TL;DR: My sister got a heart transplant. Be an organ donor. Click this link, damn it. Spend the 30 seconds: https://www.donatelife.net/ Tell others.
In December of 2018, my sister’s heart failed. Hearts do that sometimes. No warning. She was 21 years old.
Doctors saved her life… but when the fleshy apparatuses of your body fail, metal ones are needed. And metal apparatuses aren’t as elegant as what they mimic.
In my sister’s case, her flesh-heart had to receive the metal LVAD, a “Left Ventricular Assist Device.”
The LVAD is pure science fiction.
Inside the body, the LVAD—like a pair of headphones—hugs the heart. It “vacuums” blood, compensating for the heart’s weak pumping.
The LVAD needs electricity.
Glance at the diagram: The cord slithering down to a black bead, then fading from grey to silver? It’s a charger cord.
My sister could feel the cord under her skin—right up until it emerged from a hole in her belly. Outside her body, the cord fed into a control box. The control box fed into two batteries: two 5-pound grey bricks. She chose to wear her batteries in a backpack versus as guns.
Each pair of batteries gave her ~16 hours.
Switch to fresh batteries at the buzzer. Or plug yourself into a wall outlet. Or let your heart stop.
I love the LVAD.
It saved my sister’s life. Kept her alive—served its role as a “bridge to transplant.” Yet there’s a reason we evolved with our organs on the inside.
Her whole year with the LVAD, on the transplant list, we all wished for a real human heart. We waited. We wept. We begged for information, which doctors trickled to us, always with the same disclaimer: “The transplant list is complicated and competitive.”
In December of 2019, against all odds, my sister got the call.
After 13 hours of surgery, a new heart started to beat inside her chest. It’s a little loud, she says, compared to the purr of the LVAD’s metal vacuum. But it’s better. Everything is so much better.
Life can be difficult.
Racism, sexism, all the people-phobias. Oil, gas, cane sugar. Plastic straws. Fires. Drones.
And here we are: the creatives, presumably. (You’re on a writer’s blog, after all.) We stand before the roaring chaos clutching pens and pencils, guitars and sketchpads. We’re anxious and depressed and traumatized, and few of us can hope to afford the therapy we surely need.
We do what we can. Donate $5. Volunteer. Run for low-level office if we’re ambitious and stable enough.
But it’s hard. Progress feels vague and intangible and complex.
So here: https://www.donatelife.net/
When we die, we’re meat. That’s all we are. Let holy men bicker till they’re blue in the face. When we die, all that’s left to the living… is meat.
You can take that meat to your grave.
But imagine a line of starving people, one that winds through the cemetery, out the wrought-iron gates, and you—sweaty and fattened and freed of hunger—shoveling a pile of steak into a pit.
OR… you can click this stupid link: https://www.donatelife.net/
Click it. Go to the secure “Donate Life” website. And type your name, DOB, address, and last four of your SSN.
It’s instant. It’s free. It’s a refreshingly easy act of pure goodness and grace. Be an organ donor.
If you fear that, on your death bed—or as the hot air balloon plummets, the shark charges, the bomb timer ticks to zero, whatever—you might regret it, go purchase yourself a fat filet mignon. About 9 oz.
It could fit where your heart sits. This juicy hunk of flesh.
If you were dead, would you need this? How could it serve you?
Friends, I hope you won’t depart soon. But when it’s time, depart with open hands… and maybe chest cavities.
My Sister’s Post
2019 has been a long year. It began with a diagnosis of congestive heart failure and a rapid deterioration of health in the hospital from January to March. After I waited for two weeks on the heart transplant list, my ICD shocked me 13 times in one night and forced the placement of a “robotic heart”—an LVAD. The device allowed me to leave the hospital, but I had to run on external battery power day and night for 11 months.
If you ever saw me out with my little backpack, you might’ve seen a white cord running out of the backpack, down under my shirt—that cord fed inside my body, into my failing physical heart. That cord was my entire life, connecting my robot heart to my failed heart. For 11 months, I carried my own life on my shoulders.
From April to December, I recovered from open heart surgery. With the amazing support of my professors at Transy, during that same period, I also completed the classes for two of my college degrees. And finally, during this same period, I waited on the transplant list. I waited for a phone call. I needed a new heart. Yet I had O- blood, the most challenging blood type to find a match for.
On December 12, the day after my last final exam, I got that call.
As of today, exactly 365 days after I arrived at UK for my first of many hospital stays, I am sitting on my couch as a heart transplant recipient thinking of all the amazing people who made this past year possible: friends, family, professors, nurses who became family, doctors, and surgeons.
I’m thinking of my donor, and I’m reflecting on how many thousands of people are still waiting for their call, hoping to feel like I feel right now. This Holiday Season, I have received more gifts and support than I could have ever imagined, but I would like to ask for one more thing.
Sign up to be an organ donor.
Click the link below. It only takes 5 minutes to register. Be the reason that somebody like me gets to come home for Christmas.
Attached is a photo from last night of my dog, Ollie, and myself. I adopted him on July 4th, 2019. Together, we’ve worked through his seizures and my heart problems. Last night, after not seeing me for 12 days, he listened to my new heart without an LVAD. No robot heart. No whirring. Just a real human heartbeat.
Be an organ donor so that more Ollie’s around the world can have these moments.