June 20, 2012

The Gift Of Life

The topic I'm going to talk about may not be something that everyone agrees with and I respect their decision as I hope they respect mine and this story.

The gift of life of Organ Donation.

When I was younger, I didn't sign my organ donation card.  I had a hard enough time thinking about my death let alone them taking a part of me.
Eventually I came around and realized what good I would be doing for someone and have been listed as an organ donor ever since on my driver's licence and my husband and family know of my wishes.

I also have a very personal belief in becoming an organ donor.  My mom is a recipient of organ donation which saved and has prolonged her life.

My mom was a 2pack a day smoker for 35 years.  Combine that with Asthma and you get a young person with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) also known as Emphysema.
In 2001 my mom was admitted to hospital twice when her body finally told her enough is enough and a doctor told her she was going to die now if she didn't stop smoking.  She quit to us, but still smoked at work.  I understand how hard it is to quit an addiction, and while my mom thinks that we didn't know about her still smoking, we knew.  No amount of guilt, fighting, or 'intervention' would stop her.  Until it got so bad that one day driving home from work (she worked in downtown Toronto and drove 1.5hrs to get home) she had an asthma attack so bad by the time she got home all she could do it lean on the horn until my dad and I came running.  She once again was admitted to the hospital, this time with pneumonia.

My mom finally realized that things were never going to be the same.  She never returned to work after this episode because she couldn't chance having another attack.  It was also at this time she learned how bad things really were.  Her Respirologist was very surprised when my mom first walked into his office.  He was expecting a woman in her 70s to walk in, not a 48yr old woman.  She had 18% lung function.  They tried everything with medications, inhalers, therapy, to try and improve the function of her lungs.  Nothing worked.  In fact, it was going to get worse.  By July 2006 my mom was put on oxygen.  She couldn't shower standing up, she couldn't go downstairs to laundry, cook family meals, enjoy a hot summers day, or a cold winter's night and she was permanently attached to a hose pumping oxygen from a concentrator or canister when out.

I always knew that a transplant was the only solution if I were ever going to get my mom back, but it scared me.  I can't even imagine what my mom had to go through to make the decision to go forward.  In fact, talk of a transplant was brought up in 2002.  In 2009, my mom decided to go forward with it.

She had to first qualify to be on the 'list'. At Toronto General Hospital, they did many tests, interviews, weight loss and continuous work outs at the hospital 3 times a week.  In October 2009 she officially was on the 'list'.  My mom has Type O+ blood which means she can only receive donor lungs from a Type O+ donor.  Making her chances lower of receiving a donor quickly or at all.

A miracle did happen though.  On April 19, she got the call.  She was told "We have lungs for you!"  I don't know what my mom thought.  I know what I thought when I heard.  Oh My God.  I am 10 hours away, and I can't get home and all I know is that my mom is going into surgery and I am not there.

That was probably the longest night of mine, my brother's and my dad's life.  I got the call at about 10:30am the next morning.  She was out of surgery and doing well. 

My mom had successfully had a Double Lung Transplant and was on her way to recovery and a new life.

My mom had a pretty easy recovery compared to others who have had this procedure (other than a bowel issue....mom liked to push the pain button lol).

It has been over 2 years since my mom had her transplant and other than some other complications due to the medications she has to take, she is doing amazing and I have my mom around to do things that she hasn't been able to do for years.

This procedure was done all at Toronto General Hospital and some of you who watch Ellen may be familiar with Hélène Campbell, a young woman from Ottawa, Ontario who underwent this surgery not too long ago.  The team that did Hélène's surgery is the same team who did my mom.

I am grateful to the person who took the time to become a donor, and to their family for honouring their wish. 

This is why I am a registered organ donor and I urge you to become one as well.  If you live in Ontario you can do it by simply going to beadonor.ca or at your local DMV.

No comments: