Ursula Neal, Registered Donor
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The decision to be a registered organ donor was an easy one for my family and me...
My father was a hospital administrator and I grew up doing my homework at his office, which also happened to be near the emergency room. We grew up knowing and seeing that tragedy can strike in many different ways, and it was not specific to any particular age group or gender. Even before transplantation was as frequent as it is nowadays, there was a very loud verbal understanding within my family that none of us wanted any heroics performed should tragedy befall us and that they (the doctors) should use whatever parts they could to help other people.
Many years later, a married mom of one, anxiously awaiting the birth of our second child, I was soon (as was my entire family) catapulted into a world for which we really had no experience. Our positions changed from potential donors to parents of a potential recipient. Our daughter, Kelli, was born with a fatal lung disease, meaning that she was expected to die shortly after birth. Although the disease would not even be diagnosed and given a name for another six years, the seriousness and heart-wrenching affects of the disease were very real in that moment. For reasons still unknown, Kelli survived with the assistance of a ventilator (a machine that assisted her breathing) for three months. She was transported from Phoenix Children’s Hospital to St. Louis Children’s hospital where she received a double-lung transplant at the ripe old age of three months!
A double-lung transplant allowed our baby, born dying, to live life to its fullest. As she grew up she learned to tap dance, ballet dance, to ride a bike, to swim, to rock climb and to participate in challenging athletics. It allowed her to have many friends, slumber parties, boy crushes and breakups. It also granted her the ability to be a loving sister and daughter, a great student, an accomplished pianist and be an active participant in helping others less fortunate than her by donating her time and energy. When not in school, she actively promoted organ and tissue donation.
Being registered as an organ donor in our family is just a given – always has been and always will be. We have seen first hand what a wonderful life giving gift transplantation is. Out of tragedy something beautiful was born. An organ donor so graciously donated lungs to our daughter and a wonderful life was the result of that gift. Personally, I would give my heart to be a gift so wonderful, and hope that one day I have the opportunity to do so. Life is precious; so live it and then give it. Kelli’s tag line: “Every day that you are alive is a great day!”