The holiday season is upon us and for me, it is a time of Faith, Hope, Love and Expectation!
Thanksgiving isn't just a time to gather with family, eat a year's worth of meals at one sitting, laugh about the past and make plans for the future. Thanksgiving isn't a one day holiday for me, it is a way of life. Now don't get me wrong, life isn't perfect by a long stretch. We have had and continue to have many struggles; however, I strive to live with a heart of thankfulness.
Each Christmas, I reflect and count my blessings rather than focus on the worries of life. I make a concentrated effort to slow down and take time to appreciate the season. I love watching the flickering lights of a Christmas tree, listening to music and resurrecting fond memories of the past. I eagerly anticipate the silence that accompanies the first snowfall of the season and I love witnessing nature's beauty. I am fascinated by the intricate design of each individual snowflake and mesmerized by the falling snow as it cascades through the glare of a street light.
Faith, hope, love and expectation becomes reality when a crisis strikes at the heart of your family. You quickly recognize what is important and what is not! Miracles do still happen and my daughter is living, seeing proof.
June 1995, my daughter’s vision was attacked by a rare virus that clouded the cornea and resulted in blindness. Barely, three years old, she was referred to Washington University Children’s Hospital in St. Louis, MO. After examination, we were told that the only chance to save her vision in her right eye would be a cornea transplant and because of the strain to her left eye, our hope was that she would be able to tell a cat from a dog.
Of course, I had heard about organ and tissue donation, but never dreamed I would learn so much so fast. August 24, 1996, a donor was found. Her donor was only 18 years old. He and his family demonstrated the ultimate act of love. This young hero gave everything he had to someone he had never met to give others a chance at life or an enhanced life. How can one ever adequately say thank you for such a sacrifice? It's impossible!
As a mom, I was devastated to learn that my daughter would have to endure this. Yet, in the midst of heartbreak and trial, I quickly learned how fortunate we were. Our daughter’s transplant was not considered life endangering as were some of the transplants other children were receiving that day. As several other anxious parents filled the waiting area for news about their little ones, the effects of stress were evident.
The wait seemed like an eternity and thankfully everything went great; however, I was not prepared to see my baby girl in recovery. There she was, so tiny, so fragile, her eye covered with a patch and her arms placed inside braces to prevent her from touching her eye. In addition, IV’s, monitors and other equipment was hooked up to her. We recognized that the long road to recovery was about to begin.
Looking back, a lot of things about that time seem to be blurred; that said, I do know that my prayers were answered. Her vision was 20/40. My baby girl could see! As a child, she would play, loved music, read books and fought with her big brother. She has surpassed all expectations. A typical cornea transplant last approximately 5-8 years, my daughter is celebrating her 23rd year as a recipient. She received her bachelor's degree in Music Performance (flute) from the University of Evansville, her Master's in Music Performance (flute) from the University of Louisville and is currently enrolled in Doctorate studies for Music Performance (flute) at the University of Kentucky. Upon graduation, she hopes to be a Professor of Flute and, of course, play in a big orchestra.
She and I travel as a duo to speak about organ and tissue donation. Well, I speak and she plays. (She's not big on public speaking.) We have shared her story at conferences, banquets, donor events and various non-profit organizations, particularly many chapters of the Lion's Club. (They do so much for vision.)
As you can tell, my passion for organ and tissue donation is strong and personal. This Christmas, consider becoming an organ and tissue donor. It won't cost you anything to give the gift of a miracle.