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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Until Next Time

My daughter returned from her Transplant Game adventure last night. The hours counting up to when she would walk through the door moved slower than I ever could have imagined. I had an endless list of questions: How was the flight? Did she make friends? Did she take all of her meds? Did she drink enough water?  Did she get tired? What was her favorite part? What did I miss that was not posted on Facebook? What were her best moments? What didn't go well?

Finally, though, the moment came. I opened the front door to call in my other children, when at that same moment Jackie walked in with her father. I screamed, then hugged her. It was the longest we have been away from each other -or so it seemed. I knew she had a long day, so I tried not to bombard her with questions.

If you've been following my Angel Donor Page or my Facebook Page, you probably caught a few of my constant updates. The basic rundown is that she competed in Track and Field, Basketball and Bowling. She and her team did very well working together and she brought home a gold and a silver medal.

As we talked about her experiences I noticed something I hadn't seen in her in a while. She was glowing with happiness. Not just because of her accomplishments, but because of her experiences. She made close, lifelong friends in only a matter of five days. She saw first hand how much not only organ recipients, but also organ donors care about donation. She saw celebrities such as Scott MacIntyre support something that means so much to so many people.

She learned many things over these days about the process of organ donation and why it is important to be a donor. We had the talk that I always knew we would have...the same talk the main character Olivia has with her nurse in Angel Donor: "Why did my donor have to die so I could live?" Before I knew it we were discussing brain death and how the transplant team and surgeons care for donated organs.

She also saw examples and heard many stories of how donor families met with recipients. These events inspired her to write a note of thanks to her donor family. Although the family is anonymous to us right now, we can still send a letter of thanks through the Gift of Life foundation who will deliver the letter to protect the donor family's privacy. Somehow life had come full circle. Just 8 years ago I had written a letter of thanks as a parent for the gift of life. Now, Jackie is writing her own letter of thanks.

Over the hours that Jackie has been home, I have also observed the new people in her life. As mentioned before, she has formed friendships that will probably last forever. The friends she made during the games are people who have been through similar situations and are dealing with similar emotions: happiness, survivor's guilt, gratitude and sadness. It is quite a mix, but as I am seeing now, it is what real friendship bonds are made of.  She has already connected with the kids via her social networks, phone and e-mail.

Though the event only lasted five days, it caused a wonderful transformation. My daughter grew up a little bit, but it also helped her understand more about herself and what she has been through. Most importantly though, she learned that she is not alone. As she told me just this evening, "It's like living in another dimension where everyone gets you...right away. They just get you."

And so, now that these games are over, we look ahead to next time in two years. I have made a personal vow to myself during these days. I plan to train myself for a marathon via the Cto5K so that we can do the games together. I've got two years to train, but have the best motivation in the world.