The gift of life

Organ donationThe news was shared at a wedding… my mom-in-law needed a liver transplant. With the encouragement of family, she agreed to be evaluated for the transplant list. It would be several months before we would learn not only that she was accepted, but that she was a candidate for a live liver donation.

I don’t think any of us even knew that a live liver donation was possible. But with that information, family members started the testing process. Over the course of months, most family members were ruled out because they were not a blood match. There was hope a couple of times, when we thought a match was found, but the results of the CT scans revealed they were not a good match.

As I witnessed blood relatives getting ruled out, I thought it was time to find out if I was a blood match. When I learned that I was, I decided to keep going. So I spent a full day meeting with doctors, nurses, counselors, and having a long list of tests and image scans performed to make sure I was good match – both physically and mentally. I was.

Now what?

At this time, we were getting ready to celebrate the holidays and we felt it was safe to wait. So I decided to hold off until after the holidays and a winter trip my husband and I had planned.

About a week after my husband and I returned from our vacation, I scheduled the last of the evaluation tests – another full day of meeting with doctors, nurses and counselors. The transplant team did a great job of explaining the procedures and risks – and I felt they were genuinely looking out for me.

Finally, the transplant team met to review all my tests and make a recommendation – I was a good candidate to donate part of my liver. So, I had a heart-to-heart with my family and my mom-in-law. I would do it.

Throughout the entire process, it felt like the right thing to do; like I was meant to do this. After all, if I have the chance to save the life of someone I love, I’m going to. Despite being comfortable with my decision, I was scared. It’s a serious surgery with no guarantee.

In the week leading up to the surgery – when things were getting very real – I spent time making sure my affairs were in order. I sat down with my husband and we went over the bills, life insurance, account information, and what I wanted in the event the surgery didn’t go as expected. I had it all pulled together and organized so he would know what to do and who to contact. It was hard, but I didn’t want to leave a mess for him.

As I write this, it has been nearly four months since the surgery. Life has largely returned to normal and my mom and I are both doing well. My recovery has been harder than I thought, but every time I see mom, I feel it is worth it. She is so full of life and energy now that had been missing for so long.

I never thought too much about organ donation, but in my case it felt like something I was meant to do. The decision to donate is very personal, but if you can, you could save a life.