When E became sick we received a beautiful glass heart in a gift box. Our friend asked that we hold on to it for good luck until E had his new heart but then to pass it to the donor family when it was time.
Often, post transplant, recipients write a letter of thanks to the donor family. As you can imagine this would be and is an incredibly difficult thing to do.. there are no words to describe the thankfulness of the gift of life.. they just do not exist..
After the surgery we were tied up with the hospital for months.. twice daily out-patient visits eventually became monthly until finally we returned to a semi normal life. What was normal before was no longer. We now had a new normal. E became used to the drug regiment of almost thirty pills a day… 9 am in the morning and in the evening . Anti rejection drugs are required to stop his body from rejecting his new heart. Not taking them would prove fatal. I still ask him most days if he has taken his pills… he doesn’t seem to mind… It isn’t considered nagging after 13 years. It is more like the second part of good morning or the preamble to good night… it is our normal now.
The Unitarian Church in town holds an annual evening memorial service for organ donor families and their recipients. I think it is facilitated by the transplant society. It is a non religious evening. Families light candles and speak of the gift of life. Afterwards, there is a reception held in the church hall. Guests mingle and tell their stories. Organ donation in Canada is an anonymous process but you can tell families are asking questions in the faint hope of finding their connection. But it isn’t the specific donor or recipient connection they find. They find a group of people who have been involved in the most amazing experience…. Through no fault of their own or plan of intention these families are brought together by the genius that is science, the ultimate generosity of the human kind… to give life when there is life to give…
We took the kids in September 2000, and I remember so clearly sitting in the church pew overcome with thankfulness… We went home and wrote the letter.
No exchange of gifts is normally allowed between the donor and recipient. But I attached the letter to the gift box with the glass heart and gave it to our transplant coordinator to pass along to the family through their coordinator. Thank you letters are read for content and I hoped that once they had read the letter the donor coordinator would accept the heart and offer it to the family.. It never came back so I presume there is a family somewhere holding that heart tonight.
To the Mother, Father, Husband, Wife, Sister or Brother, who in their saddest moment chose to give so selflessly the gift of life…. We thank you and hold you dear in our hearts. The glass heart was meant as so much more than just