I may not be as familiar with hospitals as others but I still have a familiarity with the aroma of rubbing alcohol attempting to give off a sterile sense and the sounds of white rubber nurses shoes clunking the halls while the monitor machines chirp. Not because I was sick but because my dad had the kind of heart that wouldn’t let his body do what his mind wanted to; eat the spiciest foods of the earth and ride all of the roller coasters he desired. For a short span in his earlier years he was a carefree man who enjoyed the taste of ferment and nicotine on his tongue which lead to his first heart attack around the age of thirty.
I’ve gone on about some of my dad’s heart history but some of you know that he was the recipient of a heart transplant the day of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2004. I remember the months leading up to the transplant I had visited my dad in the hospital several times since his Congestive Heart Failure had gotten to the point that he needed constant monitoring; he was even up for a VAD (Ventricular Assist Device), which meant things definitely weren’t looking so hot. This was scary because it meant my dad was on the end of his rope, hanging on - hanging on STRONG. Even though my dad was strong and resilient in his mind, his heart was slowing him down. Which meant visits to the hospital whenever I came home from college from 2003 until he received his heart, we even spent Christmas in the hospital.
At the time I didn’t think much of it because I love my dad and just wanted to see him, until now. It occurred to me that I’ve made many visits to the hospital to see my papa and it wasn’t because he was hard on his body, on the contrary. My dad changed his lifestyle after his first heart attack, he stopped drinking as much, quit smoking all together and exercised. I wasn’t sure who was in better shape when I was younger, my dad or me, the 24-7 soccer player. But still, I made the visits to my sweet papa in the Sterile Land.
But I’m freaking grateful for the heart transplant that my dad received. I’ll never forget the morning I got the best phone call ever. I’ll always be thankful for the gift of life that not just my dad but our family received. Though MLK, Jr. Day is usually remembered by Americans (and the globe) as a day of remembrance for Civil Rights and a great man who fought for them, it will always be the day that my dad went into surgery to get the gift of life - another chance at life.
For some, April is a month to be proactive about environmental awareness or the start of Spring sports. For this moi, it’s a month to remember those who were selfless enough to check off the “Organ Donor” box on their driver’s license. It’s a month where I thank all of the families of those donors. It’s a month that I am so thankful that there is such a thing as organ donation and that there are surgeons whose hands are swift enough to perform these procurements. It’s a month where I’m thankful that Donate Life, an organization that educates the public about the importance of organ donation, goes to schools, driver’s ed classes and farmer’s markets to spread this beautiful message. My dad’s even cool enough to pay it forward to help talk about organ donation to local students. Oh yeah!
I hope that you and your family won’t ever have to go to the hospital to visit your loved one(s) but with the cycle of life, I think it’s inevitable. But if you do, I hope that you and your family will be educated about the tough decisions that may life ahead. Please know the wishes of the ones you love, in the time of crisis. Please check off the “Organ Donor” box to help save person’s life; one person can save so many lives. Again, I hope that you never have to go through what my dad and many other people on the transplant waiting list or what the families of the organ donors have but I hope that you will be kind enough to check THAT box, the one that saves lives.
Thank you to the one who gave my dad a new heart and life. Thank you to the family who were gracious enough to allow their loved one save so many lives. Thank you to those who have checked off the “Organ Donor” box. Thank you surgeons for being smart enough to do these operations. Thank you educators for spreading the message.
Thank you, Dad, for wanting to live and fighting for your life. I love you.