A Gift I Never Imagined
My name is April Caudill and since 1998 I have worked for Lifeline of Ohio in tissue recovery, personally facilitating the gifts of tissue shared by hundreds of individual donors.
Today, I am Lifeline of Ohio’s manager for tissue recovery and perfusion services; but I am also a wife and a mother – therefore a cook, and a maid – and I am a part-time college student. My life is full and fulfilling.
In December 2009, I took on another role I never imagined for myself: I became a tissue recipient.
While enroute to a medical conference, the plane I was traveling in hit some terrible turbulence. Scary as it was, it passed. Yet as we began our descent, an odd sensation came over me and my neck began to ache.
At first I tried to ignore the dull pain, but as the week progressed it increased substantially. I was unable to attend most of the conference because I was in so much pain and spent my time lying motionless in my hotel room, crying. The trip back to Columbus was excruciating and when I arrived home, I had lost sensation from the right side of my neck, down my right arm, into my thumb and fingertips.
My husband was at the airport to pick me up, literally. A quick detour to the local urgent care center brought no relief in spite of heavy doses of muscle relaxers, prescription pain killers and steroids. My x-rays revealed that I had a serious neck injury that would involve removing a disc. Having previously worked in a hospital’s surgical department, I didn’t have to be told the surgery would involve donor tissue. The shock was that it would be another six weeks until the surgery could be performed.
During the wait, I was not able to do any of the things that make me – me. I had to stop working, but the impact in my personal life was even more upsetting. Sleepless nights trying to find a position of comfort that never came; being so heavily-sedated that time with my children disappeared; having to be carried around the house as I was in too much pain to move on my own; and watching the anguish on my husband and children’s faces as they were powerless to comfort me or stop my pain.
Fortunately, my disability was short-lived, but I have a new found appreciation for people who live in chronic pain. When I awoke from surgery, I had immediate relief. There was no pain and I had regained feeling in all but my thumb.
The gift of donation, something that I have worked with and talked about for more than 12 years, suddenly became very personal. Were it not for the act of kindness from that unknown person and their family, I would not have been able to resume any semblance of a normal, pain-free life.
I never would have believed I would be so grateful to stand at the stove and cook dinner or even run a vacuum cleaner. But thanks to my donor, I have my life back.
I can hug my children, I can write those dreaded term papers – and I can continue to participate in helping donations happen – all because someone said “yes” to donation.