By Randy Zibell, liver recipient

IMG_5118There is a song lyric by the Beatle, John Lennon that has always resonated with me. He wrote “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”

I found that to be true twenty years ago – I was a father raising a family, a professional engineer pursuing my career when I was diagnosed with a liver disease. This was a surprise because I had no symptoms at the time.  What really shocked me was that there was no cure; my only salvation would be a liver transplant.

Excellent primary care doctors helped me live a normal life for years until eventually my condition worsened. I was referred to the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center where I was told that I qualified for a transplant, however I was not sick enough to be put on the list.

In the following months I planned my finances, named a financial and medical power of attorney and made a will and living will that included my wishes to be an organ, eye and tissue donor.

I was then 61 years old and had planned diligently all my life to make a retirement possible, now I did not know if I would have one.  I met with my transplant surgeon and it was his advice to forgo retirement and continue to work as my disease progressed. I agreed; it was preferable to continue to live my life with purpose and also advantageous to remain active so as to be in the best possible condition for the transplant to come.

As my liver failed and my muscles atrophied, I continued to get up and go to work but when I could barely walk to my office from the parking lot I finally signed my retirement papers – naively planning to work yet another two months.

That weekend after finalizing my retirement date, I became gravely ill. My wife, Diane, took me to the hospital where we were told I could not leave – I was to be in the hospital until a liver transplant could save my life. I was then officially listed.

It was a few weeks later when my brother was visiting me. The doctor came in and announced that a liver was available for me. I cried – what a joyous moment! However, this moment was also tempered by the fact that someone had passed.

The transplant went smoothly and was successful. Afterwards when I was mentally able to relax, I felt so lucky. I felt gratitude to my donor and donor family who made this possible for me – I was very, very thankful for a second chance at life. The hard part of the wait was over – it was going to be a long recovery, but after what I had already been through it would be all downhill from here.

IMG_5128My donor’s Gift of Life has granted me the hope of a long retirement and the pleasures of life that go with it, including taking spending time with my grandson, Jacob. He is a beautiful and darling young boy who inspires me to try to live life fully every day.

Every day I think about my donor and I am forever grateful to this person. The generosity and the courage of my donor is a constant inspiration to me.  This person has given me life and this selfless act moves me to strive to live a charitable life; forgetting self and thinking of others.

Won’t you do the same? Register today and become a hero!