“Live like your donor is watching.”
That’s a phrase I’ve read/lip read countless times since my transplant. My donor added tomorrows to my life, and I don’t want to waste them. I hope they were watching the past few days.
I wasn’t appreciative of nature for most of my life. My family visited the Grand Canyon when I was a kid but I barely saw it. Third-grade Bradley was too engrossed in the new Harry Potter book he had just picked up, refusing to get out of the car or look up for more than a few seconds. Still kicking myself for that. Until the last months of my time in Hawai‘i, I didn’t appreciate the reasons the islands are called “Paradise” by so many. But becoming deaf has had just as much of an effect on my eyes as it has on my ears. Since I can no longer find awe and comfort in my favorite sounds, I enjoy those two feelings through sight instead. The natural beauty of the world has always been in front of me, but I didn’t see it until recently.
Kristina and I took a mini-road trip through a nearby mountain range that reminds me of the Smoky Mountains my family used to drive through in our Tennessee days — only with Lamborghinis and tricked-out cycles speeding past (typical Silicon Valley) instead of rusted pickups. We were just “taking a drive.” No purpose other than to sip our iced coffee and take in our surroundings.
You know that golden hour between the afternoon and sunset? Where it looks like God wrapped every tree leaf in gold foil, and the rays of the sun peek through here and there, hitting the road and making it glitter? That’s my favorite time of the day to focus on the blessings I’ve been given. To be grateful and let myself happily cry — happy tears aren’t uncommon these days. To experience that hour, up on the mountains and with Kristina at my side… pure bliss.
My dad got discounted tickets to Great America from his work. I was so stoked to finally ride a roller coaster for the first time in years. Alas, my transplant team didn’t think coasters would be a good idea while my surgery site is still healing. But there were a few other rides to check out so we went anyway.
It was a surreal experience. We were standing in probably the noisiest area of San Jose — screeching steel-on-steel coasters, screeching riders, screeching kids begging for treats — yet I didn’t hear a thing. Every once in awhile, my ears suddenly hurt from standing too close to an intercom or roller coaster, but that’s as close as I got to hearing things. Even going on the rides is a different experience than what I’m used to. My heart rate is about a third slower than it was when I was actively battling infections, so the plunges and spins from the rides didn’t have as much of a thrill as they usually do. But, man, it was still fun.
I haven’t gone to concerts, theme parks, conventions, or anything that draws a big crowd in over a year. I’ve mostly been living in solitude other than when I go to a shopping center or the occasional church event (although I usually end up just sitting in the car out of frustration with my deafness). It felt so satisfying to be around thousands of people who were gathered in a place to do nothing more than have fun.
I’ve been trying to avoid sugar and fried stuff, but it would be ridiculous to skip out on funnel cake.
I didn’t just not care about nature “back in the day” — I hated hiking. To me, it was just a waste of energy to walk uphill a bunch and stare at trees and water falling off rocks. I didn’t get the big deal.
But I needed to waste energy, pronto, after finding out I would have to wait an extra month to get my cochlear implant surgery due to scheduling conflicts and so I was freaking out real bad. Anxiety disorder is basically when this huge ball of energy builds up in the chest, getting bigger and bigger, squeezing out from your eyes in tears and making the brain “rngvuirenuvjeroivjeriu.” The energy can eventually get too big for the body to contain and spark a full-blown panic attack. When I feel the energy building, the best way to stop the attack in its tracks is to somehow expel that energy: by tiring myself out. So, the moment Kristina mentioned wanting to go on a hike “one day,” I said we’re going now.
The hike up to Castle Rock was the most I’ve challenged my new lungs outside of my pulmonary rehab class. My legs burned, but that was okay. It was a good burn. It’s still so cool to feel my muscles get tired before my lungs do. I would not have been able to do this hike just a few months ago. Or even a few weeks ago. And, hey, those trees, rocks, plants were actually really pretty. The deer that ran across the path was even prettier. Maybe hiking isn’t so bad after all. Kristina and I are already planning to go again.
These might seem like “pretty decent” days to the average person. To someone who might be dead today if transplant wasn’t an option, these days are miracles. I hope my donor isn’t just watching, but is also able to feel what I feel and know they (or their family) made the right choice in checking off that organ donation box.
And I hope you, whoever you are, read this and decide to become a donor too so you can potentially add tomorrows to someone else’s life: RegisterMe.org