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Written by Elaine Ginn, transplant patient at Mayo Clinic in Florida
As I sit here at the Mayo Clinic lab on the Florida campus waiting to be called for a lab draw of a dozen or so tubes of my blood, my mind returns four years to the time before my liver and kidney transplant surgery. I can't say I had given up, as that just isn't in my nature, but I had become so ill that I could imagine myself slipping into oblivion and perhaps not minding.
It was December, about five months before the transplant, and my two local grandchildren had come over to spend the night and help me decorate the Christmas tree. Isabel, who had just turned four, would carefully take each ornament from its storage box and exclaim, "Gramma, isn't this the most beautiful 'ordament' you have ever seen?" Then she would carefully place it on my condo-sized fir, about as tall as Isabel herself. She would admire her work and ask Javier, her charming 8-year-old brother, if he didn't also think it was beautiful. He would nod his head briefly, preferring to focus on the TV, where "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" was commanding his attention.
After she had loaded the tiny tree with more beautiful 'ordaments' than it should have held, I finally tucked the two of them into their makeshift beds, with the proverbial "visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads." I made my way to kitchen to clean up the cocoa mugs and the dishes from dinner. While standing at the sink with my hands in dishwater, my little curly headed princess walked out to the kitchen and hugged my legs, murmuring something I could not make out over the running water. I turned off the faucet, dried my hands, knelt down to her level and asked her to repeat what she had said. My heart melted as her soft little voice repeated, "You are my most love, Gramma. You are my most love." If ever there was a reason to live, this was it. If 2009 was to be my last Christmas, it would be enjoyed with a very full heart.
The blessings these new organs have brought are immeasurable. In addition to thousands more hugs from Javier and Isabel during the last four years, I have been able to visit their cousins near Seattle several times (for lots of hugs and kisses), as well. As grateful as I am for the opportunity to be a present and adoring grandmother, hopefully making a significant impact in the lives of my children and their children, I am also looking to make the most of this time in other ways, as well. I awaken each day with the conscious realization that these hours are a gift to be used with wisdom and joy, and most of all, love.
Since my transplant surgery, I have written a book about my experiences (Patchwork) and am working on its sequel. I also started a publishing company with a mission of bringing positive, uplifting, informative and humorous books to the public. Reviving a long-dormant speaking career, I am launching a new fulfilling chapter in my life.
None of this would have happened without the miracle of transplantation and the amazing and generous gift of these organs from a person and family I will likely never meet. And so, my gratitude and honor go out to all those who are donors and their families. The skills and kindness of the physicians and nurses and all the other staff members at Mayo Clinic are also prominent in my awareness. I have been so blessed with my glorious health and want to extend these blessings to as many others as I can. My humble pledge is to continue to pay it forward to the best of my ability during the bonus years I have been granted.
Editor's note: For those interested in raising awareness for the importance of organ donation, the 10th Annual Katie Ride for Life will be taking place on April 12, 2014 in Amelia Island, FL. Funds raised, help to promote organ and tissue donation and deliver important educational programs to high school freshman and sophomores. Mayo Clinic is the presenting sponsor for this event and has close to 200 riders and walkers that participate each year on Team Mayo Clinic, and would love for you to join the ride.