Thursday, April 26, 2012

Donate Life

My sister is only one of the 114,070 Americans currently waiting for an organ. Like so many of the people on waiting lists, Shaina had no control over the diseases that have caused her to need a transplant. She was only 19 when she received her first liver. As of last month, there were 1,801 children waiting for an organ. Like my sister when she was first listed, many of those waiting have their entire lives ahead of them.

I know first hand that life after the transplant is what these patients' families dream about as they sit at home or in the hospital waiting and watching their loved one get sicker and sicker. The only hope you have as you watch your sister, mother, uncle, or child suffer is that you will soon get that call from the transplant team saying that they have found the perfect organ.

But that call doesn't come in time for every person in need. There are simply not enough donors to go around; every day 18 people die waiting for an organ. Shaina has watched friends die from diseases like hers. And while we feel incredibly lucky that she has been approved for a 4th transplant, we know that there's still a chance it won't happen if they can't find the right liver for her.

My beautiful sister, Shaina.
We often talk about the other organs Shaina has received. Though we don't know who they are, the gratitude and love that we feel for the donors and their families is overwhelming. What a selfless act these strangers made that allowed my sister to keep fighting. There is no way we could ever repay them or thank them enough. Without their sacrifice after death, my sister would not be living. Shaina lives each day with the knowledge that a piece of that donor lives on inside of her.

I know that becoming an organ donor is not something that most people think of as they go about their daily lives. But it is something that my family and I think about every day. And I hope that whenever I die, I can help as many people as possible through organ donation. To give back for the gift that those donors before gave to me: to talk to my sister on the phone after a hard day, to feel jealous when she gets a new pair of hot heels, to see her smile at my dad's stupid jokes. All of this, every second of the past 10 years with my sister would not be possible without the selfless generosity of organ donors.

April is Donate Life Month. If you have not taken the time to sign up as an organ donor on an official registry, I hope you will take a few minutes to do so today. This page offers information about becoming a donor in each of the 50 states. Each of us has the capacity to give people like Shaina the chance to live a full life. It's one of the greatest things you can do for someone else.

1 comment:

  1. Where do I begin with the adventures of the Johnson & Sanderson children? The first time I ever saw Alina and Shaina was 1983. It seems like only yesterday when the new family in the Silversmith cul-de-sac pulled up in a white Toyota. There were two little girls. Alina had soft brown curls. Shaina was the baby with ponytails that stuck out like pencils. There was only Eric at my house. No David, Shelley, Stuart or even Alex in the group. They would arrive in the years to follow along with the Gleasman clan. What a great place to live on Silversmith Lane.
    Birthday parties, ball games, Halloween costumes and school bus rides kept us all together. Rainy days, the occasional snowball fights, snowmen in the front yard and Hurricane Hugo. Thank God I didn’t go into labor during Hurricane Hugo. Marsha kept reminding me she was a nurse at an eye clinic. She didn’t do babies. I still have pieces of wood colored with markers shaped like watermelon slices that were colored by the kids during the cleanup after the hurricane. Naps, baths and summer nights catching bugs all seem like a lifetime ago. Our favorite park on Providence Road, Alpine Park, dogs and bike rides never seemed to get old for our crazy kiddie clan. Your mom and I would pack all in the car to shop at Fresh Market on Selwyn Ave. How many children ate gourmet meals at such a young age? Chicken crepes with white wine sauce, seafood in puff pastry and Eric’s favorite, tuna steaks. Kosher foods on Jewish holidays to good old fashion Baptist eating of fried chicken, pastry and of course BBQ, Eastern and Lexington style kept you filled to the brim. Grandma Nobi’s Japanese food was always a welcome treat. Thanks for letting us pretend we had a Japanese Grandma too. Naps, baths, beach trips and numerous other activities rounded out the years.
    Colds, chicken pox, flu and numerous childhood injuries keep us busy as mothers. Remember when Alina ran into your dad’s car with the bike. Poor baby…it was awful. Eric and Craig loved to catch snakes in the woods behind our houses. Remember Craig’s Great Dane named Essie? Shelley thought it was a cow because it was white with big black spots. Thanks for teaching us about latkes, Menorahs and letting us make you Baptist on occasion. Despite what David and Shelley say…they were making out in the hot tub. Grandma Nobi saw them. LOL!!
    You have all grown up to have loving hearts, gentle souls and caring about others before yourself. You’ve become adults with many different paths. One thing will always remain constant. That would be the love the Sanderson family will always have for the Johnsons. Our prayers and thoughts are on you constantly even if we aren’t together daily like all those years in Charlotte.
    Shaina, you have always been a tough girl. Do you realize the inspiration you have been to others during your moments of immense pain? Only you could pull it off with grace, a smile and high heels. I can’t imagine you didn’t always try to be your best self no matter what the task. The credit for that sense of style and grace can be given to your mother. She raised you to always be your best in any situation. Yes…you can wear one high heel while in bed if the other leg has a cast. Lipstick and pearls are always appropriate for any occasion.
    This is no different. Yes, the task is enormous. The physical and mental anguish will be great. Don’t lose sight of the girl with the sense of determination to yield her power in another fight. Actually, you are blessed to be a strong willed girl. It’s what has brought you this far and will fuel the energy for the next battle.
    Love you bunches…..