One year ago on February 10th, 2015, I received a phone call that changed my life forever. My lung transplant coordinator, Kelly, called to ask if I was ready to have a transplant that very day, and thus I embarked upon the hardest journey I would ever know. I knew that logically, the day would come when I’d be called, but it was surreal nonetheless. Ready? Was I ready? I surmise that no one is ever really “ready” for such events. There is no way to prepare completely for a moment that huge. A moment on which my entire future would hinge: a phone call.
I didn’t go into surgery until the night of the 11th, and I came out on the 12th. I considered that my odyssey had already begun in another hospital with my angel donor, though at the time I didn’t know anything about her. The gift of Connie’s lungs was destined to be given to me before I arrived at the UWHC. With the tragedy of her death came the promise of life for myself. It took some lengthy introspection to begin to grasp the magnitude of that concept.
Having had much time to reflect on this momentous event, I now look at things through a different lens. At the time of the transplant, my thoughts revolved mostly around myself and my part of the story. Although I was thinking about whoever the donor was, they were an abstract entity to me. These days, knowing what I know now, I would have been thinking of Connie and her family. She is no longer a vague existence. She has a name and a beautiful face, and a loving family. She is the selfless woman whose lungs now breathe on in my body, allowing me to be truly alive today.
This is how I would be feeling if I were called today. The miracle of transplant never takes place in a vacuum. There are obvious outside forces pushing and pulling all the while to make such an incredibly miraculous experience take place. What I saw was the wonderful gift I was being given. I didn’t see the heartache or grief that Connie’s passing caused. Her family stayed with her while she passed on, and they waited for her organs to be taken for donation. My family stayed with me, during those same hours, waiting for me to receive the lungs. Two families set to be forever intertwined.
I don’t really know how to capture all the emotions that I’ve felt over this past year. I’ve been afraid, humbled, excited, overwhelmed, thankful, and blessed beyond words. Most importantly, I am still HERE. I celebrate my triumphs, yet acknowledge that I still have some hurdles to overcome. With the continued support and love of my friends and family, I will continue to persevere. In honor of Connie, I will live a full life.
“I am somebody, but part of me is somebody else.”