During the time Tommy was waiting to hear what the results of his blood work were, I remember getting a call from my cousin, Karen. In my mind, Karen is much more than a cousin, she feels like a sister to me. In fact, I think one of the greatest legacies that Mom and Dad, as well as their brothers and sisters (my aunts and uncles) will ever have, is the feeling that many of us as cousins feel a closer bond, something more as brothers and sisters, rather than cousins. And even though we, as cousins, may have been separated - some in Philadelphia, some on the Jersey Shore, some in Ireland and abroad, and some in just the next town over – the distance has never seemed to matter.
I was at work when Karen called. This call was heart-wrenching, yet in the end, I think, if possible, it may have brought Karen and I even closer together. Karen began by saying that she had heard from her mom (Aunt Mary, who has sort of been like a second mother to me over the years, especially when I visited Philadelphia) that I definitely needed a kidney transplant.
Karen said that she felt so bad that I was going through this, and wished she could take away all of the pain. She then said that she had been wrestling with the decision of wanting to be tested to see if she was a match.
No matter how much you love someone, some decisions are not “no-brainers” no matter what the situation is. Karen has three beautiful boys and a loving husband to think of. And the question she was wrestling with, is one that many people wrestle with…’If I do this, what happens if one of my boys needs something similar down the road?’
I couldn’t thank Karen enough for even considering to be tested. If our roles were reversed, I would be considering my family as well before making such a life changing commitment.
At this point Karen wasn’t aware of what her blood type was, so it may have all been a moot point anyways. But in typical Karen fashion, she said to me, that even if she was unable to do this, that she wanted to help in any way possible. I told her that Tommy and Mom were definitely going to need some assistance at the time of the transplant, or at least when Tommy gets out of the hospital, and she said she would do what she could, but that it could be difficult being in New York.
If there is one thing that I have learned from this whole experience thus far, it’s that a support system is vital to getting through it – from the preparation to the eventual surgery, and beyond. Be that from family, friends, doctors…basically anyone willing to help you. Now is not a time to be a martyr. It is a difficult process, emotionally, physically and spiritually – if you have been saving up your favors over time, this may be the best time to call in those favors.
To Karen, and anyone else that has ever considered being tested for organ donation, thank you. Thank you for wanting to help no matter what your final decision may be. If organ donation is something that you would like to consider, please consider it and get all of the information you need to make an informed decision. Start by talking to your family, and your personal physician, and for further information contact the New England Organ Bank at http://www.neob.org/ . You can also go to http://www.thewaitinglist.org/ for more information, or visit The Waiting List on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/endthewaitinglist .