Please don’t bury me
Down in that cold, cold ground.
No, I’d druther have ’em cut me up
And pass me all around.
Long ago when I was young and presumably healthy, I signed up to be an organ donor through a national registry. I was proud of my Official Organ Donor card and key chain and took comfort that my life wouldn’t be a total waste if my organs could heroically save some strangers. (I figured I was too much of a coward to save anyone’s life in the run-into-a-burning-building or dive-into-icy-water ways.) I could redeem myself by donation.
My illnesses have compromised my liver and heart, dry eye damaged the corneas, allergies inflamed my lungs, my guts were never great, and my kidneys will go where the liver takes them. It's a doubly depressing situation to go from donor to potential recipient status. To escape from my own depressing world, I like to escape into British novels. Imagine my surprise when I selected a likely tome about a boarding school in Britain and discovered that Never Let Me Go was a tale about an alternate reality in which (spoiler alert!) the early perfection of cloning technologies made living organ donation a technically simple but morally questionable routine procedure.
An acquaintance from many years ago recently offered to donate part of her liver to me whenever it was my time, but the thought of accepting it horrifies me. Why don't more people make the gift of deceased donation? According to the Center for Organ Recovery and Donation, between 10,000 and 12,000 people die annually who are considered medically suitable for organ donation, yet only 6,200 donate. I don't understand how anyone could refuse one last redemptive act. It's a "no-brainer" to me, and it was embarrassingly painful when, after my diagnosis, I told the DMV to take "organ donor" off my license because my organs were no good.
Please don't bury me
Down in that cold, cold ground
. . .
Throw my brain
In a hurricane,
And the blind can have my eyes
And the deaf can take both of my ears
If they don't mind the size.
I have since learned that not only organs but tissue can be donated as well: bone, tendons, ligaments, corneas, arteries, and heart valves. And surgeons can now transplant whole hands and faces.
Please don't bury me
Down in that cold cold ground
. . .
Venus de Milo can have my arms
I think there's still some of me that isn't too damaged by hemochromatosis or cirrhosis. With that in mind, I restored the "organ donor" designation on my recently renewed driver's license—which I conceal behind a medical alert card that gives fair warning about my vital organs. The picture on my driver's license gives fair warning about my face.
(Originally written for the MySickLiver newsletter)