Tuesday’s Tale: Freedom from Illness
My journey to transplantation begins 10 years ago, when I visited my gastroenterologist. It was then that I learned I had a form of hepatitis that would eventually compromise my liver function.
I was able to live with the disease until 2008 when it became clear that something was seriously wrong. I hadn’t been feeling well for months and on my way to church I drove up over a curb. When I got to the hospital, I was so incoherent that I couldn’t complete paperwork. I was told that my ammonia levels were too high, received medication and thought it was under control.
A few months later, when I was visiting my daughter and son-in-law for Christmas, my ammonia levels went up again. I didn’t know who anyone was, where I was, or how I got where I was. The ammonia level caused my brain to cloud up. It was like blacking out in little spells. After being admitted to a hospital in Columbia, SC they were able to stabilize me.
We came back to Marion just after the New Year and I had a doctor’s appointment a few days later, for a routine checkup. I told her of my latest episode, she reviewed my history and told us that I needed to be tested for a liver transplant.
At that moment, I felt ashamed. You see prior to this time when asked at the BMV if I wanted to be an organ and tissue donor upon my death I had always said no. I always thought that if the good Lord gave them to me he wanted me to bring them back to him.
I needed a transplant to keep me alive and to have to wait on someone else’s generosity to get it, but if I were to die and someone needed something of mine they wouldn’t get it because I was a selfish person. Talk about sobering – I had never felt so bad in all my life.
It didn’t take me long to get a brochure from Lifeline of Ohio to register to be an organ and tissue donor upon my death. I filled it out and sent it in immediately so when something does happen to me someone will get a second chance at life.
By February 2009 we were on our way to the Cleveland Clinic to be tested for transplant. A whole week of testing everyday. I was then listed for a liver transplant. Then the waiting started we couldn’t go to far from home in case they would call with a donor liver. It was almost like waiting on a baby to arrive.
On June 23, 2009 at 10:30 am I received a call for my transplant and a second chance at life. I returned home in time for the Fourth of July, and celebrated a new freedom of my own: freedom from illness.
My transformation was remarkable and it was all thanks to my donor. I no longer had a yellow cast to my skin, I had my energy back and was able to drive, mow the lawn, work out, and anything I wanted to do was possible!
In addition to having a second chance, my transplant saved me from cancer. I learned that my liver was cancerous, and was removed from my body before it had a chance to spread. I consider it an absolute miracle that I had my transplant when I did.
Today, my wife and I are ambassadors for Lifeline of Ohio and we go to different events and tell my story so that people will know that organ and tissue donation is important. I know it is to me, I am so grateful to my donor and me experience with donation will always be a very important part of me.
I hope that by sharing my story I can inspire others who haven’t registered to be donors, to take the steps to be a hero and give hope to the 109,000 Americans waiting for a transplant.