Today I had the pleasure of joining thousands of San Diegans on the Annual Heart Walk. Initially, I was planning on writing about Heart Disease (the #1 killer in America), but met someone who completely changed my plans.
This woman had been involved with the health community for years, and participated annually in the Heart Walk to support her company. Last year on the walk, she found herself tiring easily. Eventually, her friend (who later became her cardiologist), suggested that she get her heart checked out. Within the week, she learned that not only had she had a “silent heart attack”, but she was quickly on the way to congestive heart failure.
They did not even know if she had a month left to live. What went from an ideal life of a close family, happy children, and a great job went to life of stress, sadness, and preparing for her upcoming death. Luckily, her body was a great candidate for heart transplantation. She could only hope and pray that she would receive the heart she so desperately needed. In the meantime, she made it her goal to be able to cross the finish line at the heart walk in 2007.
Well, as fate would have it, a 14 year old girl tragically died in an accident that left her vital organs intact. From her wishes, her family donated her entire body to be donated, which included her heart.
So, this morning I had the incredible experience of seeing that heart still beat in a courageous, strong-willed woman as she walked the finish line with tears in her eyes. She had lived through the operation and built up her strength enough to meet her goal. After she crossed, she told me that she would not only be strong this morning, or even today, but every single day that her young heart would beat, because she knew she owed it to her donor to take advantage of every extra moment she can now have.
Now, I have always been a strong advocate of donating your body to science, whether for organ donation or for research. The way I see it is, if I’m dead, what do I need my organs for anyway? After sharing this experience with this woman this morning, I decided to do some more research on what I could do to help. Here is what I found:
- The U.S. Government has a site with great information about transplantation- what it entails, what can be donated, and how you can live a healthy life to better preserve your organs. If you want to sign up with your state to be an organ donor, I would strongly encourage you to register here.
- If you want to be a donor, the most important thing you can do is tell a family member or friend of your wishes. In almost every circumstance, this will be the deciding factor- so speak up!
- Still hesitant about the whole thing? The Mayo Clinic has a great frequently asked questions page that may alleviate your fears.
- Want to donate while you are still alive? You can donate blood to the American Red Cross every 8 weeks, or you can join the National Marrow Donor Program for bone marrow transplants. Some clinics will even let you donate a kidney.
The story I heard today is one of many more all across the world. There is no greater gift you can give than the gift of life. So, if you have a minute, please sign up to be a donor and tell someone in your family your wishes. It may save a life.
For more information: