My story necessarily begins by thanking God and my organ donor family, for without God’s grace and my donor family’s compassionate gift, my story would have ended eight years ago. At the age of 61, I was diagnosed with end-stage liver disease caused by chronic hepatitis C. My doctors, at the Veteran’s Administration Medical Center, placed me on the waiting list for a liver transplant.
With more than 120,000 people on the national waiting list, uncertainty as to whether I would be among the fortunate ones who would receive a transplant was a stressful reality. However, after a challenging 3 years and nine months on the waiting list, and with the support of family and friends I was able to survive the physical, mental, and emotional struggles that one faces with liver failure, hepatitis C, and the reality that death is at your doorstep. Four months after my 65th birthday I got the long awaited call from my doctors, and on April 14, 2008 I received a life-saving liver transplant.
As I began my recovery process I thought of my donor and the tragic loss his family suffered at his passing. I wrote them a letter expressing my heartfelt condolences and letting them know of my profound gratitude for their compassionate decision to donate the organs of their loved one, a decision, I later discovered, that saved not only my life but the life of several others. To my delight, about a year later I received an answer to my letter from the daughter of my organ donor. She actually thanked me for writing her family and expressing my gratitude. I thought to myself, how gracious of her to thank me, when it was her wonderful family that made the compassionate decision to save my life and the lives of other complete strangers! I was later honored to be invited to meet my donor family in person, a memorable event that ranks as one of the most emotional and rewarding experiences in my life.
Since my transplant nearly eight years ago, I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to advocate for organ, eye, and tissue donation as an ambassador with Donate Life California, and as a team member of Team SoCal in an effort to help save lives by raising awareness of the critical need for organ donations. The waiting list continues to grow and the hope for those waiting for life saving organ transplants rests in those who make the decision to be organ, eye, and tissue donors. I encourage my family, friends, and everyone to join in the effort to save lives by registering to be organ, eye and tissue donors today!