April is marked as National Donate Life Month. Organ and supplemental donations are a subject that I was thrown into without much warning. You see, my daughter is the recipient of a liver transplant. Without it, she would not be the thriving, rambunctious 2 year old she is today.
There is so much need in the US alone for donations–there are currently more people waiting for organ donations than there are donations. And while organ donation is a huge commitment, healthy adults can also contribute via donations of blood, or bone marrow.
I recently reconnected with a college friend and we got to talking about donations. Beth’s darling two-year-old daughter, Haley, received a bone marrow transplant (BMT) as part of her leukemia treatment plan. BMT is often used as a way to help cancer patients from having higher levels of relapse (as opposed to using chemotherapy singularly). Haley needed use of the national database to find a bone marrow match. Thankfully, there was one. Haley’s journey was long and tough… but she has been cancer free for a year and a half! That is worth all the celebrating!
Putting yourself on the donation list is SUPER easy, and I will be doing it myself as a way to sort of “give back” because I have seen the life change effects of donation first hand. Both my daughter and Beth’s daughter are thriving! I asked Beth her view on donations and she just said it so beautifully:
I was, and still am to some degree, a huge baby when it comes to needles and pain. But after watching my daughter endure months of discomfort, I have realized that we are all much stronger than we think. I always thought about joining the bone marrow registry but was nervous about the idea of actually being selected and donating. Now I literally pray for the day that I could potentially be someone’s match. What’s a little soreness when it means a second chance at life for another person?”
Donate With Me
Here is the link to get a swab kit sent to you for bone marrow donation. It is for people ages 18-44, and the link has all the info you need. (The non-profit, Be the Match for BMT is based out of Minneapolis!) To keep myself accountable, my goal is to order the kit by the end of April. Feel free to join me!
Not sure you can commit to being added to the Bone Marrow Donor list? I’m sure you’ve seen the “donor” check box on your driver’s license application or renewal. Consider checking it. Obviously, it’s difficult to think about death or tragedy cutting our lives short, but I know I take some solace in thinking that my organs or tissues could be matched with recipients who desperately need transplants.
My daughter’s liver transplant has meant life.
It’s currently a life filled with some intense medical intervention. Her immune system is compromised so germs are pretty scary. We have HUGE issues dealing with vaccines, and aren’t sure what we’re going to do about preschool. We’ve underwent a bunch of therapies to catch up on motor skills and growth. But all of this is minor compared to what it could have been. We will gladly truck off to appointments at the Mayo Clinic whenever they need us to, do all the blood draws, the alternative immunization schedule, embark on an anti-germ campaign, and miss out on fun things for risk of illness exposure. Our family and friends have been amazing helping us learn what to do, and maybe we haven’t made as many friends as we could have due to how cautious we need to be. (Seriously, man, those germs!) But my daughter was given a gift, and we want to honor that by taking care of her in the best possible way.
This July my family will be attending Mayo Clinic’s annual Transplant Picnic. It’s a chance for donors, recipients and doctors to relax, eat yummy picnic food and celebrate the selflessness of donors. Every single day I think of my daughter’s donor family. She has what’s called a “match-sized donor.” Somewhere out there, a mother lost a child. And then she made the bravest, hardest choice she could. That choice saved my daughter’s life, and perhaps the lives of other children, too, through the gift of donation. I can’t even fathom it. It’s truly beautiful, and I really hope we can meet them someday.
I can relate to Beth’s opinion as well on what donation means to them:
Our daughter is alive and truly living life! The idea of relapse is an ugly demon that is always lurking in the shadows of my mind but with each day she continues to be cancer free, the worry lessens. Having a child go through transplant is a life changing event. It changes EVERYTHING. It challenges your beliefs, priorities and the way you live your life. We aren’t perfect, far from it, but I have learned to take one thing at a time and deal with whatever life has to throw. We are sure to have plenty of bumps down the road, associated with long term side effects but Haley is here and she us an absolute joy. We couldn’t be happier or more proud of all that she has over come and continues to overcome each day.”
Having our children alive because of a selfless gift of donation? It’s priceless.