“A miracle is when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A miracle is when one plus one equals a thousand.” ― Frederick Buechner, The Alphabet of Grace
A very wise nursing instructor once told a class full of graduating nursing students that one of the best aspects of nursing was the opportunity to explore multiple areas of healthcare, to find your niche, a specific patient population and cause that you connect with on a deeper level. I have been blessed in my nursing career to have become involved with organ donation and transplant early on and to remain so these past nine years. From the “early days” in the intensive care unit, caring for those listed and those about to give the Gift of Life, to my time working in organ procurement and donor family advocacy, to my personal experience as a (tissue) donor family member, and currently in my role as a transplant coordinator. Each experience provided me with examples of the amazing character, strength, and dedication of wait listed patients and their families, our healthcare teams who care for donor families and those caring for those who wait, and perhaps most of all, our donor families who chose in moments of great pain and struggle to help prevent the same pain in perfect strangers.
In writing this blog, I had considered highlighting a specific family experience or perhaps my own family’s experience to express the great impact that specific patient and family situations had on my being and my perception of the great kindness and love that humans are capable of, but I found that I could not single out just one or two scenarios. The effect of some years of experience with this community was cumulative, each building on the other to form my opinion that people are inherently good, with good intentions, and when it comes right down to “brass tacks” (as my mother would say), in most cases will chose to help others, in spite of or perhaps in response to their own pain.
We are faced daily with news stories that challenge this notion of inherent “goodness”, but within the cycle of Donating Life, we can find renewed hope for the best of what mankind can be. I encourage you to hear the stories of donor families who have found peace by knowing their loved one lives on in another, that they left a legacy that cannot be erased no matter how tragic the circumstances that brought them to it. You will find in the stories of our patients who are waiting, a strength unlike any other you have known. Recipients can share with you the joy of a renewed opportunity to truly experience all life can offer. The many different healthcare teams that care for patients on both sides of this coin can share with you the struggles and the pain, but also the happiness and fulfillment of lives renewed.
Another wise person once stated that transplant was miraculous, something extraordinary that only occurs because of the extraordinary efforts of so many people – the intensive care staff caring for donors, donor families and those who say yes to the call to Donate Life, the procurement teams, the transplant teams and nurses, and the patients who wait with the families that support them. In each step, each person gives a little something extra that leads to miraculous results.
To conclude this Donate Life Month, I would like to say this: To the families and patients who bravely wait for the miracle of life in the face of much adversity, to the awe-inspiring parents we are blessed to work with, who fight tirelessly for their children – thank you for your inspiration to be miraculous, to be extraordinary.
To everyone else, please: Donate Life. Donate Hope. Be extraordinary. Be the miracle.