Today, at 4:12 pm, three years ago, I was called for my second transplant. I had just come back from an errand and was feeling hopeless and desperately sucking for air despite 6 liters of oxygen. My chronic rejection of my first lung was progressing rapidly and my last lung function test showed a 16% capacity. It was the most horrendous feeling of suffocation I have ever experienced and there was no relief with any medication. Then I received the life saving phone call that donor lungs were available for me. I remember it like yesterday, as does my family, friends and now-husband Trent. We rushed to the hospital where I promptly sat there hungry for another 8 hours until surgery started at midnight. I still remember signing the consent form for surgery, which stated that the survival for second transplants was only 25%. All I could say then was “it’s up to you, God.”
Since my second transplant, as many know, my life has changed in immeasurable ways. Never could I have predicted how much I would recover and resume a life so fully, so energetic and so …. truthfully… out of control (in a good way). Even as I prepare to leave for Washington DC on Wednesday for more filming for “The Power Of Two” I am putting the “to-do” list aside today and writing a letter to my donor family. It is time to stop, reflect, voice my thanks, and realize that everything that has happened since July 13, 2007 – this insane life of natural highs and running to places far and wide- is because of them. My zest for life, my desperate desire to spread the message about organ donation so that others may benefit from this gift, my desire to “do,see and be” as much as I can… is all thanks to them. So how can I ignore them today?
Since my surgery for my second transplant was at midnight, my official re-re-birthday is actually July 13, 2007. July 13 is a lucky day… it is also the birthday of my dearest friend and former CF camper, ALM. Ironically, now she is waiting for a lung transplant too and today she finds out if she is accepted. So today is a rebirth in a way, for more than just me. It is a strange cycle of events, an onward linear movement of the CF existence, as we embrace and walk this journey together. As she faces another birthday – a gift in itself when living with cystic fibrosis- I invite you to keep her in your prayers as she rides the roller coaster of the transplant journey. May a blessed donor family out there say “yes” to donation so that she may experience what we are experiencing too.
My friend sent me an email today saying “Happy Lungiversary.” Cute. But it is hard for me to celebrate this “happy” milestone. Of course, for myself I do rejoice in being alive, but for my donor family I know it is an anniversary of sorrow and reflection. So rather than saying happy, I would like to say “Graced Lungiversary” for none of this would be possible without grace.
Today, I dedicate this poem to my donor family:
When we cast our bread upon the waters,
we can presume that someone downstream,
whose face we may never see, will benefit from our action,
even as we enjoy the gifts sent to us from a donor upstream.
- Maya Angelou
Thanks for reading. May you breathe , breathe and REALLY breathe.