Red heart mylar balloons were tied around the house of my brother Dan this week to joyously celebrate his homecoming from the University of Iowa Hospital cardiac care unit, where he received a new heart. There wasn’t one of us – his brothers or sisters – who wouldn’t have given him their heart if they could have (some with the caveat that they’d be glad to clone it in order to stay alive, too), but something this medically necessary wasn’t like donating blood.
Instead, we had to rely on prayers, hope, faith – and the strength and love of an anonymous donor’s family. Donor. A donation. What do those word really mean?
Before all this, a donor or a donation was what you signed up for to give cookies at a charity bake sale. You donate money. You donate time. You might even donate parts of your physical body like hair or blood. But a heart?
When Dan got on the transplant list, we knew it was a time-sensitive wait. And each day, we waited to hear if the hospital would call to tell Dan and his wife Shari to get over there to receive a new heart. Days, weeks and months went by. Finally, the day after our 85-year-old father’s funeral, that call came. And following a successful surgery, and just three weeks to the day of that surgery, Dan and Shari came home. What joy! What relief! What … about the donor’s family?
The Bible’s wonderful verse “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” has a new twist for us. For how great a love “hath” total strangers that they take what can still be kept living from their dead family member or friend and gift it so that others might live. A little over three weeks ago, strangers virtually saved the life of my brother. And knowing that up to 25 different organs and tissues can be donated for transplantation, there could be at least 24 other people who are recovering and rejoicing that a donor and his or her family gave the gift of life. The gift of love.
Please, if you haven’t considered being a donor, do. Consider it a duty, if you must. Consider it recycling, if you want. Consider it an act of love. Because it is.
— Our eternal love and appreciation to the donor and family from a survivor and his family.