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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day (and Thank You For Saving My Grandmother's Life)

Posted by on Tue, Feb 14, 2012 at 12:13 PM

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.


Comments (22) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Terry Miller 1
Wonderful! Thanks for sharing Megan!
Posted by Terry Miller on February 14, 2012 at 12:16 PM · Report this
Zebes 2
A good story coming out of a bad situation.

Good, too, that in addition to saving, and improving lives, the motorcyclist had a hand in putting a bit more kindness in the world.
Posted by Zebes on February 14, 2012 at 12:20 PM · Report this
Thank you for writing this! My brother died in a snowboarding accident in 2000 ... he was also a young, healthy guy and an organ donor. As awful as it was to lose him, it also gave us a little bit of comfort to know that parts of him lived on by helping others live.

The lesson is: for the sake of those you love and for the sake of those you don't even know, make sure you are registered as an organ donor.
Posted by So-called Claire on February 14, 2012 at 12:24 PM · Report this
Tears in my eyes.
Posted by Eric from Boulder on February 14, 2012 at 12:26 PM · Report this
reverend dr dj riz 5
lovely.. and i bet her cupcakes are a-maze-ing
Posted by reverend dr dj riz on February 14, 2012 at 12:38 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 6
What a nice story. Thank you for sharing it.
Posted by Matt from Denver on February 14, 2012 at 12:38 PM · Report this
@4 +1

Powerful story. Thank you.
Posted by Nezz on February 14, 2012 at 12:38 PM · Report this
Just renewed my license earlier this week and made sure to check the "donor" box.
Posted by suddenlyorcas on February 14, 2012 at 12:38 PM · Report this
Allyn 9
Posted by Allyn on February 14, 2012 at 12:44 PM · Report this
Irena 10
What a great post for Valentine's Day. I especially liked the last thing you said.
Posted by Irena on February 14, 2012 at 12:45 PM · Report this
Thanks for sharing your story.
Posted by David Wright on February 14, 2012 at 12:51 PM · Report this
Reverse Polarity 12
Awesome story. Thanks.

I have been an organ donor since the very first year it became an option on your drivers license. I think everyone should do it.
Posted by Reverse Polarity on February 14, 2012 at 12:53 PM · Report this
I have a friend who got a lung transplant from a young motorcycle accident victim. Thank you to organ donators everywhere.
Posted by MLM on February 14, 2012 at 12:57 PM · Report this
Thank you for writing this post, Megan. My mother is a kidney transplant surgeon, and there is something you should all know: if you want your organs to be donated when you die, you should talk to your family about it. Although generally the donor's choice is legally binding, organ recovery agencies will usually respect the wishes of the family. In some instances, organ recovery agencies have chosen to respect the donor's intent rather than the family's wishes, and on occasion judges have issued injunctions blocking the recovery of the organs (while the potential recipients waited on the OR table). You can hopefully avoid this unfortunate outcome by clearly communicating your wishes to your family.
Posted by minderbender on February 14, 2012 at 1:05 PM · Report this
onion 15
oh shit. that was beautiful. you made me cry.
Posted by onion on February 14, 2012 at 1:06 PM · Report this
That's a wonderful story. Please sign up to become an organ donor if you haven't already. If there is a good match, you can also be a living donor. I donated a kidney to my brother a few years ago, and we are both doing great.
Posted by en on February 14, 2012 at 1:15 PM · Report this
Thanks for writing this. My mom died of kidney failure because she wasn't a good enough transplant candidate. At the time I was mad at everyone who would get one of those kidneys she couldn't.

This was a great reminder recipients are prioritized for good reasons, reasons that result in happiness like your family's. Happy Valentine's Day you you all.
Posted by gloomy gus on February 14, 2012 at 1:19 PM · Report this
Jeez, Megan. You had to go and ruin the bitter, anti-Valentine's Day sniping-vibe we had going around here. Stupid beautiful story...
Posted by Mr. Happy Sunshine on February 14, 2012 at 1:22 PM · Report this
Zebes 19
Incidentally, how easy is it to find out the source of donor organs? Is that information available if the donor acquiesces to it beforehand, or if their family does?
Posted by Zebes on February 14, 2012 at 2:17 PM · Report this
I have a similar story of a beloved relative whose life was given back to her because of an organ donor, and I've been an organ donor ever since. Which has also encouraged me to live a healthy life so that if my organs are needed when I'm done with them, they'll be of some use. Everybody wins.
Posted by Rdstorm on February 14, 2012 at 3:30 PM · Report this
Both my housemate and I donated a kidney to strangers this past year (go Hillman City donors!).
Here's how it works:
1. You have a spare kidney.
2. Someone will die today without it.
3. Call Virginia Mason hospital (206-341-1201)
My advocate there was the granddaughter of the hospital founder. Yep, she was a donor.
Posted by patbareb on February 14, 2012 at 4:10 PM · Report this
Oh, forgot to include this King5 story about my housemate's experience.…
Posted by patbareb on February 14, 2012 at 4:30 PM · Report this

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