Back in June I finally worked up the words, and the courage, to write a letter to the family of my donor. I had tried to put words on paper (or computer screen) before, but nothing seemed to click. In June, I celebrated the one year anniversary of my heart transplant, and the time was obviously right. I sat down and the words just flowed. It is very hard to verbalize the joy found in a new life. Especially, when you realize that the one’s who will be reading those words of joy will still be mourning the loss of their loved one. I wanted to find that balance between revelry and respect. I wanted to honor the death of someone I didn’t know, while celebrating the life that his death has given to me.
The process for this kind of thing is clearly defined. I gave my letter to my coordinator. She passed it on to the organization that brokers all of the organ donations for Tampa General Hospital. This organization received my letter and vetted it to make sure it is acceptable. They specifically make sure that there isn’t too much personal information shared. After all, they don’t want to facilitate a stalking situation. In my specific situation, they then translated my letter into Spanish, so that the donor’s family could read it.
All of the power rests with the family of the donor. They make the choice as to whether or not to respond. They make the choice as to whether or not they will share any personal information. If they don’t respond, all communication is ended. In my letter I made it very clear that it was the wish of me and my family to have an opportunity to meet and learn more about the life of my donor. So, my letter went off in June and we waited.
Yesterday, we received a reply. My donor was Reginaldo Reyes Canseco. He was twenty-two years old. He was shy, a hardworking young man, a cook and, as his sister described him in her letter, very noble. His sister and his father both live here in Florida. They shared no specifics as to where they live or how to contact them, but she did say that the family wants to meet me. She shared, “My family and I would love to hear that heartbeat once again and feel he is still alive.”
It is hard to explain what it is like to now have a name. Up to this point we always referred to my donor as a male between the ages of twenty and thirty. Now, we can say that my donor was Reginaldo and he was twenty-two years old. He could have been my son. My youngest daughter, Madison, is twenty and my oldest, McKenzie, is twenty-six. I cannot even imagine losing either one of them at such a young age. Let alone, reading the words of the guy who is alive and well because of the donation of their heart. I don’t know where all of this will go. But I do know that the Reyes Canseco family will always be a part of our lives because of the now twenty-three year old heart that is beating inside of my chest.