April 26, 2017 | Posted in General
Sometimes when you are looking for something, you find another thing that is more important that what you originally were searching for and with it comes hidden gifts.
I was digging in a Rubbermaid storage box yesterday, looking for a baseball, not just any ball mind you-the one signed by most of the 1969 Chicago Cubs. Just a reminder to put in my line of sight while I work of a time when not everything was about work.
When I opened an old shoe box certain I would find my treasure there, an odd-looking envelope was inside-but no baseball. I opened up the envelope to find a “live saving medal” given to me years ago from the Governor of Wisconsin-but not for my time in United States Coast Guard.
It was for giving the gift of life to my daughter when I donated a kidney to her fifteen years ago this coming July 18th or 5,475 days ago.
I vaguely remember skipping the ceremony for the medal presentation because it seemed ludicrous to me for such an award to be given, as a father there was no question that I would give her a part of myself and surely didn’t need to be recognized for it.
So, it sits in a box in storage…where I had totally forgotten about it. But then it became an important reminder.
This morning as I was about to “rant off” about things like the “virtual reality of politics” and ask the question “Why is the applicator on RoundUp called the “Comfort Wand,” my mind suddenly remembered that April is “Organ Donation Awareness Month.”
So here is my pitch.
First off, my daughter Amanda Lee is fine fifteen years’ post-transplant. She is healthy, brilliant, beautiful, driven and full of life. I will never forget seeing her the day after the transplant at UW Madison Children’s Hospital sitting cross legged on the bed in her room, cheeks flush with color and a light in her eyes that has only grown brighter in the years since that “exchange.” A sharp contrast to the 13-year-old girl that was losing a battle with kidney disease just a couple days before.
Truth of course is that not everyone waiting in line for a life-saving transplant has had our experience.
I could bombard you with statistics but they don’t matter until you become a statistic. Thousands wait for the call, the text or the “buzzer” that gets attached to your hip while on “the list.”
Then we want to know why more hasn’t been done, or why people won’t sign their donor card, or make their wishes known to their family.
As I watch government subsidies and compromises for the Affordable Care Act punted around like a football, I think of the thousands of people who without the protection from the ” pre-existing condition” clause that was standard in the insurance industry for decades and the financial support from the program would really be up shit creek.
For years I pushed hard, using my media presence and stance to contribute to doing what I could to raise awareness and consciousness around organ donation. As the Senior Producer for the Dr. Oz Show on Oprah Radio, I built at least six shows a year around the issue. I scripted and produced PSA spots and guested on half a hundred shows myself talking about the deep need for donation.
The question most asked of me of course was “Why don’t more people become donors?”
Never really could pinpoint one answer.
Could be that the idea of signing that donor card is admitting on some level that you are really going to die someday…or even today… and that scares the shit outta people. Could be that we are just selfish and we would rather “take it with us” instead of “leaving some for others” as a final act of defiance. The cemeteries of the world are like an auto junkyard of spare parts-but unlike a bunch of rusted metal hulks that can be picked over, once we are done-it’s too late.
Health is perhaps the one thing we take most for granted but also the one thing that more than anything else determines our life experience. We can be humming along one day and the next day end up on dialysis…or on a list waiting for someone to give the ultimate gift, like the incredible story of Rod Crew.
“I thought I was totally healthy” says the Hall of Famer. “Then one morning out of nowhere I had a massive heart attack.” After that, Carew was in desperate need of a heart and kidney transplant. Then in December of last year, former NFL tight end Konrad Reuland, an organ donor, died at the age of 29 after suffering a brain aneurysm.
The above paragraph excerpted from Tim Van Vooren at Fox 6 in Milwaukee by the way.
Konrad’s strong heart ended up in the chest of the 71-year-old Carew, and in an amazing twist of fate, Konrad had attended a baseball clinic Carew held when he was only eleven years old. Eight months before the brain aneurysm, Konrad had renewed his driver’s license and opted to be an organ donor.
“It’s a miracle…” insists Rod Carew.
Yes, it is.
Amanda and I don’t talk much about all that transpired when she was just a teenager, her deep beliefs about all that took place are set in stone and she rarely looks back, but I have a father’s eye and “the donor” experience about all that went on, and my singular perspective on the process why I am asking you to be a hero today.
Like Konrad Reuland.
If you are already an organ donor, my deepest thanks and if not, please consider becoming a donor and remember, the life you save won’t be your own.
That my friends is the whole idea.
With Amanda Lee’s permission, this is what “The Gift of Life” looks like fifteen years later.