At 16 years old, I went to the DMV to get my license. I checked the box to be an Organ and Tissue donor and I used a woman behind me in line as my witness. It was a no brainer for me, a decision I made on the spot without hesitation.
Who would have known that so many years later, I would be the one benefiting from the lifesaving donation made by another? Instead of the one giving, (which is the sole thought I had when choosing to be an organ donor), I was the one receiving.
When my son Jax received his life-saving liver transplant at just six months of age, it was a gift that you can never ever imagine. So very special, but at the same time, we knew there was a tragedy on the other end. The conflicting realities are the most bittersweet feelings you could ever experience. It was a most precious gift.
Our donor was a beautiful, vibrant and profound young man named Donald Blair. In his death, Don touched 50 lives because he was a donor. Think about that -- if Don were not a donor, 50 people, including my little boy, would likely be living a very different life or would not have been able to sustain one. One organ and tissue donor can save and improve the lives of over 50 others and so your decision to give matters.
After his passing, his family recovered a note that Don had written to himself. It said,
"DO NOT WAIT FOR THINGS TO HAPPEN TO YOU ... MAKE THINGS HAPPEN TO YOU. You are responsible for the majority of your overall happiness; your success, your accomplishments, your life. Take control while you have time, the resources and the energy. Practice on being the best possible person you can be. This is your one chance, please make it count." -- Don Blair (Note to Self, 2004)
Don's family says if you had told him that in his death (at 24 years old) he would save a little boy's life in the process, he would have said, "Sign me up." This is the spirit that was passed on to my now 9-year-old son, and I thank Don every day.
I always say, the only thing you need intact when you pass-on is your soul! But there are so many people left behind, whose lives you can touch with the selfless act of organ and tissue donation.
You can think of it as the last call you will make or the most important call you will receive.
In addition to my research and life as an organ donor, advocate and recipient, I am also the Cofounder of the Kellner Pediatric Liver Foundation. At Kellner, our goal is to provide less fortunate children with full transplants and life care, which, to date, we have done for three babies and have touched many more with our donations.
I want to end by highlighting the most important facts about organ donation, encourage you to please check that box RIGHT HERE to become a donor and also share a few very important facts that may influence your decision to be a donor.
First, when you register, share your decision with your family and friends! If something should happen, it's important they know what you wish (and know that your family isn't responsible for any medical expenses associated with the donation).
Second, you must know that your life comes first. If you are taken to the hospital after an accident, it is the hospital's NUMBER ONE priority to save YOUR LIFE. Your status as a donor is not even considered until every effort has been made to save your life.
Third, don't let your health keep you from registering -- even if you're a drinker or a smoker, you have organs and/or tissues that can save a life! Organs have even been recovered from people in their 90s! Donation eligibility is determined by professionals at time of death, so don't rule yourself out.
And last but not least, all major religions in the U.S. support organ and tissue donation.
To learn more, get involved and sign up now, please visit here.