Somewhere, in this country right now, is a person--young or old, male or female; I don't know. All I know is that he or she is alive, and loving and laughing and enjoying life. And I know that someday, probably within the next two years, this person will die. Probably tragically, accidentally, unexpectedly. And his or her parents or spouse or children will have to make the unthinkable decision to donate the organs. This person, brain dead and hooked up to machines, will be taken to the operating room and organs will be removed. Time of death will be called. The organs will be packed into containers of ice and readied for immediate and rapid shipment to places all across the United States. One of those places will be Rochester, and one of the recipients will be me.
I have a condition called keratoconus. It is, basically, the deterioration of the cornea, resulting is loss of sight. It cannot be corrected by soft contact lenses or glasses, and the only definitive treatment is a corneal transplant when the cornea has collapsed completely into a cone shape. Many people with mild keratoconus find they have much better vision with gas-permeable contact lenses that reshape the corneal structure; I am not one of them. I have gone from 20/20 corrected vision in my left eye to less than 20/200, which meets the definition of legal blindness. I am one of the fortunate ones; my right eye is still correctable to 20/20 vision.
We are to the point now where we no longer treat my left eye at all; I wear a contact lense in it only in case something happens to the lense in my right eye while I am not home. My right eye compensates completely for the left, though I have very limited peripheral vision(NOT GOOD when you have to back up an ambulane into a bay---thank God for spotters and coworkers who understand and offer to do it for you!) and my night vision is worsening. My optometrist promises that should something happen to my right eye, I will be rushed to the top of the transplant list. Someday, soon, my right eye may stop compensating, or develop worsening vision, and I will then start the process to receive a transplant. This isn't really a question of if this will happen, but when.
So I am a huge fan of organ transplants. I am an organ donor(well, all except my corneas), and I want everything--organs, skin, tissues--to be taken. Establish brain death, I told my husband, and then tell them to go for it. I have seen a lot of tragic deaths this summer. I don't know if they were organ donors or not, but if they were, I know there are ten or eleven people who got to live, to see, to feel again because of that sacrifice.
So wherever you are today, thank you. It may seem macabre, but I do think of you and your family often. Someday, I will get to see again through your eyes, and I pray that I will make what I see and what I do worth your loss.
If you are not an organ donor and would like to become one, talk to your family and make your wishes known, then go to http://www.organdonor.gov/, and print out and sign a card.