This special ceremony honours those people, and their families, who made the decision to donate their organs at a time of great loss. My gratitude and respect, not only for those involved in the decision that resulted in my transplant, but for all the families who have said yes, cannot be put into words. I was honoured to be asked to participate in this special ceremony on Sunday night.
I usually speak to students about my journey, and my presentations are very visual. Each presentation is always different, often lead by the questions that curious young minds ask. Speaking to over 600 people who had found the selflessness to think of others and consented to organ donation, was a hugely humbling experience.
It was an opportunity, not to educate or inform, but to give thanks to these families and a chance to explain how my life was changed by a decision such as theirs.
In my lifelong battle with Cystic Fibrosis, even my earliest memories revolve around endless medications, nebulisers and the dreaded twice daily physio. In the final months before my transplant, I was literally clinging to life by my fingernails, somehow making do with a scant .37 litre lung function.
A transplant isn’t a cure it’s a trade, but what a wonderful trade it has been for me. There is a very simple pleasure in waking up and knowing that I can take a deep pain-free breath without struggling, a joy knowing that each breath will be followed by another, and another – because these wonderful lungs do what they were meant do, naturally and without effort.
My transplant was more than a second chance, it’s allowed me to realise my potential and achieve goals I could only dream about before, only made possible because someone had the generosity to say “yes” to organ donation.
I’ve not had the opportunity to speak to my donor’s family, however Sunday night was an opportunity to express my gratitude in a different way.
“The gift that results in a transplant is between strangers, but it is also a deeply personal gift, which makes the words thank you seem a little inadequate. It’s more than a physical gift – it also carries the opportunity to have a future, a second chance.
I will never meet or know the person who gave me this second chance, but I think about them every day.
So, to their family I would say, you made an important decision, one that made a great difference to my life and the best way I can show my gratitude is to take the best care of these wonderful lungs that you entrusted me with, to live life well and to the full.”