Aug 28, 2014
There’s a piece of bone in my neck that used to belong to someone else. That tiny piece of bone replaced a disintegrated disc. The disc provides spacing for nerve roots from our spinal cords, giving us sense and feeling throughout our bodies, enabling us to bend and turn—until one of those little discs malfunctions. Then, hellish headaches, decreasing mobility, increasing pain, tingling, and numbness make our quality of life disintegrate daily, in small increments.
In my case, surgery gave immediate relief. As soon as I got past the groggy stupor of anesthesia, I realized my quality of life had already begun to improve. This surgery would not work without that shaped piece of bone. Even as I marvel at what my days are like without all the distressing pain, I’m aware of that sliver of bone. Such a tiny, yet crucial piece, obtained at a profound price.
Among the paperwork that came home with me from the hospital was a card that gave me a chance to express my gratitude. Grateful for the chance to say thanks, still I wondered what on earth a person could say in a situation like this. I sat down to compose the letter and found my mind, and therefore my pen, stymied. More than a dozen letters went into the garbage. How do you say to someone: Sorry for your loss, happy for my gain?
Eventually, as is with all writing attempts, the persistent pen on paper produced two thoughts: First, that a way to honor that person is to recommit, not only to keep the donor sticker on my driver license, but to encourage others to consider doing the same. And to be a supporter of the philosophy that drives organ, tissue, and bone donation. And second, since the quality of my life increased significantly because someone else’s life ended, the way I live my life ought to be worth the gift that was given.