Red Square

Red Square

As I child, I couldn’t imagine being an organ donor. I thought the idea of someone taking something from my loved one—well, frankly disturbing. I argued with my parents, both of whom had chosen to be organ donors, and boldly stated I would not be one. A number of things along the way have changed my idea and appreciation for organ donors: Two in particular.

The first was my heart surgery in 1998. This was actually my third heart surgery, but the first one where I received a “graft.” A graft is the fancy term for a cadaver valve–in short, an organ that had been donated. At the time, I didn’t really think much about it except for to delight in telling people I had a “dead person valve.”

Dad and I

Dad and I

Then, in 2008, my father passed away. As I stated, my father was an organ donor–and yes, it still bothered me. Then, a little while later, we received a letter and some tokens of appreciation from the company that handled organ donation. I cried. It reminded me that the caring, giving man my father always was, he was continuing to be as he became part of keeping someone else alive.

It was this realization that sent me thinking about my own transplant. The idea that I had a piece of someone else’s heart became something for which I was extremely grateful–for their family’s sake. Through my life, their loved one was continuing to touch people around the world–Literally! It made me curious who they were, and gave me a desire to share with them all the places their loved one had gone.

Somali Refugees in Tanzania

Somali Refugees in Tanzania

At my recent heart check up, I was told my heart was better than ever, and my graft is going strong–16 years later. I asked my cardiologist if it would be possible to find out who’s heart valve I had received, expressing my desire to share with them the life their loved one has continued to live. He explained that, while he understood my gratitude, hospitals purposefully did not keep track of those things so families cannot demand compensation or retract their gift. While I understand, it disappointed me to now be able to say thank you. So I determined to do it here.

Second Degree

Second Degree

So, if your loved one was an organ donor (as I have now chosen to become), this is for you.

In the past 16 years, your loved one’s heart has traveled to 23 different countries, spent three summers working with refugees, and conducted medical clinics in 3 countries, VBS in 2, and directed drama in 5, including performing in schools all over Australia. Travelling with me, they have listened to 112 hours of class and earned a second degree. They have taught 1,600 students, attending sporting events of all varieties, directing theatre and leading clubs. They have read close to 800 books. They have laughed, loved, held seven nieces and nephews. They have cried–burying a grandfather, grandmother, father, uncle, and several former students. They have protested, written letters to the newspaper, attended government meetings, and campaigned door to door.

Field Trip

Field Trip

They have sung, danced, written, painted, created, and designed. And just like you carry them always in your heart, I literally have them in mine. And while I firmly believe in life after death, this is a bit of life added on in the meantime. For all those who will never have a chance to say it: Thank you!

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