December 11 is a big day for me. This day marks my six month anniversary. On June 11 I received the gift of a new life through a heart transplant. Throughout the whole process of preparation for my transplant the subject of “the first six months after transplant” kept coming up. Back in June, December 11 seemed like a lifetime away. I can’t even begin to understand all of the medical science involved in this whole thing. What I do know is that after six months I have no rejection, I am almost totally off steroids, I am stopping one of my infection drugs and my latest round of cardiac rehab will be coming to an end. I can safely say that I have made it to a very important milestone in my journey. Not that there can’t still be problems, but making it successfully through the first six months, especially as wonderfully as I have made it, is a very big deal. At least I am treating it as a very big deal.
Making it successfully to my six-month mark also opens the door for some other things. I am allowed to travel by airplane. Although, if I do travel by airplane, I will be wearing a mask. I know that I heard all of the stories about perfectly healthy people getting sick after riding on an airplane in the past, but in my current situation, the frequency of the stories really stick out. I’m amazed at how many non-immune compromised people get sick after riding on a plane. This is something I want to avoid, as the old saying goes, like the plague. A couple of weeks ago, I had a sore throat turn into an ear infection overnight and it wasn’t pleasant. I know that pre-transplant that sore throat would have gone quietly into that good night, but not now.
Even more exciting than the freedom to travel by airplane is the opportunity to finally send a letter to my donor’s family. It was suggested that I wait at least six months so that the family could have time to mourn and to process the death of their loved one before I make contact. It is a very interesting process. I will write a letter that will be delivered to the organization that brokered my connection with my donor. This organization will review my letter to make sure that it doesn’t have too much information about me or anything else inappropriate. I am not allowed to share personal information about myself so as not to create a situation where someone can Google me or stalk me in some other way. The same is true for me. I know nothing about my donor, other than he was between the ages of twenty and thirty.
Once the donors family receives my letter they have the opportunity to do the very same thing. If they decide to respond to my letter, it will be funneled back through the same organization who will make sure that their letter is appropriate before delivering it to me. Of course, the family of my donor has the right to not reply to my letter. At that point everything is done. I will have to live with the basic knowledge that my donor was a young man between the ages of twenty and thirty. If the family of my donor makes the choice to answer my letter, then we can start to communicate with each other directly, with no middle man. It would be at this time that we could make arrangements to meet in person.
That is something that I would love to do. I would love to meet my donor’s family and to hear about my hero’s life. I want to know his story and I am hopeful that they will want to know mine. I go into this part of my journey totally aware that I have no control over my donor’s family and their willingness to open their lives up to me. I am good with however it all turns out, but I won’t hide the fact that I hope and pray that they are open to meeting me and my family. Michelle and I will start to work on our letter during her upcoming Christmas break from school. I am sure that we will write and re-write this letter several times. It will be like writing a cover letter to the resume that is me. We will be handing the letter over to our Transplant Coordinator some time in January when I go in for my next biopsy. I will make sure to keep you updated.