I had just turned 30 years old when I entered end stage liver failure. At the time, my wife and I were living in Portland, Ore. I was young and active but couldn’t outrun a chronic disease gifted to me at birth. After just over 100 days of waiting for a transplant and progressively getting sicker by the minute, my mother donated a portion of her liver. The organ transplant centers in Oregon did not perform live liver donor transplants, so we had the surgeries done back home in Omaha, Neb. I turned 31 in the hospital during recovery and simultaneously celebrated a new kind of birthday.
Things got better quickly, until they didn’t, and I again entered liver failure less than 2 years later. Knowing my health was declining rapidly again, my wife and I packed up and moved cross-country back to Omaha to be closer to the best possible care. I was placed back on the transplant list in February 2020, and after 37 days, received a call that a liver was available.
Coming off the height of COVID-19, I anxiously underwent a second transplant, alone, in a hospital absent the buzz of visiting friends and families and filled with the weight of an ongoing pandemic. I returned home from the hospital with a sense of joy and gratitude but also the heaviness of knowing my third shot at life came at the expense of another life ending.
Three months before being listed for the second time, we found out my wife was pregnant. Being a transplant recipient has allowed me to not only become a father, but to be alive to hear my son call me “Dada.”
My journey has taught me patience and perseverance but also given me profound thankfulness and gratitude for life. It’s allowed me to be active again, to appreciate my body and the life I live carrying the gift of another. It’s taught me who and what is important in my life and to focus there more than anywhere else. It’s given me a life worth living and given my family someone who can be around to witness our family milestones. It brought me back home to Nebraska, where the surgeons, nurses, nurse coordinators, staff and entire liver team have been overwhelmingly compassionate, caring, helpful and skillful in their work to save my life, twice.
As a new father, I now know the boundless love that led my mom to give me the gift of life. And as a two-time recipient, I know just how lucky I am, how precious life is and how special the gift of life truly is. I walk around now proud and humbled to be another story of just how impactful organ donation can be.
Signing up to be an organ donor takes just as much time as it does to sign up for a 20% off online shopping coupon. But rather than saving $5, you can save 8 lives and impact countless others. Organ donation doesn’t just save the life of the recipient but has a ripple effect into the lives they touch as well. We all have the power to be someone else’s second chance and that opportunity is too awesome to pass up.