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April was Organ Donor Awareness Month. As a recent heart recipient, I want to share the letter I sent to my donor family. I hope this touches your life and you will consider becoming an organ donor— a decision to give others a second chance at life.
I’m a spiritual 55-year-old woman. On March 3 as I was wheeled into the operating room to receive a new heart, we gathered around my bed and I prayed for your family. I asked God to hold you close during your pain and grieving. It’s so awesome you love someone so much that you graciously and unselfishly gave life to a stranger. I am honored to live in memory of your lost family member. Every day of my life has renewed meaning because of your decision. I’m a proud mother of three – Kyle, Brandon and Mackenzie. My husband, Michael, and I have been married 25 years. I fall more in love with him each day. Kyle is from my previous marriage and he has central nervous system dysfunction, which means he has distinct learning differences. When my husband and I married, Michael adopted Kyle and has always been his father. Kyle is involved in Special Olympics and brought home two gold medals from China. Brandon, a soon-to-be firefighter, will be married in October. Mackenzie is in graduate school for Speech Pathology and made her decision to help others because of her brother’s differences. We are a strong and bonded family. Because of your decision, I’ll get to dance at Brandon’s wedding, watch Kyle grow more independent with each passing day and attend Mackenzie’s graduation in May. Receiving my new heart came from your love and from Heaven. There are so many details that fell into place to make this miracle happen. I sit in awe and am truly blessed. When I was told I only had six to nine months to live in June 2009, I tried to stay strong and positive. However, my heart disease, Right Ventricular Dysplasia, coupled with congestive heart failure, quickly stripped me of energy and independent daily living. I suffered from ventricular tachycardia, which nearly took my life several times. I had three pacemaker/defibrillators during my 10 years of being diagnosed. I can’t remember how many times I was shocked back into rhythm. My heart disease could be genetic, but I’ll never know for sure. I insist my children are checked annually. It’s amazing how far faith and prayer can carry someone. I’ve been so frightened and sick I prayed for strength, patience and acceptance. I was on the transplant list for seven months. Then, my miracle phone call came. Tears filled my eyes and my hands started shaking. All my life I’ve prayed for simple things and profound things. This was a profound miracle. God connected our families and although we may never have a chance to talk, you are now and forever a part of my family. I’ll always be touched by your decision to give me life – a life I’ll take care of, never take for granted and always know what a sacrifice it was for you. I’m alive today due to prayers and because of the living force in your lost one’s life. She’ll live through me and I promise it will be a full and respectful life in her memory. You brought me health, happiness and completed faith that’s strong enough to handle anything life. Thank you for my new heart, my new life and you, my new family. Your caring, nurturing and confidence is a special gift. I’ll forever be grateful. The views expressed in this column are those of the writer.