Monday, December 31, 2012

Dear Leftie

Dear Leftie;

I know I've been a bit behind in blogging. Life does that sometimes. I promise, in 2013, I will get better at being more consistent.

How are you doing? I hope you are settled in your new home and thriving. Have you made friends with your neighbours? Perhaps they weren't too sure about you at first, but overtime I bet they have started to like the fact that you help everyone feel better. Keep up the good work for a long time, okay?

Righty and I are doing fine. My blood pressure is great and despite the little issue with iron earlier in the year, we both are healthy and happy. It's really been a heck of a year - a lot has happened and for most of it, you really should get some if not all, of the credit.

I guess the biggest news of the year was that in November, I was selected as one of Avenue Magazines Top 40 under 40. Crazy, wonderful and humbling. What has been so great about this honour is that it has opened up more people's hearts and minds to organ donation, living or otherwise, and it has people asking questions. Talking about it. Never in a million years did I think our choice would be so interesting or inspiring to other people - it was a private decision we made and while I understand it was a gift for the person who got you, I didn't know how much of a gift it would be to myself and others.

I never realized how many amazing people I've meet after choosing to be a living donor - not just other donors, organ recipients and their families, who are quite possibly the strongest people I've ever met. I volunteered this year at the Canadian Transplant Games. I met kids and adults of all ages who had received the gift of life, many of them from deceased donors but several of them from living donors as well. I met donor families who in what probably was the darkest time in their life, made a choice to save someone else (or several someone-elses). I can't articulate how powerful it was to see life being appreciated and celebrated so intensely. Amazing.

I think the highlight of the games for me was near the very end. After a day in the sun taking pictures of the track and field event, I was scurrying to my car to get home and ready for the closing gala. I was intercepted on the way by one of the athletes, Scott. He had a heart transplant at age 28. He handed me one of the gold medals he had earned that day. "This is for all you did and all that you do". Oh. My. God. It still chokes me up.

Not sure if you heard, Leftie, but you were in the news a bit this year. Metro, Calgary Herald, Open File, Avenue Magazine (above and beyond the Top 40 stuff). I remember talking to a reporter last year who had been around for most of my journey. He had told me after the fact that when there had been the initial controversy about my blogging,  a communications representative from Alberta Health had told him that they thought I might only be wanting to donate you for media attention. Hearing that made me so mad - and hurt. Anyone who knows me well knows that couldn't be further from the truth and even now, despite there being more media attention (all unsolicited, thank you very much, critics) I still am largely uncomfortable being interviewed. I am still shy and all of these opportunities have been slightly outside my comfort zone. But it has helped people understand the need for more organ donors so the discomfort has been worth it. You and I were also The Kidney Foundation of Canada's Stories of Hope winner for the Prairies.

Rightie and I are excited for 2013, to see what it brings. One of my online friends Amy, who is also a donor, is doing a documentary (Social Media Stole My Kidney) about living donors. She is driving across the US to interview a hand full of people about their experiences in the hopes of raising the profile on living donation. She's even detouring into Canada to talk with us! I am excited to be a part of this project, because I really think it can make a difference, especially with Amy's determination and dedication behind it. Yay donors! (And of course, Yay Lefties!).

On that note, Leftie, I will leave you with a final thought. I haven't told anyone this until now. This year brought me something else. Something really special. Closure. I am more okay with losing Dad than I ever have been in 16 years. While I wasn't wallowing in grief still or anything, I still really missed him. I knew I didn't really have that elusive thing called closure. I was close but not quite there. But I feel like somehow giving you up and everything that has come with that has helped. I am at peace with it. It is funny how you don't really know you aren't totally there until you find that place where you are. I will always lament all the things he didn't get to see me do as an adult but I know he is somewhere, if only in my heart, and he is proud of me.

Wishing you a happy and healthy 2013 and beyond.

Lauren and Righty.