Two years ago today a man died. I don’t know details, really, except brain trauma was involved. I think I heard someone say something about a motorcycle accident. Whatever the cause, the rest of his body was unharmed. He was a young, healthy man. He didn’t smoke and his body was strong.
My grandma, on the other hand, had been sick for years. She had a rare disease called Goodpasture’s Syndrome, which caused her immune system to attack her kidneys. She spent months in the hospital and she was being driven an hour one-way to go to dialysis three times a week for three years.
Dialysis and the disease took a toll on her body. She was constantly weak and fatigued, far from the spry, fun, and funny Grams I had grown up with. Her body was frail and her face was puffy from medication, and though she tried to keep her spirits high, fighting this disease was clearly exhausting.
The dialysis was helping, but it wasn’t a perfect solution, nor was it something that could be maintained forever. It came with its own complications, both physical and emotional. Grams always loved to travel and it’s hard to go anywhere when you have to check into the dialysis center every 48 hours or so. Dialysis doesn't care what day it is—be it your birthday or Thanksgiving, you still have to go. She had to go to dialysis the day her mother, my great-grandmother, died.
My grandma desperately needed a kidney, so she was put on a list and she waited and waited. For years. Until Valentine’s Day, 2010.
That man who died on Valentine’s Day saved my grandma’s life. He was an organ donor, and my grandmother received one of his kidneys. The results were instantaneous and completely amazing—her body took to the new kidney without any issues and within days she was looking healthier and happier than she had looked in years.
Grams hasn’t needed dialysis since the surgery. She’s gone on trips, she can garden without worrying about her immune system caving in on itself, she came to my wedding last November and didn’t have to leave after an hour because it was too tiring to be out of bed. She can eat food that has salt in it and she can drink water without having to carefully calculate how much liquid she’s ingested for the day. She just celebrated her 74th birthday last month. She is amazing.
I’m sorry that man had to die. I’m sorry it happened on Valentine’s Day, a day you’re supposed to spend loving the people in your life. But I’m eternally thankful that that man was an organ donor. My grandma wasn’t the only person who received such an incredible gift, either. He saved a lot of lives that day. He put a lot of love into the world.
Now, every Valentine’s Day, I think of my grandma and I think of him and in his memory, whoever he is, I try to love everyone around me a little bit extra.