January 10, 2013

Living organ donation is often called selfless.  For me anyway, it was not that.  There was something giant in it for me.  It gave me a chance to carry on life with the person who has for almost 50 years been able to finish my sentences for me.  And who knows exactly what I am thinking even when I don’t use any words at all.  I got much more than I gave.

What people ask.

Was it a hard decision?  No.  Even fully digesting the risks, and understanding that liver transplant is not a cure-all but rather a change to a different set of problems for my sister to manage, I wanted to run to it.  If I had not been approved, it would have been devastating.

Was I was scared before the surgery?  No.  As odd as it may sound, I couldn’t wait.  It was the way to Move Onward. I was afraid of the pain right after surgery.  A smart person who had had significant abdominal surgery told me to remember pain does not kill you.  That worked.  So did pain meds.

Some things people don’t ask about but should.

First, if you are considering donating, read.  Ferociously.  About donation, risks, your transplant center, other transplant centers.  Focus on data and fact-based material compiled by UNOS or articles or research published by the National Institute of Health or similar organizations.  Avoid message boards that cheerlead about donation or that are complaint dumping grounds.

Second, share.  Family tragedies can make people turn inward.  Don’t.  Share the good and the bad and everything in between.  Other people care.  Putting people on your team by sharing can be a power boost when you really need it.

Third, wait to worry.  Ask your medical team lots of questions before, during and after surgery.  Let them guide what you spend your time worrying about.  They will tell you what not to worry about if you ask.  Listen to them.

Next, look for things to make you laugh.  Every day.  It’s a long worrisome road.  Finding stuff to laugh at helps.

Finally, whether you are donating or not, stop eating processed foods.  Eat the stuff directly connected to the earth.  Without chemicals.  The liver stores food-like processed stuff  – let’s not call it food – as fat.  When the liver gets fatty, portions of it are no longer doing the vital work of a liver.  Treat your well by eating whole natural foods.

On Christmas eve, my teenage nephew said this: “….and thanks to Aunt Heather for letting Mom live…”.

I got so much more than I gave.