April is a lot of things to a lot of people:
- It’s my daughter’s birth month, something she’ll bring up any day throughout the month to make sure we’re ready for it when the big day comes.
- It’s Autism Acceptance Month, an opportunity to share stories and increase understanding and acceptance of children and adults with autism.
- It’s the Month of the Military Child, “a child who early on learns that to survive means to adapt, that the door that closes one chapter of their life opens up to a new and exciting adventure full of new friends and new experiences” (www.littletroopers.net).
- It conjures up childhood phrases like ‘April showers bring May flowers’ and ‘in like a lion, out like a lamb’.
No matter what way you look at it, April brings hope and encouragement to each of us that the sun will eventually shine on our gloomy days, that good things are around the corner, (and that I’ve got a birthday party to plan so I better get on that). It’s also fitting that April is National Donate Life Month.
My connection to organ donation started back in 1997, when I FINALLY got my drivers licenses and checked yes when asked if I was an organ donor. I don’t remember there being a lot of thought put into my yes or having a great understanding of what that meant, but it felt like the right thing to do, so I did it.
My connection to organ donation grew deeper when my sister started dating my eventual brother-in-law back in the early 2000’s. Ben had received a bi-lateral lung transplant in his early teens. He was a character. A storyteller. A firecracker in a tiny package. Ben was someone who understood that each day was a gift, and he wasn’t going to waste the extra days he had been given.
Skip ahead a decade and a half or so, and my father-in-law was placed on the donor list when he was in desperate need of a healthy liver and kidneys. I vividly remember the day we got the call that a donor had been found.
- It was a day of hope: for more years with his grandchildren, seeing them graduate from high school, seeing them walk down the aisle, and maybe even bouncing their children up and down on his knee someday (hip replacements and all).
- It was a day of thankfulness: that we were being given a second chance.
- And it was a day of incredible pain and sorrow: as we thought about the donor, and what their family must be going through. The worst day of their lives. Their final good-byes. Their dreams, dashed in an instant.
Because of an infection, my father-in-law did not receive the gift of life that day, but the next person on the donor list did and they got to experience those same hopes and thanks along with those same pains and sorrows.
A few things worth knowing from my favorite organ donation website, the Iowa Donor Network (https://www.iowadonornetwork.org/understanding-donation/current-statistics):
- Every 9 minutes a new person is added to the national organ transplant waiting list.
- An average of 17 people die each day while waiting.
- On average, 112 transplants take place every day in the U.S.
- In 2021, the lives of nearly 41,000 Americans were saved by organ donation.
- One donor can save up to 8 lives through organ donation and save and heal 50-300 lives through tissue donation.
LifeSource, a nonprofit dedicated to saving lives through organ, eye, and tissue donation in the Upper Midwest, recently asked followers on their Facebook page to describe organ donation in one word. The responses to this simple question sum it up for me:
- A wish [come true]
- Life (quite literally)
If you’d like to be someone’s hero, you can sign up to be an organ, tissue, and eye donor by going to https://www.donatelife.net/register/.
You can be somebody’s love, their hope, their wish come true, their life, their hero, their everything!