Thankful is probably the best word I can use to describe the past 12 months in my life. As many of you know, it was a year ago this month that I received “The Call.” It was the phone call I’d been waiting months for — the message that a lung had been found for me and surgery could be scheduled.
Believe me when I say that when you receive that call, your life instantly changes. Maybe you think you’ve prepared your head for that moment, but when it occurs, a thousand thoughts and questions jostle for position in your brain, and it leaves you spinning. But, I knew that to survive, I had to get through this.
While the process was just beginning for my family and me, someone else’s journey had come to an end. Sadly, the reality was that in order for me to live, someone else had to die. My wife Jill and I remain very thankful to the donor and the donor’s family for this selfless gift. It hasn’t been an easy road or one without challenges, but I am alive and every day I give thanks to them.
After my ordeal, I felt the immediate desire to share my story with anyone who would listen. I’ve spoken often at events presented through the Iowa Donor Network, and I’ve promoted organ donor awareness through J&P Cycles and the National Motorcycle Museum. We’ve created flyers and brochures and have handed them out quite liberally to anyone who will take them. In addition, we placed a link on J&P’s main home page where people can learn more about organ donation. There they are directed to a website to sign up to be an organ donor, or they can simply read my story about successful organ donation.
The motorcycling community has been my livelihood for more than three decades and I can’t begin to tell you what a tremendous group of people they are! Bikers across the nation have stepped up to the challenge, and many have signed up to be organ donors. According to Donate Life, every 10 minutes another name is added to the national organ waiting list. And each day, an average of 18 people die because an organ is not available for transplant. These are sad statistics.
In the past year, I’ve had so many people come up to me and ask about the process. Customers, organ donor recipients and even donors have reached out to me in various capacities — all of them sharing their stories. And it has touched me deeply. The words of encouragement, the prayers and the support shown to my family and me have been tremendous and I thank each and every one of you for that.
In the last year, our family has grown. Our son, Zach and his wife Bree, gave us a second grandchild in May — a daughter they named Kinlee. If not for my transplant, I would not have been able to witness this miracle and that to me, is the most tremendous gift of all – enjoying both Kaiden and Kinlee as often as I can.