Monday, August 22, 2011

A Letter to my Donor

Contact between a marrow donor and the recipient is tightly controlled. At this point, though, I can write to my donor just so long as the letter contains absolutely nothing that can identify me. This I have done, and I'm sharing it with you now.
Monday, August 22, 2011
My Dear Donor,

I have hesitated to write to you because, no matter how hard I’ve tried, I can’t find adequate words to thank you for saving my life. You’ve given me the greatest gift one person can give another. A spontaneous rescue, such as a bystander giving CPR, is a wonderful act, but donating in the way you did is, to me, an even greater act of generosity: without immediate motivation, you decided that donating was something important for you to do, and you made a considerable effort to do it. You won’t be written up as a hero in the local newspaper, like the quick-thinking bystander might be: yet what you did was greater—a deep, pure and unselfish act of the highest goodness.

I would not be alive today without you. Last year, I was nearing the end of a twelve-year battle against a generally incurable, universally fatal cancer. There was so much of it, there was no way I could have survived longer than a few months. Yet, here I am, more than a year later, looking great, weight-lifting at the gym, and making long-term plans. I wasn’t cured, but the cancer was dramatically reduced to a manageable level.

It took a long time to find you: apparently, and surprisingly to me, there was something unusual about my blood that made you hard to find. When you were found, and volunteered, they had searched for months and I had reached the end of my rope.

Of course, I didn’t want to die, but more than my survival was at stake: I’m married and raising four teenagers (three girls and a boy) who endlessly delight me. Although they are my step-children, I find myself loving them beyond all reason. One of my most unhappy recurring thoughts was imagining how much my death would have hurt them: they need a good father, and I’m trying my best to be one with some success. Thank you for making it possible for me to continue taking care of them.

The transplant was difficult. I spent four months in hospital, including eighteen days in Intensive Care: I nearly died three times. I came out fifty-five pounds lighter (no fat, little muscle). Recovery took more than seven months. During my hospital stay, my wife was with me, night and day. She took care of me as much as any of the nurses, even sleeping in the second bed in my room. We are very close, and neither of us had ever before had such happiness in a relationship. We are in love: thank you for letting us continue enjoying each other. I hope some day that you and I will get to know each other, and that you might meet my wonderful family.

I used to be of one blood type, but now that your blood flows through me, I have your blood. Since you moved in, my nails have gotten thicker, my hair, which had started to gray, reverted to my childhood light-brown with reddish highlights. You’ve renovated your new home, and I like the improvements. You’re a great roommate!

With inexpressible gratitude, I sign myself,

Your Living and Loving Recipient