The Decision That Saved My Life

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by Samuel Kirton |

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It was July 9, 2021, at 9 a.m. NBC’s “Today” show was on television in our house that morning. I was in my home office going through my morning routine while my wife, Susan, was downstairs in her home office.

When my cellphone rang, I recognized the number as the transplant nurse coordinator’s, which was not unusual. Even though I had been listed for transplant for a little over three and a half months, I was caught off guard by her words that morning: “We have a lung offer for you.”

I had to ask them to hold on so I could get Susan to come upstairs to listen to the call. There were critical details we needed to know. The voice on the phone was Michelle, and she was with Melissa and Patricia, three nurses who had been on this journey with us.

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They told us to head to the hospital. They gave us a room number where I would go directly to be admitted. When we hung up the phone, we paused to say a prayer for my donor and for my donor’s family.

Someone had died and given the gift of life that day. That selfless act is the reason I can be here now.

Organ donation

The organization Donate Life estimates that at any given time, 1,400 patients in the U.S. are awaiting new lungs, and more than 100,000 patients are awaiting organ transplants. A single organ donor, according to Donate Life, can save or heal the lives of up to 75 people.

If you’re an organ donor, I want to say thank you. If you’re not an organ donor, I ask that you review the frequently asked questions on the Donate Life website. Organ donation is a very personal choice, one best made when you have all the data to make your decision.

Registering to be an organ donor can be done through the departments that give out driver’s licenses or even online at Donate Life.

My new lungs

I wrote to my donor family right around Christmas. I haven’t heard from them, and I realize I may never hear from them.

My new lungs have performed flawlessly from the moment I was extubated following transplant. I owe it to my donor to take good care of their gift. I can put a pulse oximeter on my finger and see my oxygen saturation level at 97–100%. That is a dramatic change from the days before transplant, when my oxygen saturation level would dip to the high 70s or low 80s.

I am writing this column now because April is National Donate Life Month.

Simply saying thank you to my donor and my donor family will never be enough. I am forever in their debt for allowing me to hold my first grandchild, for letting me walk my daughter down the aisle, and for seeing the sunrise each new day. I cannot think of any greater way to honor their gift than by telling you about it. Being an organ donor can help others make every breath count.

If you are a registered organ donor, why did you make that choice? If you are not a registered organ donor, would you share why? Let’s continue the conversation in the comments below. 

Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.


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