I lost someone the other day. Someone who I shared a bond with, someone who I connected with through the miracle of organ donation. The person I lost was the woman Maya “shared” a liver with. When Maya received her transplant in 2008, it was an adult liver split into two different segments. Maya got one segment, and the other portion was donated to someone else. Due to medical privacy laws, we weren’t given much information about the donor liver or the other recipient. That information is exchanged later, if the parties agree to it. Little did I know at the time how much that the other recipient would be a part of our lives.
A few months after the operation, when we were well on the way to recovery, I was connected with the other recipient. My parents actually met her mother at an event honoring people who have given and received organ transplants. I learned that she had been married for over twenty years and had three children. Our first conversation was full of laughter, some tears, and of course, talk of miracles. During the last few years she and I would talk on the phone, exchange letters and cards. She was always so concerned about Maya’s health and so happy to hear about how well she was doing. Our conversations would give me insight as to what Maya might be going through but couldn’t verbalize due to the fact that she wasn’t even two years old when she got her new liver. We talked about our lives, our children, our husbands, and life before and after transplant. Her insights and advice helped me in ways that no one else could. We used to talk about how lucky it was that the donor liver (a true hero) saved both her and Maya's lives.
The last time we talked she told me she was having health issues and the doctors weren’t sure what was going on. I told her that I would be thinking about her and would get in touch again soon. But life kept getting in the way, and I didn’t call.
A few days ago, I received a message from her husband that she had lost her battle against liver failure. I could not believe that this vibrant woman, who had already been through so much, was gone. As I listened to him talk about funeral arrangements, tears streamed down my face. I was so sad for her, sorry for her struggles and devastated for her family. I could not wrap my head or heart around the fact that she was gone.
But through my sadness for them and for her, I started thinking about the good things that she experienced during the last few years. Her husband and children got to spend more time with her. She was able to laugh and hang out with her friends. She was able to make new friends, enjoy more life experiences and get a second chance at living, something that is actually a rare occurrence. I know from our many conversations that she was grateful for all of that, grateful for the transplant that gave her that extra time with her loved ones.
Although I never actually met her face to face, this woman was an inspiration to me. We shared a bond that few people will ever get to experience. I will miss her phone calls and the sound of her laughter. I will miss hearing about the adventures of her kids, who are years older than mine. I will miss getting cards in the mail from her at random times of the year. But I am very grateful for the chance to get to know her, even though it was during one of the most difficult times I’ve ever had in my life. This also served as yet another reminder – don’t take anyone or anything for granted. We never know when, or if, we will be given a chance to let them know how much they mean to us.
Rest in peace, my friend. You will be missed.