It was kind of neat, having my father as my donor. One thing my brother said about it, which is so true, is that normally a parent gives life to their child once, at birth, and my father has given it to me three times: once at birth, once with my bone marrow transplant and once with my lung transplant. At the time of the lung transplant, he was older than the doctors would have liked…so it was a little bit scary. The lung transplant coordinator at the time had said that statistically, things might not be all in my favor, but I said, “Oh, I don’t listen to statistics! I’ll do just fine.” And I did.
They changed my life
I’m meeting the family soon, the family of the donator…You get to send letters back and forth, and I sent them a letter. What can you really say in a letter? Thank you? There’s not much you can say! I just let them know that they changed my life. And it turned out in the long run that that’s all they wanted to hear.
I talked to them on the phone, and they really want to meet me…I think it will be helpful. Just to give the family closure, you know? So they know that what they did helped somebody. It is emotional, yes, but I think it is worth it…That’s going to be a tearjerker, I know that. I’ll be bawling my eyes out, I know that for sure!
Anthony, age 20
The donor family
Mom: We still haven’t written our one-year letter.
Jess: I have mine written, secretly hidden, but I think I’m going to change some of the things written in it. Just because some of experiences that are happening now, I don’t know, I need to reword it… we can send them a letter, and it’s up to them if they want to make contact.
Mom: See, I don’t want to meet them…I know that it had to be somebody young. I know it was somebody’s child. How do I walk up to a mom? I don’t know how. To be happy that my daughter is alive, and that their child is gone. And how do you thank somebody for allowing your child to live? Saying thank you just doesn’t seem enough. I know what I feel inside, and I know the gratitude that I have, but how do I get somebody who’s lost somebody? And I’ve tried to think about losing Jess, and I can’t even imagine it. You know, as close as I’ve come to losing her, I can’t imagine it. And I know that it would give them hope, and it would show them that there was a little immortality in their child…our road’s been tough, and I want that family to have hope to know that transplant works.
Jess: I want them to see that it works.
Mom: And I don’t want them to second-guess their choice because our road has been so hard, and that our journey’s been so difficult. But I can still reach out and touch my child. And I just don’t know how – I don’t want to go and say things that come out all jumbled and wrong because you only get one first chance. And I’ll do it, because I know Jess wants it. It’s important to her.
Jess: They saved my life. I want to meet them. It’s simple as that.
Jess, 18 and mother
Contacting my donor’s family
I had wanted to write a letter to my donor’s parents, and I did contact the organ registration for donors and families, seeing if it would be possible. They said I would have to write a letter to them and they would give it to the donor’s parents, and I’m not totally comfortable with that yet. I’m sure that it’s very tough on them too, they had a child that died! If they’re living their life, I don’t want to sort of rain on their parade…
So I don’t think that I want to do it now, but I definitely do want to eventually, because they gave me my life! I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them and the sacrifice they made.
Sharing my story
I’m so blessed and lucky to be here, to be able to tell my story, and I realize how important it is to share my story and educate others on the importance of donation and transplant, because it does work and save lives. It reminds us that we’re only around on this trip once and we need to enjoy ourselves as often as we can throughout our lives because that’s what life is all about.