Monday, December 28, 2009

A gift acknowledged

Ten years ago April 9 at 11 p.m., my mother called and said, "Brenda (my sister) has had a heart attack and she's going to die.

"You're the closest one to Kentucky, so you need to get there before she dies."

You don't forget calls like that. In shock I drove to Bowling Green, asking the toll booth attendant for directions to the hospital. Little did I know that one shock would lead to another for years to come. Brenda didn't die then, and for ten years, she fought a brave fight.

She was in and out of the hospital her last year, many times very critical, but each time she fought back. She had been approved as a heart transplant candidate, but the latest heart episode had taken its toll on my 56-year-old sister. She struggled to awake from the sedation, to breathe on her own, and regain her strength to stand, all pre-requisites for the transplant.

That Saturday found her finally coherent, trying to communicate with sign language, and for a moment, there was hope.

That Sunday, something went terribly wrong, resulting in her brain death.

I drove the six hours to Chicago to say goodbye before they shut off the machines which were keeping her heart beating and lungs breathing. We had learned so much on this journey of Brenda's illness, but our greatest lesson was yet to come.

Since she had no children,m her husband relied on "the sisters" to guide him. A representative of the "Life Goes On" organ donation organization quietly asked us if we knew if Brenda had ever spoken of being an organ donor. I had never asked her, and she had never said. The decision, it seemed, was up to us, but how could we decide something so important without knowing for sure. Finally, we agreed that since we had been willing to get someone else's heart to keep Brenda alive, it seemed only fair that we be willing to share what Brenda no longer needed to keep someone else alive. Yes, we would donate Brenda's organs, but little did we know what that would require of us. .... There's so much more to this story, and I hope you'll click over to read it all at A Sister's Love.

The real point of today's blog is this (I know; took me long enough to get there): we received a letter from the young woman who received one of Brenda's kidneys, and she is living life with new hope, thanks to Brenda's final gift. She spoke of her renewed strength, and, I wrote back about the woman who gave her that second life. I closed with this: "We wish you only happiness and health in the future. I hope your family treasures you as much as Brenda's treasured her. If so, you'll have all the love you'll ever need."

If you'd like to give the gift of life, make your intentions known at Don't leave that decision to your sisters!