Tuesday, January 18, 2005

How To Celebrate My One-Month Transplant Anniversary

Folks - I'm sure you're asking yourselves - "Has it really been one month since David got his new liver?" Amazingly it has been. And I've got big plans to celebrate the milestone on Wednesday Dec. 19. I'm planning to get up at the crack of dawn with Nancy and drive to the Transplant Center at New York University, where I'll be handing out the gifts - a stool sample and a few vials of blood for my weekly testing. Then it's time for 8 AM meds in the cozy confines of the NYU cafeteria. Next, we'll relax by spending at least an hour on the telephone with the Social Security Administration to guarantee I'll be getting a sliver of a check from them next month when my short-term disability for my liver ailment shifts to long-term disability, and, with that, 40% of my salary goes out the window. That cutback will be in effect until I'm able to get back to work as senior energy correspondent and columnist at Dow Jones Newswires in Jersey City, NJ. That will be anywhere from 3 to 6 months from now, if all continues to go well.

So, what have I been doing since I got the new liver and got sprung from the hospital on Dec. 30 in time to be home for the start of the New Year 2005 with Nancy, Alex, Tasha and Hippie Kitten? I've been eating everything in sight - gaining back to 170 pounds from the high 150s a few weeks ago. A cutback in meds, which lessened diarrhea has helped quite a bit. I've had all 75 staple stitches removed, started wearing shoes again, as swelling in the feet and ankles has subsided, and have been getting some exercise in walking around and working out with a stretch band, although cold weather has kept me more cooped up than I'd like to be. It's been great just to hang out with Nancy and the kids, playing games, building Alex's Pinewood Derby car for his Scout race, enjoying a fire in the fireplace, watching football playoffs (entertaining the idea of kicking for the Jets next season), endlessly surfing the web, scrawling notes for a book, BLOGGING, popping pills, meeting friends and napping when I need to. Most rewarding has been just rekindling with Nancy and the kids and working on our future together.

I've written to the family of the donor of my liver - the 53-year-old woman from Bronx, N.Y. who lost her life on Dec. 19, but gave me a new life that day.

Among the things I haven't done is name my new liver. You'd be surprised how many people ask me if I've done this.

So far, I've just been referring to my new liver as "She," like a noble ship taking me without fear through rough waters. But lately, I've been toying with the idea of naming my new liver "Dora," after Dora the Explorer, the bilingual kids cartoon in which a young girl goes on adventures with her pet monkey, Boots, and tries to succeed in tasks while eluding the sneaky Swiper the fox. Dora speaks both in English and Spanish and often relies on her trusty tools to meet her goal. She urges viewers - like my 3-year-old daughter Natasha Willow Bird (Tasha) - to call out "Backpack," or "Map," to help her out and to shout "Swiper, no swiping," when the sly fox rears his head. I felt more than a little like Dora in the hospital, with a somewhat different script, calling out "Nurse," and "Bedpan" at regular intervals.

My overwhelming need to pray the Hail Mary in Spanish each day with Nancy at the hospital (something I remembered from high school language class) also has me convinced that my donor was a Hispanic woman and that I was making a psychic connection with her long before the transplant. That makes the choice of "Dora" as the name for my new liver all the more appropriate.

There's one very important thing that I've neglected to do in the past month - and that will be the cornerstone of Wednesday's celebration.

Despite all my talk - I have yet to sign up myself to be an organ donor.

Well that's about to change.

And I'd like you all to join with me.

Let's fry the NJ Sharing Network's fax machine tomorrow by sending them more donor registrations than they've ever before received.

Go to the website: http://www.sharenj.org and click on how to become an organ donor.
Here's all the information you need if you are a resident of New Jersey.
The Donor Registry Application form is available on line and can be faxed to
(973) 379-5113.

That number again 9-7-3 3-7-9 5-1-1-3.

For those of you who aren't fortunate enough to live in the Garden State, this website: http://www.donatelife.net/ provides information on how to become a donor in all 50 states plus Puerto Rico. Just pick your state and click on it.

As you celebrate with me on Wednesday the first month of the rest of my life, spare a thought, as I will, about how lucky I am to have beaten overwhelming odds to actually have the opportunity to have a liver transplant.

As of this writing, UNOS, the United Network For Organ Sharing, reports there are currently 87,231 people waiting for organ transplants. On Jan. 2, two weeks after I had my transplant, 17,313 people across the U.S. remained on the list awaiting livers.

Every 14 minutes a new name is added to the waiting list for organ transplants.
Every year, an estimated 6,000 people die waiting for organ transplants.
Wouldn't it be great to sign up a new organ donors at a rate of one every 14 minutes.

Let's start today!

Now, for those of you who feel cheated if they don't come away from this (long) BLOG without a bit of a chuckle, here, in the unconventional brilliance of John Prine, a fabulous singer/song writer that you must get to know if you don't already, is an oddball take on organ donation off of one of the greatest records ever made.

I'm just asking that you take in the right spirit as the message comes with (hopefully) a laugh. And, yes, Frank and Lynnie, I can hear you singing along all the way from Virginia and, you, too, Ray, in Ormond Beach, Florida. As John himself has been quoted as saying "It's the best organ donor campfire song I know of." And I can't argue with that.

Keep them campfires burning - and here's something to sing to yourself while you're on hold Wednesday while faxing through your organ donor registration form.

God bless you all!
David

Please Don't Bury Me
By John Prine
From the albums Sweet Revenge (Atlantic Records 1973) and
Great Days: The John Prine Anthology (Rhino Records 1993)

Woke up this morning
Put on my slippers
Walked in the kitchen and died
And oh what a feeling!
When my soul
Went thru the ceiling
And on up into heaven I did ride
When I got there they did say
John, it happened this way
You slipped upon the floor
And hit your head
And all the angels say
Just before you passed away
These were the very last words
That you said:

(Chorus)
Please don't bury me
Down in that cold cold ground
No, I'd druther have "em" cut me up
And pass me all around
Throw my brain in a hurricane
And the blind can have my eyes
And the deaf can take both of my ears
If they don't mind the size

Give my stomach to Milwaukee
If they run out of beer
Put my socks in a cedar box
Just get "em" out of here

Venus de Milo can have my arms
Look out! I've got your nose
Sell my heart to the junkman
And give my love to Rose

(Repeat Chorus)

Give my feet to the footloose
Careless, fancy free
Give my knees to the needy
Don't pull that stuff on me
Hand me down my walking cane
It's a sin to tell a lie
Send my mouth way down south
And kiss my ass goodbye

(Repeat Chorus)

2 Comments:

At 2:25 AM, Blogger Kathy Bird said...

David,

Happy Anniversary!

Yes, very hard to believe it's been a month. Wow!

Glad you are doing so well. Two comments from me right now:

1. I realized my car registration was expiring on Dec. 31 and that I had missed seeing the mail-in renewal when it arrived around Election Day. So, I had to go to a state Motor Vehicle Commission office in person and renew before New Year's Eve. And since I was going out of state for that holiday, I really wanted it all in order.

That gave me the opportunity to also do something that I'd been wanting to do since November when it became clear that you needed a liver transplant. To take the time to sign up as a donor.

I, unfortunately, renewed my photo driver's license by mail a while ago and when you do that (duh!) you no longer have a photo license. With the post-9/11 constant requests for proper photo ID, I've been carrying around my passport which isn't a really swell idea in case of accidental loss or theft.

Recently, New Jersey has instituted new digital photo's licenses which carry more improved security from identify theft in addition to the benefits of having a government-issued photo ID for many purposes.

Let me say candidly that for the past 30 years of driving, I have been aware of the opportunity to list various choices of organ donation on the back of NJ driver's licenses and I have deliberately, consciously made a personal, informed choice to always mark off "none."

As I said on the Community Corner cable television inteview, I was uncomfortable with the whole idea and it seemed kind of weird and tampering with nature or science. I just couldn't see the point for all of these years. I mean, if God determines your time is up, well, who is to overrule her (ha ha)?

But having lived through your stunning situation and learned the facts about organ transplants and the statistics and enormous need for healthy organs, I have done a complete reversal.

So, I proudly requested when I renewed by motor vehicle registration for 2005 that I also replace my paper/non-photo NJ driver's license with a new digital, photo license and requested that it proclaim that I am signed up as an organ donor.

Your situation has opened my eyes in ways that I could not image six months ago. Or even in October.

Having said that, I love the John Prine song. Gives an appropriate level of comic relief to an otherwise serious and potentially deadly situation.

Which is something that's characterized your whole story. The humor is welcome and much appreciated!

And I really admire your call for organ donor signups. But putting it on your driver's license is not enough! Everyone needs to inform their family members. Having it in your living will or locked away in a safe-deposit box and having no one aware of it doesn't help at all!

Once you're gone or no longer in a position to state your medical preferences, your family members say what happens. And they can overrule you! So it is not just important to put it on your driver's license but also to put it in your living will(aka medical durable power of attorney) and especially, tell your family!

You can't take it with you, right? What good is taking your organs to heaven, as the bumper sticker says (and we know that they don't even go there; they stay here on Earth where they're no use to anyone anymore). Heaven knows we need them here on Earth!

Happy Anniversary, little brother!

Kathy

 
At 9:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There once was a liver called Dora,
Named after the intrepid Explorer,
From the Bronx, the organ arrived.
A miracle for Bird! He now thrives!
Swiper dissed, now resides in Gomorrah.

 

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