Chopped Liver - A Community for Live Organ Donors and Recipients
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
A recent liver transplant recipient that I met through Chopped Liver correspondence recently posted on his blog his thoughts on guilt. "I have talked to a few people who have had a liver transplant and most have felt guilt about the other person who has died so that I could live," he writes. "I do not feel guilty about the situation. ... Now I'm feeling guilty because I don't feel guilty!"
As a live liver donor, this hit me so strongly -- I wanted to reach across the miles and somehow help him know how far in his corner I am. I can empathize -- receiving such a profound gift must be an incredibly emotional experience in so many ways that most of us will never understand firsthand. So for any transplant recipients or hopeful recipients who might be interested in my humble opinions, I want to shout out with my (admittedly very personal) response: When I chose to give the gift of life, it was just that -- a gift. One given freely and meant to be received freely, without compensation or expectations. Whether I'm talking about the liver I have already given or the rest of my organs that I have volunteered to donate upon my death, I offer them with no strings attached in the hopes that their recipients will have a better life for it, and in the act of receiving will find comfort and hope. If any of my former organ owners feel guilt, all I ask is that they relieve it by paying kindness forward. Recycle something, give up road rage for a day, anything but guilt.
Meet Joe's hairy tongue, the latest in an undeserved slew of unfortunate complications and ailments related to PSC and the transplant. Hairy tongue, says the omniscient physician known as Google, is "a commonly observed condition of defective desquamation of the filiform papillae." In plain English, says Joe (who is a real-live doctor, mind you): Hairy tongue is, well, when your tongue gets hairy. It's caused in some people by poor hygiene, and in others by a prolonged soft-food diet that causes your tongue not to get naturally scraped by rougher foods. In Joe's case, the culprits are the immune suppressants, the lack of a regular diet, the bazillion drugs he takes, and so on and so on and who knows. Like collapsed bile ducts, it's treatable, God love it. And I gotta hand it to Joe, he's laughing about it. For that matter, so was I, once I saw this picture of an actual inflicted tongue cell, magnified 150,000X under the finest scientific equipment. It's so ironic that it looks just like Gene Simmons.
(P.S. If you do yourself NO other favors today, do this for yourself: AVOID searching for the phrase "hairy tongue" on Google images. You will thank me.)
I received this interesting New York Times Magazine link from Ingrid, who hears from me far less than she deserves. The authors of Freakonomicswrite an economist's argument for allowing live organ donors to accept payment for their contribution.
Generally speaking the word "harvest" is pretty -- calmly sibilant, suggestive of sweeping corn fields and waves of grain. But something happens to it when it becomes part of the phrase "organ harvest." Not so easy on the ears, is it! Nonetheless, I'm adding the phrase to my list of periodic Google news searches in my attempt to stay up to date on the global organ donation landscape.
Today, the search yielded this interesting story from Australia: The country is considering legislation that would allow physicians to begin preparing brain-dead patients' organs for transplantation prior to their "real" (cardiac) death. It would be the first country in the world to explicitly legalize these helpful measures . Mind you, this would apply only to brain-dead patients who had elected during healthier times to become organ donors upon dying. (It is the Australian Health Ethics Committee proposing the idea, after all.)
I'm hardly knowledgeable enough to endorse the law, but sure as hell am inclined to do so, especially after reading this other Australian story, an ABC report found by searching for "organ harvest" on Google today: A Canadian report is suggesting that China is killing political prisonersby removing their useful organs from their otherwise healthy bodies, for transplantation into foreign patients who will pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for the goods. These are the evils that our global organ shortage may be leading to. Thank you to all of you who have already completed your organ donor cards...
On the heels of my down-beat previous message, I'm posting this one with a gust of more characteristic optimism. Why the change of heart? For one, Joe is back out of the hospital and back to healing, albeit with a drainage tube still in place. For another, fellow live donor Terry wrote me with encouragement for keeping this blog going (I swear, girl, it's like you can tell from the ether exactly what I need to hear, and when!) . And on the same day, a new live donor named Jason reached out to tell me that he read Chopped Liver before and after his surgery and offered his help on an ongoing site to help future donors. What a difference it makes when you meet people know understand and share your passions.
And then there's this added perk: My abs are back! Getting dressed this morning, I noticed the definition is returning. I spent most of the 4th of July weekend in a bikini, by the way, and decided unequivocally that I love my scar. Happy day!
In January 2006 I successfully donated half my liver to my brother, Joe. This blog began in November 2005, when I was just a hopeful donor candidate, and continues today as a vehicle for sharing my experience and building community among past, current, and would-be live organ donors and transplant recipients. Thank you for stopping by. All content on this blog, including images and text unless otherwise cited, is copyright (c) 2005-2007, Becky Waller. All rights reserved.
In 2007 I founded the Greatest Gift Foundation, which provides information and support to living organ donors throughout their transplant experience. I'm in Minneapolis, when I'm not traveling the country meeting with transplant teams. Contact us at email@example.com.