A Celebration of Life service was held April 20, 2010, at St. Johns Hospital in Joplin, Missouri to honor donor families, recipients and those waiting for the gift of life. Midwest Transplant Network and Heartland Lions Eye Banks sponsored the event. To inform the community about the importance of organ and tissue donation a front page article in the Joplin Globe (April 18, 2010) told the story of Lynn Gardner, double lung recipient. The article can be found at the following link:
http://www.joplinglobe.com/local/x1687715437/Lung-transplant-gives-local-man-new-lease-on-life. You can also Google Joplin Globe and go to Local News.
Representing organ and tissue recipients, Lynn Gardner gave these comments to those present for the April 20th service.
Does an organ donation make a difference? I can say it certainly has in my life. In July 2000 at the National Jewish Research Center in Denver I was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, a terminal lung disease. Idiopathic means the cause is unknown. Pulmonary relates to the lungs. Fibrosis means scarring. At that point my life expectancy was only three years. On June 15, 2004, I received a double lung transplant at Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. Today I am doing well and plan to return to Barnes in June for my six-year check-up.
Between 130,000 to 200,000 Americans suffer from Pulmonary Fibrosis which is a scarring of the lungs leaving the victim unable to breathe. Each year at least 40,000 die of this disease, the same number as die of breast cancer. The Coalition for Pulmonary Fibrosis said of those proven by biopsy to have the disease only .8 of one percent receive a lung transplant and survive the disease. We do not know the cause of the disease and no cure has been found apart from a transplant. I stand here tonight before you as one greatly blessed to have received new lungs.
If I had not received my lung transplant, these things would be true:
- I’m sure I would have died in 2004 and my obituary written and my funeral a matter of history.
- My marriage with Barbara would have ended at 43 years. I would not have been alive to help my wife deal with her breast cancer in 2005. We would not be anticipating our 50th wedding anniversary in February, 2011.
- My grandchildren would have been only seven and three years old and I would have missed out on all the great times we have had together in the last six years, especially our Bible club.
- My ministry through teaching and writing would have ended, without these last six years of teaching in Sunday school, care groups, and in our Bible club, various opportunities for speaking, and writing articles and books.
My double lung transplant is a very valuable gift. I have done these things to treat this gift with the respect it deserves:
- I have regularly kept doctors’ visits and appointments for labs, X-rays, breathing tests, and other tests.
- I have obeyed medical instructions and taken the medicines prescribed.
- I have gone to pulmonary rehab three times a week for almost ten years. Medicine can only do so much. Exercise is something we can do for ourselves to be as healthy as possible.
I want you donor families to know I have taken this gift of new lungs as a sacred trust.
I am deeply grateful to God for giving me this new lease on life. I believe all healing ultimately comes from God, whether directly or indirectly.
I am grateful to my wife and family for their loving support. A chronic illness or condition makes you realize how dependent you are upon others. The prayers and encouragement of many, many people energized and blessed me. I received wonderful support from our local church as well as the extended church, from Ozark Christian College, where I taught, and from numerous friends. I realized I was not only dependent on others but also greatly indebted to them.
I am grateful to my donor family even though I don’t know the identity of my donor. My doctor told me I received “young healthy lungs” but I don’t know if my lungs came from a young man or woman or where he or she lived. I waited a year before I wrote a thank you to the donor family, wanting to feel well when I wrote. Since we had lost a son, Barbara and I also thought that would be a good time because we knew they would be especially grieving the loss of their loved one at the first anniversary of his or her passing.
I am grateful for the skill and wisdom of those who served me medically—here in Joplin, at the National Jewish Research Center in Denver, and at the Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.
Knowing I have been given a new lease on life, every day is a special gift of God. I want to make the most of each day.
If you as potential donors or donor families have any second thoughts about organ and tissue donation, remember there are a lot of success stories walking around whose lives have been extended and enriched because of people’s willing to make such donations