Organ donor’s gifts keep on giving 13½ years after her death

By Renee Ordway, Special to the BDN
Posted Nov. 29, 2013, at 11:02 a.m.

I saw the Facebook posting by chance as I was browsing aimlessly during a break from cooking on the day before Thanksgiving.

Many people, of course, already were chatting about the things they were thankful for and the dishes they were preparing for the next day’s feast.

Then a post appeared that made me pause.

It was from a “friend” named Lori. It was her birthday. I don’t see many of her postings. We don’t actually know one another. I’ve never commented on her photos nor does she comment on mine.

“This time of year we are all reminded to be thankful and to express it. I want to publicly thank Jesus, my Lord and Saviour not only for blessing me with wonderful family and friends but also for another year of life on this, my birthday. Who would have ever believed I would still be here 13.5 years after transplant. Thank you Lord!” she wrote.

I don’t know much about Lori. I know she is in her mid-40s and lives in Pennsylvania. I know she has a son, is a devout Christian and that she makes jewelry. I know that in May of 2000 she was on the transplant list awaiting a new heart because hers was failing. Her son was young and disabled and she feared him growing up without her.

I know that on Memorial Day weekend of that year, her doctors delivered to her and her family the news that a heart had become available and she was a match.

I know that as her family was giving thanks for their blessing, 500 miles away, my own was preparing to bury my 20-year-old niece.

Lori’s family was not the only family to have received their long-awaited, lifesaving news on that weekend.

A woman in Massachusetts who was succumbing to a lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis and had already picked out and pressed her “funeral dress” was rushed into surgery and received two new lungs. She would go on to marry the love of her life, buy a motor home and travel across the country.

There was a smart and vibrant woman in Falmouth who spent too much of her time on dialysis trying to stay alive with her last and failing kidney. She swore if she was ever freed from the dialysis machine she would learn to sail.

The surgery she received that weekend allowed her to do that. She bought a small sailboat and named it the Jenni B — the only information she had at the time about her donor.

Thirteen and a half years ago my family was trying desperately to navigate through a holiday season with one of us missing.

It is a trek with no clear direction and one that many families are on today.

The decision that my sister and her husband had to make on that weekend all of those years ago while seated around a hospital room conference table, with their broken daughter in the next room, was painful beyond measure.

They dug deep and found the courage to say yes, that she would be an organ donor. If there was no hope at all for her, her healthy 20-year-old organs should help someone else live.

We eventually met some of those who received my niece’s organs. It was incredibly healing. Lori reached out to my sister through a letter telling a bit about herself and expressing her great fear of leaving her disabled son without a mother and expressing her gratitude.

We later connected on Facebook, but haven’t communicated for many, many years.

Until Wednesday afternoon when I happened upon her post.

I sent her a private message reminding her who I was, wishing her a happy birthday and telling her that our family was so pleased to hear how well she was doing.

She thanked us again for making a decision that changed her life and wished us a happy Thanksgiving.

As of 6:27 a.m. Friday, 120,997 people were awaiting lifesaving transplants.

About 6,000 people die each year while they are waiting.

You can go to www.donatelifenewengland.org for information on organ donation.

You can reach Renee at reneeordway@gmail.com.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/11/29/living/organ-donors-gifts-keep-on-giving-13-%c2%bd-years-after-her-death/ printed on August 27, 2014