Next month marks 23 years since a landmark day in my family, a time that forever changed me.
My baby nephew received a liver transplant within days of his first birthday. In 1989, infant liver transplants were new. Something like two hospitals in the nation were doing them, and only a few hundred infant liver transplants had even been attempted. Omaha had one of those hospitals. A good number of infants didn't make it.
Michael almost didn't. I remember phone calls across the country to plan a funeral. Tears. My brother and his wife practically living at the hospital. Reports that Michael's bed looked like it was covered in plastic spaghetti because of all the tubes. It was one of the first times in my life I dropped to my knees and sobbed with a desperate prayer. He pulled through.
Then, at nineteen, having defied every odd, Michael was called to serve an LDS mission, and this spring, he graduates from Brigham Young University with a bachelor's degree and a teaching certificate. (He'll be an awesome teacher, by the way.)
Organ donation hit close to home again several years after Michael's transplant, when my cousin's son needed a new heart. He got the heart. It didn't last as long as Michael's liver has, but it did give him a few more years before he passed away shortly before his high school graduation.
When my son turned fifteen and got his driver's permit, he almost didn't check the box that would make him an organ donor. It was only then that I realized he didn't know all of his cousin's story. I cleared my throat to ward off emotion then simply said, "Check the box. I'll explain when we get home. You are going to be an organ donor."
That same son was only weeks old when I met Sherri. We'd moved into her neighborhood, and I immediately liked her. She coughed a lot, but I was assured she wasn't contagious with anything (which put me at ease when my newborn son was near).
Later, my husband and I taught a Primary class filled with energetic 9-year-olds, including Josh, Sherri's son.
I learned that Sherri was born with Cystic Fibrosis, a disease I'd never heard of. She taught me about it. I learned how CF sufferers eventually die because their lungs get clogged and damaged with mucus. It's the mucus that made her cough. I found out that when she was born, the life expectancy of babies with CF had been about age 14. She wasn't supposed to have lived as long as she already had, let alone give birth and be around to see her son turn 9.
She's fought the odds, worked on keeping herself (and her lungs) as healthy as possible. That means regular hospitalizations, home treatments, medications, and so much more.
Sherri and I were good friends. We went to League of Utah Writers meetings together. We joined the same critique group. She moved. She kept fighting.
Josh is now in his twenties. He's a returned missionary and a college graduate. His mother wasn't supposed to live long enough to see any of that. She did.
But Sherri has now reached the point that her lungs are giving out. On her doctors' advice, she's on a transplant list
In short: Sherri needs new lungs. It's an extraordinarily difficult (and expensive!) decision.
Her family has a site devoted to Sherri's story, where people can donate what they can to help.
If you can donate even a few dollars, please do. Visit Lungs for Sherri, to learn more about CF, about Sherri, and to donate what you can.