April is UNOS National Donate Life Month, so there are many activities going on around the country at transplant centers to honor organ donation and organ donors and their families. The other day, Loyola, where I had my transplant, held their 23rd Annual Candlelighting Ceremony to honor organ donors and their families.
It was a beautiful, moving, humbling and emotional ceremony. There were speakers who had received a heart transplant, lung transplant, liver/kidney transplant, but the most emotional was the mother who spoke about her children. One, a daughter, who needed an ankle transplant, having been born with a club foot. The other, her only son, who upon getting his driver's license signed up to be an organ donor because as his mother told the story, "our family recycles everything". Here was a mother who was waiting for so long for a transplant for her daughter's ankle and then the worst thing that can happen does. Her son is killed in a car accident and, per his wishes, saved the lives of multiple individuals. Her son's ankle was too big for her daughter, so it went to a basketball player who was then able to continue pursuing his basketball career. Her daughter finally got her ankle transplant and this mother spoke of what it's like to lose your only son, but have him save so many others, and then have your daughter be the recipient of a much needed transplant. It was the most emotional and amazing story and she received a standing ovation among many tears being shed in the audience.
Then it was time for organ donor families, organ recipients (like me) to go light a candle in honor of our organ donor and all organ donor families. When I was handed my candle, lit it and placed it among the other lit candles, I thought of my donor and was filled with gratitude and much emotion. Tears ran down my cheeks.
There was a lovely reception afterward and I was able to speak to many on the Transplant Team that saved my life and are still working to help me be a successful transplant recipient. It was truly great to be able to thank them for all they do and for accepting me into the Lung Transplant Program. There were lots of hugs all around. If you just stood and quietly watched, you would notice how every member of the Transplant Team knows every patient by name; the patients all want to hug and take pictures with their medical team. It's a special bond we have with each other as patients and with our medical team that saved our lives.
The event was even covered by our local CBS affiliate, Channel 2 News; here's a link to their story on the event.