Friday, April 19, 2013

Donate Life Day 2013: A Tale of Two Families

September 23,2010 A family in California is in the midst of a dark valley waiting for a much needed kidney/pancreas transplant for their father and husband. In Texas, another family is in the darkest journey of all, struggling through grief after the loss of a child.

That afternoon, while I was on Facebook, a link to a video was shared with me, I watched it and sat weeping. The Storch family from Texas meeting the recipient of their daughter Taylor's heart. In March they had donated their 13 year old daughter's organs after her death in a skiing accident. I anxiously awaited Marty's return home from work to watch the video together.

I will never forget sitting on our couch that afternoon, watching the video together and weeping. This family had lost their child and yet given a tremendous gift to others at the same time. It brought home the price that would be paid for Marty to live a new life. Our son Conner was almost 13 at the time, the same age that Taylor was when she died. It was just too close to home. During this time, Marty had been recently re-listed on the transplant after huge misunderstanding with doctors and we knew his time was coming near. It brought reality, so close to home. Four months later, Marty received a life saving Kidney/Pancreas transplant.

We found out her parents had started an organization to raise awareness for the need of registered donors. I started sharing their posts on social media as often as possible. Who does that? Lose a child, donate and give life and then starting a foundation? Todd and Tara Storch, that's who. These amazing people in the midst of dark grief gave so much. It inspired us with hope, they became our donor family in a way, donor's of hope. We don't know them but we feel such a kinship with them.

This week, I picked up the new book written by Todd and Tara sharing intimately their journey with losing Taylor, organ donation and the donor's stories themselves

I started reading yesterday afternoon after Marty and I came home from a Nephrologist appointment at the University of Tennessee. We were there to check on his new kidney and make sure everything is as it should be. We got a great report and that always makes me think of Jerry, his mom and the Storch family. Where would our family be without organ donation?

The second chapter of the book is a look into the life of the recipient of Taylor's Kidney and Pancreas. The chapter gave me the chills. It was an honest look into life before transplant of a Type 1 diabetic. If you ever want to know all of the things I've never shared, read this book. It shares in detail many scary experiences that Marty and I ourselves lived with low blood sugars and other things. I couldn't have written it better myself.

I couldn't put down this book and stayed up until 2:30 in the morning reading it. Our stories are so tightly interwoven in the dates. During the time they were grieving their daughter, we were in the darkest time of our lives. So many of the dates mentioned in the book that they were struggling, our family was struggling as well in a very different way. Something that really hit home, this is the journey of donor and recipient  We trade places in suffering. 

The pain of losing a loved one is forever, while the pain of waiting for transplant is temporary. Thankfully our family always had a good perspective on this. The minute we were told our donor was only 18 years old, the wait meant nothing to us. Our donor died in a horrible way but in his very last act on earth, he was a hero to a family of four.

We are so thankful for people like Todd and Tara. Our family tries to give back by supporting their foundation in any way we can. Today is Donate Life day but it also is Taylor's birthday, she would've been 17 years old today. Instead of wearing the traditional blue and green today, our family has chosen to wear Taylor blue in her honor.

Elizabeth, Marty ( Kidney/Pancreas recipient), Julie and Conner with love to the Storch family

Her life has impacted our lives in a huge way, we never knew her in life but in death she has given our family so much hope. Reading the book and hearing about her personality, she was very much like Conner and I as a person. She was the friend to the friendless, lover of the underdog and champion of the unseen. In her death, she has really changed so many lives and will continue changing lives as the years go on.

Please go out and buy Taylor's Gift the book, register to be a donor on the foundation's website: www.taylorsgift.orgbuy a Taylor's gift shirt ( I love mine, you can see it on my Twitter avi and I also make a guest appearance wearing it on the Taylor's Gift site as well) or donate to the cause!

Thank you to everyone who has registered to be a donor, to the family's who've donated and never heard from the recipients, we thank you. To the families who've made the selfless choice to donate, thank you. Thank you Storch family for making a difference and helping to promote organ donation. To Debbie, our hero mom, we thank God for you and Jerry every single day.

A/N as you know, I am a Twitter/cycling Junkie. When I started my cycling twitter, I just so happened to become tweeps with Jonathan Finger one of the recipients of Taylor's kidneys.