical science, to help others in the face of those tragedies. Why wouldn’t we do what we could with that? I don’t know. All I know is that I love my brother and want him to be healthy. That’s the simplest answer I can come up with for the need for more donors. More families deserve a second chance. These issues are complex, staggeringly so. I want to make everyone aware of the reality of organ donation in the hopes of having a discussion. Life is precious, on both sides. I will never stop speaking my mind and telling my story when it comes to organ donation.