Tag Archives: organ donation

Legacy: “Are We Being Good Ancestors?” – Jonas Salk

I have been reading the obituaries.  It isn’t a normal past time activity.  I am looking for someone…

My sister, Kelli, had a heart transplant on January 18th, 2013 at Cedars Sinai in California and she just wants to know a little more about her donor. The information you are given regarding organ donors is….well…not a lot:  Male, 25 years old, from Arizona.  We do know that his death would be recorded very close to or on the date of the transplant.  Obituaries for folks around the age of 25 are not very common.  It is a terribly young age to die.  It shouldn’t be that difficult to find the obituary, right?  Wrong!  Which is why I have been reading obituaries.  Lots of them.

Reading the obituaries of others can really make you stop and reflect on your life!  I have read some absolutely beautiful obituaries that describe what an impact the person had on the lives of others.  For example, this one for Joe A. Gallegos.  His story starts off with “Our Hero”.  He was a WWII veteran, a loving husband of 62 years, a father, grandfather, great-grandfather; not only is this a wonderful summary of the man’s life, but the obit continues to be visited and commented on by the people he touched.  Some of the obits have an amusing tone like this one for Dale Jones.  “Dale Jones was born Feb. 8, 1949 and assumed room temperature on Jan. 19, 2013. Hopefully he now resides with the elk, deer, javelina, coyotes and snakes”, it reads.  What is a javelina anyway?  Don’t worry, I googled it for you:  HERE YOU GO.   Some of the listings made me very sad.  Actually quite a few simply stated the name, date of birth and death, and read that there would be no service.

Jonas Salk (1914 – 1995), famous scientist/doctor who developed the first effective polio vaccine, once asked “Are we being good ancestors?”  It is a simple question with a not simple answer.  It is a question you can ask of present humanity and it is also a question you can ask of yourself.  I think we try to be good ancestors.  We want to make the world a better place for future generations, right?  We don’t always agree on how this should be accomplished but our intentions are good.  Well….some of them.

Thinking about that question on a personal level makes me think of that old frozen pizza commercial.  You know the one.  The law man is about to be hanged by the bad guys and he is asked, “What do you want on your tombstone?”  “Hm…pepperoni and sausage.”

Seriously, though.  What do I want on my tombstone?  What do I want my obituary to say?  What will people say about me?  What will be my legacy?  William Shakespeare writes in Julius Caesar , “The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones.”  
Will was a rather cynical old chap.  I mean…I suppose when Charles Manson dies, he is not going to remembered for that time he shared part of his chocolate chip cookie with his classmate.  But, for most of us non-evil folks, what is said of us after we pass is completely up to us.  Do good; Love people.

When you do give your last “Hurrah!” and say your final goodbye to the world, consider giving a final gift; the gift of life.  Be an organ donor and save lives.

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“Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity.” – Hippocrates

Mindi

This is Mindi.  She is someone’s daughter, someone’s niece, someone’s granddaughter, someone’s wife, someone’s friend, someone’s sister…  She is MY little sister.

There exists a heart disease that has plagued my family for far too long; Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM).  I could give you the long version to describe what HCM is and does, but I won’t go into all of that.  If you fancy learning more about the disease, please click the link above.  Here is a shorter definition of HCM:

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a primary disease of the myocardium (the muscle of the heart) in which a portion of the myocardium is hypertrophied (thickened) without any obvious cause, creating functional impairment of the cardiac muscle.

It is a very serious disease that has killed many of my family at very young ages. My mother, for example, died at the age of 45.  Her younger sister (my Aunt Janie) died at the age of 30.  Their mother (my grandmother) died in her late 20’s.  My sister had this disease.  “HAD the disease? Did she die as well?”, you are wondering.  Well, no…because on August 12th, 2015, very very early in the morning, my sister was given a new life.  She is the third of my siblings to receive this gift.  She was also the third patient to undergo transplant surgery at the hospital that day!

The first transplant was performed in 1967 by Dr. Christiaan Barnard.  His patient lived 18 days and died of pneumonia.  Modern heart transplantation became available to patients in 1980.  A study by the University of Ottawa Heart Institute tracking the survival rates of 461 transplant patients from 1984 to 2011 shows the survival rate over the period of the study was 86 per cent after one year, 75 per cent at five years, 62 per cent at 10 years, and 36 per cent at 20 years.   The survival rate is much higher for patients who received their transplant in the year 2000 and beyond.  The statistics from this study show survival from 2000 to 2011 is close to 90 per cent; 89.3 per cent to be exact.

Modern medicine is amazing!  I wonder what Hippocrates would think if he were alive today.  Hippocrates (460 – 370 BC), known as the “Father of Western Medicine”, was a Greek physician during the Age of Pericles.  He is known for establishing medicine as a profession.  He believed diseases were caused naturally rather than by superstitions and angry gods.  One of his most famous quotes, “Make a habit of two things: to help; or at least to do no harm” became the basis for the Hippocratic Oath which is a seminal document on the ethics of medical practice.

Probably the most beautiful quote by Hippocrates ties the science of medicine to art, love, and humanity: “Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity.”  This, I believe, is why modern medicine is what it is today.  It is much more than research, experimentation, and calculations.  That is the process.  The REASON behind the process is to help humanity… to make the world better.  And it is better, Hippocrates.  Thank you.

To find out how you can become an organ donor, click HERE.  Give the gift that so many are waiting for.

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