When you renew your driver’s license, the clerk asks, “Would you like to be an organ donor?”
How do you respond? If you pass on this opportunity to save the life of another, or perhaps several others, or give sight to a blind person, what is your reason?
- Your religion frowns on it
- You fear that if you’re injured, a decision will be made to let you die
- You want to have an open-casket funeral
- It’s weird to think of your heart or lungs in the body of another person
- Medical facilities will make hundreds of thousands of dollars on your donation, and preferential treatment will be given to the rich and famous who need a transplant
- Your body parts will be sold to the highest bidder
- You’re concerned that your body will be treated disrespectfully during or after parts are harvested
I’m a fan of the work of Denzel Washington, but the film that always comes front and center is “John Q.,” the story of a family whose son needs a heart transplant and an HMO that won’t cover the procedure.
Recently, my neighbor Susan Popp, who has been attached to an oxygen supply for four-and-one-half years, walked across the street to chat. She looked good and even offered to assist me in carrying my packages.
In 2013, Susan was diagnosed with hypersensitivity pneumonitis and ended up in 2017 with end-stage lung disease, pulmonary fibrosis, with a bleak prognosis for living. Her pulmonary specialist had sent her in December of 2016 to the lung transplant team at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center for extensive testing, bloodwork and X-rays to determine if she was eligible for a transplant and if so, to get her on the list. The determination was that she was eligible, and in April of 2017, she got on the list because of the severity of her condition. And the wait began.
According to Susan, waiting for a lung to be available “was very hard. We had our bags packed for a couple of months. Every time the phone rang, we were anxious, excited. My husband Terry and I were having a lunch of Lean Cuisine on May 19, 2017, when the phone rang. The person on the phone said, ‘Are you Susan? How are you feeling? Would you like to have a transplant today?’”
She responded, “I’d love to. When do you want me there?”
The answer: “Yesterday.”
Susan and her husband, Terry, arrived at the facility at 2 p.m., and she was in surgery by 3:30 p.m. She came out of surgery nine hours later at 12:30 a.m. on May 20. She was in the hospital for 13 days and in Columbus for a total of 34 days.
Susan doesn’t know who her donor was or the circumstances surrounding his/her death. She wants that donor, however, to know the following: “ I thank you for saving my life, and I will never take your gift for granted. I’m engaged in emotional and spiritual soul-searching. Why was I granted the opportunity to live when someone else died?
“I never thought I’d say this, but doing laundry and dishes and cooking for my husband again are all things I’m excited about. I wake up each morning breathing on my own.”
Susan is one of the lucky ones, as almost two dozen people in the U.S. die each day while waiting for a transplant. The price for her single-lung transplant thus far has cost over half a million dollars and her immunosuppressant drugs will run about $8,000 a year for the rest of her life — unless the drug companies realize they can raise that by 100 percent or maybe even 500 percent.
Do Americans have a right to health care? I say “Yes.” I’m hoping that the voices of those who believe millions do not view this as a right will be silenced, outvoted.
And I’m also hopeful that Susan’s story will inspire you to register as a donor at https://www.donatelife.net/register/.
Even if you have indicated on your license that you are a donor, Susan’s story should tell you that time is critically important with so many transplants. Donate life today. Don’t wait to renew your license.
Vivian Blevins is a consultant for the Training Solutions Group Inc. who teaches courses in writing and literature for major telecom company employees. Reach her at (937) 778-3815 or firstname.lastname@example.org.