April is National Donate Life Month. To celebrate, Donate Life NC, in collaboration with LifeShare Carolinas and Carolina Donor Services, is launching Growing Together NC (#growingtogether). This campaign will focus on all the ways we can continue to grow together as a community, while highlighting the extraordinary and life-changing effects of organ, eye and tissue donation.
This month, we’ll feature stories from North Carolinians whose lives have been touched by donation and transplant. We’ll meet donor family members, pediatric recipients, living donors, DMV examiners who “ask the question” every day, and healthcare professionals who want to inspire others to join our community. Each story reflects some of the trials of donation and transplant, as well as the highlights of recovery. We hope that everyone will be inspired by meeting people whose lives have been impacted by donation, and for anyone not yet registered, they will help illustrate the life-saving miracle that donation can be. Together, we can grow the donor registry.
Meet Todd, heart recipient and father of three living in Holly Springs.
Todd first learned he’d need a transplant in April 2003. He’d been gaining weight for a few months and began to have trouble sleeping, feeling as if he couldn’t breathe when he tried. He finally went to the doctor when he began coughing blood. When his physician ordered x-rays, he “was kind of hoping for pneumonia or bronchitis to get a week off work!” Instead within 72 hours, he was in an ambulance headed for the transplant clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, because at the time, they didn’t do transplants where he lived in Columbus. “It was quite the whirlwind,” he says.
Todd credits his wife and family with helping him through the difficult moments before and since his lung transplant. “My wife has always been by my side throughout the entire transplant journey. She has given me purpose to everything I do now and before the transplant. She always knows when it's time to support and when it's time to tell me to ‘suck it up’ and stop feeling sorry for myself. I couldn't do it without her, my parents and siblings.”
Todd doesn’t actually remember receiving “the call”--the phone call recipients get when an organ finally becomes available and they finally receive a life-saving transplant. “Well, I didn't get the call, as I was in the hospital in a medically-induced coma trying to keep me going. My mom was the first person I saw and she explained to me what had happened. I was actually first disappointed in myself because I felt I had failed. Even up until the moment I lost consciousness, I thought I could beat this and recover without the transplant.”
Like most recipients, Todd’s life has changed since his transplant which he feels “is what transplant is all about.” Thanks to the gift of a generous organ donor, Todd and his family have had the chance to experience so much. “I am so grateful for everything that has happened since transplant. I have moved to a place that I love, I have seen all three of my boys graduate high school, saw my two older boys play football at the same time and now watching all three move on to college. I have an even greater appreciation of the sacrifices made on my behalf. I have become a much more tolerant, appreciative person and a person that looks to pay back what others have given me. Sometimes the responsibility is overwhelming, but I carry on.”
Todd would like everyone to understand that awaiting and actually getting a transplant takes a lot. “It takes everyone involved and that no one person can do this by themselves. It is an incredible responsibility but one of the greatest gifts one can be bestowed. The most important thing to understand that the transplant itself is the easy part. There are no off days but if you are willing to face the grind, it is incredibly rewarding.” He advises, “Do not be afraid to ask for help. It is unbelievable the number of people who want to help and all you need to do is ask.”