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April Is Donate Life Month

By Staff | Apr 28, 2011

Editor’s Note: The following article was submitted by a fellow journalist, Lori Wiser, Sports Editor for the Ocheyedan Press/Melvin News. I have had the honor of knowing Lori through the Iowa Newspaper Association as well as our coverage of sports in Northwest Iowa.

The rest is her story.

Dan Voigt

FIRST HEART DAY COLUMN

I sit here tonight pondering the improbability that on April 13, 2011, I am sitting here typing.

It was just one year ago tonight, while living in the Nebraska House at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, waiting for a heart transplant that I told a friend I was tired of fighting. Tired of feeling lousy all the time. Tired of all the restrictions and limitations. Tired of being away from home, family and friends. Tired of pondering my own mortality. Tired of wondering if I’d live long enough to see my next birthday the following month or the Fourth of July. That night the thought of seeing Christmas was incomprehensible. I was especially tired of waiting for that phone call I was starting to believe would never come; the one telling me they had found a heart for me.

My friend’s advice? Go to bed and try to get some sleep because things would look better in the morning. Little did either of us know morning would come extremely early for me.

My life was changed forever at approximately 1:30 a.m., Wednesday, April 14, 2010, when my phone rang with the news. A heart had been found so I needed to get to the other side of the huge hospital as soon as possible. That 10-minute walk seemed to take forever but soon I was in another room and things started happening very quickly.

The lab work, the EKGs and other tests, a meeting with the chaplain, signing numerous consents, going down to pre-op with my parents and listening to explanations of what was about to happen. The rest is kind of a blur . . . except for one thing.

I distinctly recall thinking about my donor. I wondered what had happened to him or her. I wondered if he or she had had the opportunity to enjoy the many joys some of us take for granted.

I wondered about his or her family and thought about the juxtaposition of our lives at that moment. While my family was joyous, his or hers was grieving. I considered how grateful I am they decided to be organ donors instead of burying this heart. I remember having similar thoughts after coming out of the anesthesia.

At that time I also thought about how this family, about whom I know absolutely nothing, and I are forever intimately and inextricably linked. To this day I marvel at my good fortune because I know for a fact not everyone on the transplant list is as fortunate as I.

Over 550 Iowans are among the more than 100,000 people waiting for a life-saving transplant. Every single day 18 people on the national list die waiting for that phone call that never came because the need is so much greater than the available viable organs.

Unfortunately it is too late for us to help them but we can help the countless others who are impatiently waiting their turn or one of the 103 people who are added to the list every day.

You may say, but I am just one person. However, one person can affect the lives of up to 50 people by simply deciding to give the gift of life and become an organ and tissue donor.

As we observe Donate Life Month during April, I would encourage everyone to sign up as an organ, eye and tissue donor. It’s a very simple process. You can add your name to the donor registry by simply going online at www.iowadonornetwork.org. The site also has additional information if you have questions about organ and tissue donation.

The New Hearts support group, which operates closely with the Nebraska Medical Center, has a shirt promoting organ donation with the following on the back, “To the world you may be one person but to one person you are the world.”

My donor, a single, ordinary person just like you and me, has made a world of difference in my life and for that extraordinarily unselfish gift I will be eternally grateful.

-LJW

Persons interested in donating life can contact their local medical professional for further information, or go to the national Donate Life website at: www.donatelife.net for more information.