I met a woman named Lisa this weekend. We volunteered together at LifeGift, Houston’s organ procurement organization (OPO), where a heart recipient and the donor’s family were meeting for the first time. It was an experience I will never forget.
Afterwards, Lisa and I exchanged emails.
“You have truly warmed my heart and blessed my life already,” she said to me.
I was moved almost beyond words. Hers is a precious heart, a donated heart.
I said in my initial blog post that I am seeking the transformation that usually comes with a hefty price. The death of a loved one. Critical illness. Something of that nature.
I want to be as grateful for each day, for each breath, for each moment, as Lisa is. And I want to feel that gratitude without paying the price.
It’s happening. I am so moved by the Lisas of the world. Real people.
Within minutes of meeting, Lisa and I were already speaking from the heart.
Lisa, to my knowledge, doesn’t have a ranch or a vacation home in Aspen. I have no idea where she “summers,” but I suspect she doesn’t use that word as a verb. I have not a clue as to what she was wearing – her outfit, handbag, shoes. But she has piercing blue eyes, eyes that say I am real, and I want to know you.
I do know she works, as a radiology transcriptionist, a job which allows her to work from home, so she can spend more time with her daughter and grandchild. “The most important thing,” she says, with complete certainty.
When Lisa was in her thirties, she thought she had the flu, so she waited, almost too long, to “crawl” to the ER. She was in heart failure, caused by a virus. For the next eleven years, while she awaited a life-saving heart transplant, she suffered. You can see it in her eyes, the depth of that suffering. She speaks of the suffering solemnly, but without a trace of self-pity.
When Lisa finally received her heart, from a young mother who died in a car crash fleeing domestic violence in the middle of the night, Lisa’s UNOS (United Network of Organ Sharing) status was “A1,” as close to death as one can get.
While she was still in the hospital in the days following her transplant, her heart stopped beating. A young cardiovascular surgeon opened her chest, right there in her hospital room, and massaged her heart with his hand to keep it beating. For an hour. Awaiting the arrival of the surgeon who could temporarily bypass it, to give it some relief. Lisa says she believes her donor, who was three quarters Native American, was there, pushing through.
This is heady stuff. And this year, as I have slowed down to contemplate what really matters, I have come across so many real people, with real stories. And I am moved. I am grateful. I think I am finally beginning to understand, and feel, what really matters.
Thank you, Lisa.