How to save a life

Sunday, April 21, 2019

I’M JUST SAYIN’

Paula Bonin, Jennings Daily News’ (JDN) general manager, often shares updates on Bill Ross’ health. She and her daughter have visited him and his family several times in Mississippi, while Bill has made plenty of trips to Louisiana. He hopes to come this way soon, in fact, to meet Paula’s new grandson.

JDN Publisher Dona H. Smith is in and out of the office these days. She spends a lot of time working from her home away from home in Houston. That is where her husband Tripp has been residing for several months.

To you, none of the above might seem interesting but the stories behind these little things are life-changing.

You see, Paula’s son Aaron saved Bill’s life 12 years ago. Aaron was 15 when he died in July 2007. By that time Bill, then 33, had been on a kidney transplant list for five years. He had lived with kidney issues since he was 18. By age 28, he was on dialysis. When Paula and her family learned Aaron would not survive injuries he sustained in an ATV accident, they hoped to save someone else’s child. Bill was that someone.

Paula told me two weeks ago that Bill’s doctor said he is incredibly healthy. Each day that Bill wakes up is because of Aaron. Every day, Paula knows her son saved someone’s life.

Dona and Tripp, meanwhile, have become honorary Houstonians, as well as familiar faces at Houston Methodist Hospital. That is where Tripp underwent a heart transplant in January. After he suffered a heart attack last year, his health steadily declined. Several months later, he was informed he needed a heart transplant to survive.

There were some days his future seemed limited. Twice the Smiths were overjoyed to learn a potential heart had become available, only to receive devastating news in the end. The third time, you could say, was the charm.

Tripp is now on the road to recovery, quite the walking miracle. In fact, he was recently walking three miles each day then logging two miles on a stationary bike. His path is still not easy, but his future looks bright.

In my time as a reporter, I have had the privilege to write stories about people whose lives were saved by organ donation and people who became living donors. I have also shared incredible stories of people whose final act on Earth was to give life and/or a better quality of life to strangers. These stories are bittersweet examples of not only the circle of life, but life after death.

It’s fitting, then, to talk about Aaron and Bill and Tripp and his donor on Easter Sunday. Easter, after all, is the ultimate story of life after death. Family members and friends watched someone they loved so much suffer then die. There was hopelessness. Unimaginable pain. Deep grief. Literal darkness across the land. It was likely one of those days when people ask over and over again, “Why? What possible reason can there be for this tragedy?”

Somehow death gave way to life. The life and death of Jesus saved billions. It shined a light in the darkness and brought hope when there was none.

No one who witnessed Jesus’ death fathomed just how far through time or how many lives He would impact. If you think about it, the same is true of organ donation. Good or bad, everything we do has a ripple effect. It touches more than those in our direct path. The lives we reach, reach others. Those lives impact the next generation and so on.

If possible, I want to be an organ and tissue donor upon my death. I have to go at some point and I can’t take anything with me. Let someone who has a chance use what they need. Save someone’s child. Someone’s mom or dad. Someone’s sibling. Someone’s spouse. Someone’s best friend. Use what I no longer can to save someone, anyone. None of us will know why my time is over or why someone else’s time is meant to go on. I can’t come back from the dead but someone else could come back from the brink of death. I’m OK with that.

If you want to be an organ and/or tissue donor, make sure your loved ones know your wishes. It must be so difficult to be in the position of losing someone you love while being asked to save another person’s life. If your loved ones know what decision you want them to make, they might be comforted in honoring your final wish.

Registering to become an organ donor is a way to record your consent. This also allows you to specify which organs and/or tissue you would like to donate. You can register for free online at www.donatelifela.org.

April is actually National Donate Life Month. This year, Easter is celebrated in April. This year, we celebrate two ways of giving and receiving life.

You and I might not share the same faith, but chances are we both believe in saving lives.

“The measure of a life, after all, is

not its duration, but its donation.”

Corrie Ten Boom