Perspective changes: Organ, blood, and tissue donation

Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, something like cancer happens and throws your entire life off course. Just when you think you’re in touch with all your thoughts and opinions, you are presented with this amazing, life-altering challenge that throws all these out the window.

I vaguely remember as a little kid, learning about organ donation. I was disgusted that they actually take your body parts and give them to someone else; I was always convinced I would need them. I guess this kind of stayed with me, as even two years ago I had considered the idea of donating some organs but being selective (thinking I’d like to keep my eyes and maybe my heart). Either way I had never really committed.

I also always wanted to donate blood, knowing it was a good thing to do, but I was too afraid of the needles. I would always make excuses to myself and just never bothered.

Then came cancer.

When Mom was diagnosed, it turned my world upside down. Every aspect of my life was different. You can’t complain about a bad haircut to a mother that has none at all! So all of a sudden a hair dye job that went terribly wrong was nothing to worry about, my perspective had changed.

I tried to find ways I could help that involved more than just sitting in the hospital room. So I decided to donate blood, even though I was scared to death. The way I figured it was if mom can deal with the ridiculous number of needles she receives on a daily basis and a Hickman Catheter, then I can certainly give blood. So that was that!

Then we found out mom needed a bone marrow donor, and I would have given ANYTHING to have been a match (although unlikely). So when I found out I wasn’t I automatically signed up to be a bone marrow donor. I mean if I was expecting someone to give my mom the chance to live, I certainly had to do the same. I also learned a lot about what’s required of a donor, it was nothing like what I had thought. It only takes a couple of hours start to finish, and sometimes all they need to do is extract stem cells from your blood and put the rest back in! It’s definitely one of those instances where the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

When I recently had my drivers’ license renewed, I didn’t even think twice about ticking the organ donor section, as if it was totally normal. Once I realized what I had done I froze: What if I got hit by a car on my way out of the motor vehicle building and they took my organs, what would that mean? Then, out of the corner of my eye I saw a little kid with no hair. Now he may have just liked the look, but it snapped me back into reality. How could I be so selfish? I still have all the same fears, but it was no longer a choice, I wouldn’t be happy with myself if I didn’t.

Some stranger, somewhere in the world gave my mom hope, gave us all hope, and we haven’t even been able to say thank you. Maybe they did it because they had some connection to cancer; maybe they were touched by cancer and joined the registry for the same reason as I did, I’d like to find out some day.

You hear all those radio commercials and you see the posters about becoming a blood donor, but I can speak from experience that a lot of people never truly think about it until you are in a position like I was, until someone you love needs blood products but they have to wait for two days to have them sent from somewhere else because there are none locally for them.

I’m not exactly the best person to be promoting donation, I was and still am scared of even blood tests, but it’s a very small thing to go through when you look at what patients go through every day.

It’s pretty amazing that such a relatively small effort can save another’s life, provide a bridge to get to a safer, healthier place, and most importantly, provide hope. It takes us more time to get ready in the morning than it does to save a person’s life! That’s definitely something to think about.

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