Someone Had to Die, So I Could Live


I've been debating posting this for a few months now. I've been debating sending it to the donors family for even longer. Why does it seem like words can't convey what I want to say? It seems sloppy and unrefined. I want them to know how much I appreciate them. However, at the same time, I feel like an asshole. When you take away all the fluff of this letter, I'm alive because their family member is dead and that makes me feel shitty. I will send this letter someday. Someday soon. They deserve to know how their loved one helped others. How they helped me.

Here goes:

I’m sorry it has taken me so long to write. I know it’s been almost a year, I hope others who your family member helped save have written to you long before I have. You deserve all the thanks it the world. Also, all my condolences. I am alive today because of their selflessness in choosing to donate part of themselves to me. They saved my life and I could not be more grateful. I’m so afraid to say the wrong thing, to not have words strong enough to show my gratitude, but I’m going to try because this thank-you is long overdue.

My name is Whitney and I have your family members lungs. I’m taking as good of care of them as I can. I will not lie, it has been a challenge these last months. I was very, very sick before I got them and everyone knew I had a long road ahead of me. I was on life support in the ICU for several weeks before I got these precious lungs. Every day they told my family it could be my last. It was almost exactly a year ago that I went into the hospital, I went in the Sunday after Thanksgiving and finally left the hospital on April 20, 2018. I don’t remember much of December or January of last year, I was paralyzed and sedated for a few weeks. Sleeping through Christmas and finally waking up for the first time on New Year's Eve. The rest they had me on so much medication, I only have snippets of recollection here or there. Some memories I have due to my family reminding me. Most they say they are glad I don’t remember.

I was 29 years old when I had my lung transplant. I was born with Cystic Fibrosis, it is a genetic, degenerative, lung disease. With C.F. we have thick, sticky mucus in our bodies, we get tons of lung infections and the infections scar up our lungs until we can no longer use them. On January 31st, 2009 my sister passed away due to C.F. Nine years later on January 31st, I got a life-saving lung transplant thanks to the selflessness of your loved one. The coincidence was quite incredible. I had zero lung function in the end, they actually did a procedure called ECMO where they take the blood from your body, oxygenate it, and put it back in. I didn’t even breathe for several weeks as the machine kept me alive. However, just days after surgery and with your family members lungs, I was breathing on my own. No oxygen, no help from machines, just new lungs that worked fabulously.

I’ve been in the hospital a lot throughout my life, I’ve always been a fighter. Defying odds and doing things my doctors or the world told me I couldn’t. I wasn’t supposed to live past 14, yet I doubled that age on my own. Hopefully, now I can triple or quadruple that number with my transplant. I was told I couldn’t have kids, yet I have one precious boy. He is who I fought so hard for last year. He was ten years old and lived through the hell of me almost dying. Yet, I didn’t die. I am home with him now, I got to see him graduate elementary school last spring. I got to see him win his track races over the summer. I’ve got to see him start middle school this fall and really start to come into his own. He is wise beyond his years and very grateful to have his mother home. My goal was to be able to run around with him and play soccer or basketball again like we did when he was young. Like I said earlier, I’m not as far ahead as I wish to be but I have had a few complications since my surgery. None of them really have to do with my lungs, just other parts of my body that took such a hard hit due to being so sick and on life support.

I will never stop pushing to get better and to reach my goals of running with my son. My dream is to write a book and public speak. I also want to take next year to take an RV with my son and his father and drive around the country. I have many goals and many dreams and thanks to my donor I now have the ability to push towards all of those things. I have probably said enough for now. I tend to get long-winded when I write, hence the book. I just want you to know how thankful and grateful I truly am. I hope I can make you proud and let your loved one live on through me. The gift of life is not lost on me, your sacrifice is not lost on me. Saying thank-you is not enough, but they are the only words I have.

I hope to hear back from you, I would love to know more about you and the person who gave me the gift of life. Thank you for reading, I hope you are doing well and hanging in there. I know what it’s like to lose someone you love, that pain never goes away, but maybe knowing a little about me has helped in some way. I hope it did.

#transplant #cysticfibrosis #organdonation #lungtransplant #dying