The Gift of Life takes on unique meaning for people. For my family, we received it as a Christmas miracle on December 23rd, 2011.
My sister, Peggy received a kidney and pancreas transplant and thus, a chance at a healthy life. A chance for normalcy in her daily routine, or perhaps even spontaneity. We, as healthy people, take such things for granted.
My Sister’s Story
Peggy had been a Type 1 diabetic since she was twenty-five years old facing insulin shots, poking fingers to test her blood and restricted diets for the rest of her life. She was also diagnosed as a brittle diabetic because of the inability for insulin treatment to actually stabilize her condition. The impact is dangerous swings in blood sugar, potential for comas and so much more. Since 2005, kidney failure had her on dialysis with its own set of dire circumstances taking its toll.
But in 2011, my sister received what the doctor called a perfect kidney and pancreas. Miraculously, she was no longer a diabetic and no longer required dialysis. No one deserved that more.
What I didn’t realize back then was that this gift of life would come at a great cost to my sister. As much as it released her from some hardships, they were quickly replaced with other challenges. The toll of the drugs that she had to take to avoid organ rejection was a big price to pay. Perhaps the most serious hurdles resulted from the damage that being a diabetic caused.
You see, my big sister has always been my hero. She was my protector whilst growing up and to ensure all that she had in living with this disease has only solidified her place in my heart as a hero.
The Hero I Never Met
Back then I had another hero, along with the raw emotion that people mourned the loss of a loved one just days before Christmas all those years ago. And then the pendulum swings back to the deepest gratitude that this beautiful person with the perfect organs gave life to others – including my sister.
That gift of life gave us a few more years with Peggy. Although she continued to have many health challenges, she did not have to continue to endure dialysis, and no doubt because of that we had more time with her.
A Sweet Goodbye
Then on September 26th of this year, my sister made the brave decision to discontinue all medication. As a double transplant recipient with congestive heart failure, she had just received a cancer diagnosis. Enough was enough.
The hospital palliative care team suggested that if she wanted me to be there, I should come immediately because it would likely be quick. I took the red eye flight in hopes of spending quality time with her before the end. But they didn’t know my sister.
She passed away eight weeks later on November 22nd. She was 66 years old.
So, I write this after saying a sweet goodbye to my sister. It has been a heartbreaking time but in the end, she was so well cared for by Mathews House Hospice and surrounded by love through to her last breath.
I’ve always believed in organ donation. If you agree, have you done what is necessary to ensure that should something tragic happen, you can give people this tremendous gift of life? You must register with an organ donation agency in the province where you live. In British Columbia, visit http://www.transplant.bc.ca. In Ontario, visit https://www.giftoflife.on.ca/en/
Most importantly, let your loved ones know of your wishes. People often don’t do that so please do it today.