HOW DO YOU THANK SOMEONE WHOM YOU'LL NEVER MEET?
The end of May is always a special time of year. Not because Vivid Sydney has just started, or that State of Origin is around the corner (don’t get me wrong, they are big events!), but the end of May for me personally brings about my transplant anniversary – this year marking seven years of extra life.
In those seven years, I’ve done some amazing things, pushed myself way out of my comfort zone and have found a new appreciation for how fortunate I am to still be here. With that celebration of my accomplishments in the past seven years also comes the understanding that somewhere, someone’s family is not celebrating – they are remembering seven years of loss, of not having their brother, their father, their son around, because seven years ago, that man passed away, and their family made the incredible, selfless decision to donate their loved ones’ organs, so that I could have a chance at still being here.
How do you say thank you for that?
The words feel hollow, and almost a little insignificant. This family has given me the ultimate gift, the greatest gift that one person could ever give another, and suddenly “thank you" seems nowhere near enough.
Waking up after my operation seven years ago, I felt a million dollars – like I could run from my ICU room at Westmead Hospital across Sydney to my home. The change for me was that instantaneous. It made me understand just how sick I really had been, despite what I had thought.
A good friend who I had had dinner with a week prior to my transplant told me recently that her father had remarked after seeing me at that dinner that he wasn’t sure they would see me again. That still breaks my heart, that knowledge that the people closest to you could see you disintegrating right before their eyes. To have the feeling of being so well, so suddenly was nothing short of remarkable.
The next thought that crossed my mind was one of realisation – the realisation that a family had consented to organ donation to give me that “million dollar” feeling. There’s a lot of talk about “recipient guilt”, the feeling that transplant recipients sometimes feel that perhaps they didn’t “deserve” their new organs, or guilt that they get to live their life whilst another loses theirs.
I admit right now, I haven’t ever felt guilty – that’s not saying that I was “entitled” to my transplant or that I wasn’t aware that someone had indeed passed away, but rather, my donor’s family made their decision and gave that gift wholeheartedly and with no strings attached. The fact has always remained though, that saying thank you for that gift, has never felt enough.
In that ICU room, thinking (because you get a lot of time to do that!) I came to the conclusion that I would let my actions speak louder than my words ever could, and vowed to do everything that I could do, that I wanted to do, to ensure that “thank you” wasn’t just a phrase. I had something bigger than most to be thankful for, and still to this day, I show a family whom I will never meet, just how thankful I am.
From small things like teaching myself to make macarons, to bigger things like starting The Sweetest Gift, I want my actions to speak louder than my words ever could.
I am thankful every single day, not just to my donor’s family, but to all donor families – and The Sweetest Gift will be a huge symbol of that gratitude for the greatest gift.