We had some doozies of fights, usually because I was mean to her or was teasing her. However, if anyone else came against her, they had to come through me to get to her. I remember well the time I went after another girl with a bat in a softball game in PE because she slid into my sister and flipped her over. I always considered myself her protector because of her sweet nature and gentle ways.
She also protected me. When I was going through the mother of all rebellions as a teen, my sister vehemently stood in my defense when others wanted to talk smack about me. No one could say a word against me in her presence. That was the first time I saw her spine of steel.
Ten years ago though, I couldn't protect her when she was diagnosed with cancer. I felt desperate to go after this bully with some kind of bat, but I couldn't. It hurt to the core when I saw how much she went through in her uncomplaining way. She became a favorite of the nurses with the treats she'd bake for them on her chemo days, and her oncologists looked forward to seeing her because of her continual sunny outlook. When she was declared cancer free, it wasn't just family and friends who celebrated; the whole oncology staff threw a party.
She was the definition of fitness and ultra healthy nutrition. It was a shock several years later when we received the call that she'd had a massive heart attack at 42 years old. (Now thought to possibly be caused by her cancer treatment.) For weeks, it was a delicate tip toe between life and death. God's grace and her fitness level clamped onto her and she pulled back into life.
When her cardiologist told her she could retire from teaching with a medical disability because only 28% of her heart was working, she laughed, dragged herself back into the classroom, and won more teaching awards.
Now, though, even with a defibrillator and pacemaker augmenting her overtaxed heart, the fainting spells and bone crushing exhaustion are just some of the effects that linger. The time has come for a heart transplant.
Always before, when people talked of organ donation, I never thought of it in the context of myself. I was glad that it worked for others, but I could never put myself in the spot of signing the back of my driver's license or enrolling with a donor's registry.
I think differently now. It is sobering, because for my sister's restoration to life to happen, it will mean someone else will have lost theirs.
I never allowed myself to think that through, all the way to me being a donor. It was too morbid, too creepy. Now, though, I am delighted that things I will no longer have use for will go to help someone else.
I can think of no greater acts of grace and heroism than what is done by people who are able to reach through their anguish and grief and make the decision to donate their child's or loved one's organs.
My sweet blogging friend, Nancy Felt, recently lived through a parent's worst horror scenario when her healthy kindergartener, Spencer, was suddenly struck with a stomach ache that got worse and turned out to be a failing heart. He had to have a Berlin heart, which beats for the diseased heart, implanted just to buy time until a donor heart became available. Nancy writes so movingly of their journey and also of how in the time of relief and joy that a heart had been found for Spencer, the difficulty in knowing the pain of the family of the little one who donated the heart. Her compelling story is here: Felt So Fine . It is awe inspiring to see how sick Spencer was just a few short months ago and then to look at the videos Nancy has recently posted of him playing soccer with his team.
On May 1 my sister will head to Houston for her first appointment with the transplant team.
I'm so glad I had a change of heart about organ donation as we move towards her change of heart.
For more information on organ donation, click here: Donate Life