Bailey: Smooth and shiny, kissable and typical English Lab “block head”…velvety-soft black ears on my lips and cheek. Bottomless, chocolaty soft brown eyes peering meaningfully, deep down into my soul. These will be my most precious memories of Bailey who crossed over the Rainbow Bridge on the morning of September 12, 2020.
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Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….
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We adopted Bailey from the local shelter in December of 2012. Our veterinarian estimated him to be about three years old. He had been abandoned in a nearby town, nearly hairless from flea bites/allergies and both ears infected. Despite this, he was cooperative, good-natured and easy-going. How could anyone let this perfect soul go? I know why! He was predestined to be with us the rest of his beautiful life. A lovely, laid-back Black Lab, I could immediately envision him leaning back in a La-Z-Boy, feet up, a cigar resting lightly in his paw, eyeing us curiously: “Why are my humans always so busy?”
A few days ago, I attended a meeting preparing for the start of our upcoming bowling season next month. In retrospect, this gathering was a lesson in understanding, compassion and empathy. I have seriously reflected on the conversation of this meeting since then, and it continues to weigh heavily on me.
In the fall and winter, I bowl with a diverse group of ladies who, for the most part, are a great group of gals. Undoubtedly in most, if not all groups of people, you will observe the whole spectrum of personalities, opinions and behavior. A few nights ago, I perceived just that more than ever. Some wore masks, some didn’t. Admittedly, I was among those who foolishly didn’t, although I carried one in with me. Great protection, huh?
Our discussion included sponsors, sanction fees, weekly bowling payments, pin money; all pertinent topics for our ladies’ bowling league. Also discussed was our chronic problem of the lack of filling all our teams up. We should have four ladies per team, but have struggled for years to do so. Some teams are complete with four ladies and some, as my own, have only three. In fact, in prior years my partner and I had played with only the two of us, the other two positions were “vacant” and had assigned handicaps. All this is to clarify the lack of players in our league.
Perhaps the most important topic was wearing masks during bowling…or not. Undeniably, it would be difficult to socially distance during bowling. Think about it. One member, representing her team, explained that one woman on the team was at increased risk, and requested that everyone wear a mask as protection and out of respect for her health issues. I certainly understood and gladly planned to comply with that request. However, another woman boldly (and I perceived angrily) stated, leaving no doubt regarding her position, that at her business she refused to erect a plexiglass screen nor did she wear a mask, and apparently had no intention to do so in the future. So sad, when you reflect on the possible consequences, not to mention the resulting resentments this has and will trigger.
According to CORE (Center for Organ Recovery and Education), the following are common myths regarding organ and tissue donation:
MYTH: If I am in an accident and medical personnel know that I’m a registered donor, they won’t try to save my life.
TRUTH: The number one priority is to save every life. Paramedics, nurses and doctors will do everything possible to save your life. CORE is only notified after all life-saving efforts have failed.
MYTH: There is no difference between being brain dead and being in a coma.
TRUTH: Brain death is the medical, legal and moral determination of death. To verify brain death, a series of tests are performed over a period of time and more than one diagnosis is required before the patient’s family is presented with the opportunity to donate. There is no recovery from brain death.
MYTH: My religion does not support donation.
TRUTH: All major religions consider donation to be an individual decision or support it as the final act of love and generosity toward others.
MYTH: The rich and famous receive preferential treatment on the transplant waiting list.
TRUTH: Financial and celebrity status do not determine who receives a transplant. A national computer network, maintained by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), matches organs according to height, weight and blood type, followed by medical urgency and then time accrued on the waiting list. Age, race, gender, religious affiliation or financial status are not factors determining who receives a transplant.
MYTH: I am too old to register to become an organ donor.
TRUTH: There is no age limit for organ donation. Every potential donor is evaluated on a case-by-case basis at the time of their death to determine which organs and tissues are suitable for donation.
MYTH: My organs aren’t of any value because of my medical illnesses.
TRUTH: Few illnesses or conditions prevent someone from being a donor. At the time of death, CORE reviews medical and social histories to determine suitability. Although someone may not be able to donate blood, it does not always prevent the individual from donating organs and tissues.
MYTH: Organs go to people who didn’t take care of theirs.
TRUTH: Organs go to people who were born with or developed diseases that have caused organ failure. Less than 5% of people awaiting transplant have damaged their organ through substance abuse and they must achieve and sustain sobriety before they can be listed for transplant.
MYTH: My family will have to pay for costs related to my donation.
TRUTH: Donors and their families are not responsible for any costs related to donation. All costs are incurred by the organ procurement organization.
MYTH: Organs are bought and sold on the black market.
TRUTH: In alliance with the National Organ Transplant Act, the buying and selling of organs and tissue is illegal. Additionally, due to the complexity of organ transplantation, necessary involvement from highly trained medical professionals, the process of matching donors with recipients, the need for modern medical facilities, and the support required for transplantation, it would be impossible for organs to be bought or sold on the black market.
MYTH: The recipient will learn my identity.
TRUTH: Information about an organ donor is only released to the recipient if the family of the donor requests or agrees to it. Otherwise, a patient’s privacy is maintained for both donor families and recipients.
Giving the gift of a kidney, a lobe of a lung, or a portion of the liver, pancreas or intestine, living donors offer patients an alternative to waiting on the national transplant list for an organ from a deceased donor. The number of living organ donors is more than 6,000 per year, and one in four of these donors are not biologically related to the recipient.
What is Living Donation?
The majority of organ donations occur after a donor has died. However, living donation is possible with certain organs and tissues, enabling doctors to save more people in desperate need of a transplant. Living kidney and liver donors can range from family members and friends to anonymous individuals if they meet the requirements to donate.
Advantages of Living Donation
When doctors are able to transplant an organ from one family member to another, the genetic match often decreases the risk of rejection.
Because it is a living donation, the procedure can be scheduled at a convenient time for both the donor and recipient.
Kidney transplant recipients often see an immediate return of normal function.
Types of Organs Supplied by Living Donors
Kidney – Individuals can donate one of their two kidneys to a recipient, making this the most common form of living organ donation. Although donors will see a decrease in kidney function after donation, their remaining kidney will function properly in working to remove waste from the body.
Liver (lobe) – People can donate one of two lobes of their liver. The liver cells in the remaining lobes of the liver regenerate after the donation until the organ has regrown to almost its original size. This occurs in both the donor and recipient
Lung (lobe) – Lung lobes do not regenerate, but individuals can donate a lobe of one lung. Living lung donation occurs when two adults give the right and left lower lobes (from each respectively) to a recipient. The donor’s lungs must be the right volume and size to be a correct match.
Matching Donors and Transplant Patients
Paired donation or paired exchange involves two pairs of potential living kidney donors and transplant candidates who are not compatible. The two candidates “trade” donors so that each candidate receives a kidney from a compatible donor.
Kidney donor waiting list exchange occurs when a living donor who is incompatible with the intended transplant candidate donates to an anonymous candidate on the waitlist so the intended candidate can be given higher priority on the waitlist.
Blood type incompatible donation occurs when a transplant candidate receives a kidney from a living donor with an incompatible blood type. To decrease the risk of rejection of the donated organ, candidates receive specialized medical treatment before and after the transplant.
Positive cross-match donation involves a living donor and a transplant candidate who are incompatible because antibodies (a protein substance) in the candidate will immediately react against the donor’s cells, causing loss of the transplant. Specialized medical treatment is provided to the candidate to prevent rejection.
Certain living donation options may not be available at all transplant centers. Contact transplant centers directly for information on specific programs.
History of Living Donation
The first successful living donation took place when, in 1945, Dr. Joseph Murray transplanted a healthy kidney from Ronald Herrick into his twin brother, Richard. He had been suffering from chronic kidney failure, but lived a healthy life after the transplant until his death from causes not related to the transplant. Ronald, his living donor brother, lived for 56 years after the surgery until his death in 2010.
Altruistic Kidney Donation
Living kidney donors who are not related to or known by the recipient are known as non-directed donors. This type of selfless donation can also be referred to as altruistic or anonymous non-directed kidney donation.
In this case, the transplant center determines how the donor’s kidney will be used. Non-directed donors may help multiple transplants occur by donating to a paired donation program where their altruistic donation may be useful to a “chain” of donations. It is important to note that living donors are never paid – it is illegal to donate an organ for profit under the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984, and transplant centers are prohibited from accepting living donors who have been pressured to donate.
When the organ recipient knows the potential donor, the recipient’s insurance pays for clinical evaluations to ensure they are in the best possible state of health to move forward with the donation. If you are an altruistic donor without a known recipient, your insurance provider will most likely refuse to pay for your evaluation tests. Luckily, most local transplant centers cover these expenses. Please visit CORE’s website to view links to all kidney transplant centers within the CORE service area.
To Become a Living Donor
The health and safety of a living donor is the most important priority in any transplant procedure involving a living donor. Emotionally and physically, living donors must be in top condition.
Living Donors Must…
Donate voluntarily. At any time during the donation process a living donor may change his or her mind. This decision will be kept confidential.
Be in good health overall with normal organ function and anatomy.
Be physically fit. In most cases, donors should not have high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, kidney disease or heart disease.
Not be paid. It is illegal to pay or be paid for a donation under the National Organ Transplant Act of 1984 and state law.
18-60 years old (in most cases).
Complete clinical evaluations beyond the initial donation criteria to confirm compatibility with a recipient. These include physical and psychological evaluations.
Give informed consent. Transplant centers must ensure that the prospective donor has been informed regarding the aspects of living donation and possible outcomes.
Types of Living Donors Directed Donation
Related Living Directed Donation: Includes healthy blood relatives of candidates:
Brothers and sisters
Children over 18 years of age
Other blood relatives (aunts, uncles, cousins, half-brothers and -sisters, nieces and nephews)
Non-related Directed Donation: These are healthy, unrelated living donors who are emotionally close to transplant candidates, including:
Relatives through marriage
Co-workers, neighbors or other acquaintances
Non-directed/Altruistic Donation: These living donors are not related and unknown to the recipient. Altruistic donors make their donation for purely selfless reasons and are sometimes called anonymous donors.
Paired Exchange Donation: This system enables a living donor to initiate a chain of transplants to the benefit of more than one person in need. Non-directed kidney donors who wish to donate to anyone waiting for a kidney can be included in paired exchange donation programs.
The Decision to Donate
The decision to donate is very personal, and potential donors should make their decision with all the available information to make an informed choice. Donation must be a voluntary decision that is free from pressure of any kind.
A living donor may change his or her mind at any point in the donation process. This decision and any reasons will be kept strictly confidential. Potential donors should consider the possible health effects of donation as well as the life-saving potential for the transplant recipient.
Usually, a donor’s life returns to normal within four to six weeks after the surgery, but because of all the effects on donors, particularly unknown long-term effects, the federal government does not actively encourage any individual to make a living donation. They do recognize the wonderful gift provided to transplant recipients, and through the Division of Transplantation, Health Resources Services Administration and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the federal government works to support living donors.
Medical expenses for living donation are generally covered by the recipient’s insurance plan. Transplant centers are required to charge recipients an “acquisition fee” upon receiving a transplant, which covers the donor’s pre-donation clinical evaluations, the transplant procedure and postoperative care, also referred to as “donor protocol.” Other costs outside of this protocol are not covered. More extensive and detailed information about the financial aspects of the procedure can be provided by the transplant center.
Who Makes a Good Donor?
Ultimately, a transplant center has the definitive say on whether or not a person can become a living donor. A person who wishes to make a living donation is carefully screened for the best possible physical and psychological outcome for both the donor and the recipient.
Resources for Living Donation
Contact the potential recipient’s transplant center to receive more information or be tested as a potential living donor for someone you know. Ask to speak with the transplant coordinator who will be able to provide you with additional information and get you started in the donation process.
Visit websites below for additional information:
Kidney Paired Donation Resources:
National Living Donor Assistance Center (NLDAC)
Alliance for Paired Donation (APD)
National Kidney Registry (NKR)
United Network for Organ Sharing
U.S. Federal Health Resources and Services Administration
American Society for Transplantation
National Kidney Foundation
Living Kidney Donor Network (LKDN)
I’ve heard friends and acquaintances express wonder and concern at how some individuals don’t “play be the rules” during these challenging times. Seeing some people in public wearing what I sarcastically call an “invisible mask” (failing to wear a mask at all), or wearing it around the neck, or below the nose is more than annoying, seems to me to be utterly disrespectful and displays downright indifference (and frankly, spits in the face of safety) regarding the many possible consequences.
So, do these cloth or paper masks give us a false sense of security? Not the point. Are there some who assure themselves that they won’t contract this virus or if they do, they’ll survive it with outside effects? Again, not the point.
What ever happened to treating each other with dignity and respect? I cannot imagine how I would feel if, through neglect or carelessness, I were the cause of someone catching this, or worse, not surviving it. Whether a loved one, friend, acquaintance or stranger; it makes no difference. We must care for and protect each other, rather than taking a cavalier attitude towards everything and everyone. Life is precious. Precious!
A day for remembering. A day for cherishing. A day for gratitude for the memories, the love, the laughter and the tears. God Bless not only all those here with us but also those gone, missed and still loved, honoring and holding them forever in our hearts.