|(This post is my religion column for the Kingsport Timesnews, 6/7/13)|
Recently I renewed my driver’s licence, and instead of being smart and simply renewing it online, I actually went to the DMV. Sitting down for my nearly one hour wait, I faced a single poster on the wall.
The poster in the DMV waiting room displayed 17 empty chairs. The caption under the empty chairs acknowledged waiting in line is painful. But more powerfully, the poster pointed out that daily, 17 people die while waiting for an organ donation. Why place this poster in the DMV? Because the DMV is a convenient place to sign up to be an organ donor! You can also sign up online to give the gift of life. In Tennessee, to regesiter go to http://www.donatelifetn.org and in Virgina you can regesiter online at, www.donatelifevirginia.org
Somewhere between 17 and 18 people die daily, right here in America, waiting for a lifesaving transplant. NFL players, school teachers, children, parents, soliders -- real people..., slowly and painfully fade away, waiting. Yet, when someone passes on their organs, then 7 to 8 lives are potentially saved “overnight” (We say 7 or 8, based on whether or not all of their organs -- think heart, lungs, liver, etc. are healthy). Though not always the case, one website I looked at said occasionally it is possible for 9 lives to be saved from one donor (if the liver is segmented for two recipients and all the organs are healthy).
I have a friend who considers his role as a “dual advocate” in the realm of organ donation. He works for an organization that basically facilitates the hand-off from an organ donor’s side to the next phase for a recipient, and all the while, he is there for the family of the recently deceased. Comforting, counseling, answering tough questions, seeking to be a healing presence. My friend told me that when a person graciously donates their organs, not only is there the potential for passing on the 7 or 8 lifesaving-major organs, but, 50 to 100 other people are also going to be helped out in areas you might not think of -- like skin grafts, certain useful components of the eye, bone and other soft-tissue which are also recoverable.
As a minister within a church context and as a volunteer chaplain with our local hospital system, I’ve witnessed firsthand some very tragic situations; suicides, and deaths from motor vehicle accidents are among the most difficult. Very recently I spent time with a family who lost a young person to suicide, and honestly, the worst day of their lives just became the happiest day in the lives of at least 7 people. What an opportunity to transform your worst nightmare, into a dream come true for several families.
My heart literally breaks for the people as they lose a loved one. But the best way forward for any family who has tragically lost a loved one, is to turn the page and create a happy ending. Giving the gift of life (when death has robbed your family) is the best conclusion to your loved one’s story. It is a paradox in the truest sense of the word, someone’s world just collapsed around them and simultaneously a host of dying people receive a new lease on life.
Please, tell your family if you are an organ donor. Legally, donating is your choice, but people spend precious time with our families to facilitate the transplant process, and time is of the essence when we die. Communicating your desires will help ease the minds of your loved ones on the day you no longer need your organs, and remember, someone is desperately waiting for their transplant. Also, if you are not an organ donor, please prayerfully consider registering as one. And, if you ever have a loved one pass on who is not an organ donor, when you are called upon to make a heartfelt decision, think life.
Back to my friend who stands in the gap between life and death. He told me about a training session his organization sent him to. A middle aged woman wearing a stethoscope (who my friend said was obviously not a medical professional) walked up to a younger man, maybe in his late 20’s or early 30’s. She placed the stethoscope up to his chest. She breathed in deeply, slowly exhaled and smiled. She said, “Ah, finally I get to hear my son’s heartbeat.” And for my friend, it all kind of came together -- her family’s loss meant life for the other young man, and somehow joy was restored in the life of a mother who sadly outlived her son.
Seven to eight people per donor are saying, “I wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for...” So please remember the 17 people who are not so fortunate and please join with me in changing that. Currently, there are at least 113,000 Americans waiting for a transplant, with a new name added to that list every 10 minutes! I’m proudly registered as an organ donor and I encourage you to say “yes” to life when yours ends. Be the miracle, desperate people are dying for.