PJ Martin, Office/News Reporter, Metcalfe Division – I just celebrated a milestone in my life. (No, not a birthday. I passed 50 a few years ago.) I celebrated the 20th anniversary of my life-saving liver transplant on August 20, 2018.
It humbles me beyond words when I think about the fact that a family who lost their loved one cared enough to donate their organs to save others. A kind soul saving the lives of complete strangers. I have truly been blessed.
I never knew my donor and the family never returned my letters. I was told by the transplant coordinators that the donor was much younger than me, a male, and possibly from Kentucky. What I do know is that they have allowed me to experience an added 20 years of life and memories.
One thing I realized while I was gravely ill – I wanted to go to college. I didn’t have the chance when I graduated high school and I had always silently wanted to earn a degree. After recovering from the transplant I was able to earn my Associates Degree by attending college part-time. Later when I was laid off from my job, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend full-time and earn my Bachelor’s Degree.
Because of the transplant, I was there to help my Mother when she went through her long ordeal with cancer and be there when she lost that battle as well. It allowed me to be there to say goodbye when we lost our Father and my nephew also. Later when my husband was diagnosed with cancer, I was able to take care of him during the bone marrow transplant process. Today, doctors have declared him cancer-free.
The transplant enabled me to see my second and third grandchildren come into the world and watch as they have grown into teenagers. When I reminisce about all the things that have happened in the last 20 years, it truly amazes me to think I may have missed all of that had it not been for my donor.
Of course, it hasn’t all been wonderful. As with any life it has its ups and downs. Any transplant recipient will tell you that it requires a lot of work just to maintain your wellbeing. Recipients must take immunosuppressant medication every day on a strict schedule or they run the risk of organ rejection. That medication is not kind to the rest of the body and has many side effects, causing you to take even more medication. There is also a lot of regular lab work involved.
The transplant meds cause a lowered immune system, so you catch viruses very easily. It takes longer to heal from an injury and they just plain make you physically tired. You might say it’s a trade, good for bad, but it’s worth every minute.
As of August 16th, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) website lists the number of Kentucky residents waiting for an organ transplant as 1,040 (kidney, liver, pancreas, heart, and lung). UNOS cites a total of only 114 (76 deceased and 38 living) donors available so far this year. Those numbers show just how low the possibilities of receiving a transplant really are.
If you would like to know more about being an organ donor please go to one of the following websites. They have answers to the most commonly asked questions. http://www.kyorgandonor.org/ and https://unos.org/donation/.