I can’t fathom anyone in the world ever having more to be thankful for than I have this year. No offense, but I’ve got dibs on Thanksgiving 2016. I’m pretty sure that’s how these holidays work.

How can I thank each nurse, doctor, surgeon, social worker, family member, friend and stranger who made it possible for me to wake up this morning? The list of things I’m grateful for is quite literally endless.

I gave it a shot, though, and began filling a notebook with things I’m grateful for. Alongside the huge, miraculous, and unassuming items like “organs” and “financial support” were lots of little items, scrawled in the same handwriting. These are just a few of the little things that make me smile: quick showers with no bandage changes, loads of clean laundry with no dizziness from carrying it upstairs, suitcases without IV supplies, comfortable sports bras, pasteurized soft cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery, the purple and green quilt draped over my bed, a particularly special bag of LA-roasted Blue Bottle coffee, transplant pickup lines, my first belay test tag, and power bars.

In listing things that make me smile, I realized that I am most thankful for the ability to smile. Last month a nurse gave me some Lidocaine liquid to swallow before a procedure. Watching my face as I chugged the viscous medication, she started to explain how much better the rest of the process would be because of it. I turned to my mom with a look of utter disgust. Unable to maintain her sympathetic composure, she burst into laughter and I immediately joined in. Another nurse peeked around the curtain and asked to have some of whatever we were drinking. I would have happily obliged, had I not already polished off the Lidocaine. I was still giggling when they took me back.

I owe my ability to smile and laugh through struggle to the people who laugh with me. Sometimes having someone to swap NSFW scar selfies with can make all the difference.

This Thanksgiving I get to go to “Slippery Acres,” a property that has been in my family for three generations. We have spent each of the last eight Thanksgivings there and have established some of my favorite family traditions around the holiday. Things will be a little different this year. For the first time ever I will hike up the driveway between our cabin and the main road without having to stop to catch my breath. We will not be bringing a 100-pound cylinder of liquid oxygen, nor will we be running the generator for nebulizer treatments. We will be laughing (new lungs makes that easier too) and celebrating being together. And we will be thinking of all the people who made this celebration possible.

In my 23rd year I experienced a dependence on others that rivaled my experience as an infant. I made it through and I am slowly regaining my independence, but each and every thing I do now is only possible because of the assistance others have given me. Keeping me alive in 2016 was a shared effort. Now my success can be shared. I see it giving hope to other patients and bringing joy to my loved ones. As my family celebrates being together around our table this year, we know my donor’s family has an empty seat at theirs. All this leaves me with an immense responsibility to make use of the heart and lungs I was given. So I’m going to stop making lists and get back to doing that. Happy Thanksgiving!


P.S. “Blog readers” is also in the notebook. Thank you for reading!



9 thoughts on “Thanksgiving

  1. Kayla Gloisten says:

    Wow tears as usual (and smiling, too!) GREAT WRITING, just wonderful.
    And, Unless the surgeons also gave you an extra stomach and set of intestines, don’t get too ambitious with that pile of food for thanksgiving 😉 … (the advice we give others is the advice we ourselves need, hehe.)


  2. I continue to be in awe of you and your insight into the crazy medical/psych/social world that surrounds you and other transplant recipients. I can only imagine others following in your shoes are so encouraged.. Wishing you and your family a most wonderful Thanksgiving!!!


  3. Molly Pearson says:

    Wonderful words K, keep writing! Having gone through some of these experiences with you, and our family, has added depth to my life in a way that is difficult to describe and also difficult to overstate. Love you and I admire your beauty and grace. P.S., say hi to Slips for me!!! Auntie Moll.


  4. Norene says:

    As usual, I am reduced to tears. Your transplant definitely makes my list of events I am grateful for in 2016. So glad that your organs are giving you the life you hoped for and more. I know they don’t come without their own special hell, but overall…what a blessing.


  5. patti anderson says:

    What a privilege to know you. I love love your posts and your story. You are so appreciative and eager to test out life. You go girl, and never look back. I am so thankful you got new innards. 🙂


  6. Harmony Elie says:

    Kathleen –
    I look forward to each of your blogs. I’m grateful that your dad (whom I work with) has shared your blog with us. Your list of things you are grateful for is inspiring to me, and allowed me the introspective chance to make my own list even longer (Thank you!). You have a talent for writing and I appreciate you sharing that talent (and your experience) with the rest of us. Please continue to write … that request comes from a completely greedy/self-centered place, as I enjoy your writing so much. I hope your Thanksgiving was fulfilling, that your holiday season is joyful, and that 2017 brings you even more wonderful milestones to blog about!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Donna Sheffer says:

    Kathleen your story has been so inspiring. You are a exceptional young lady and you will continue to inspire as you go through out life may god bless you . Wishes are for you to continue enjoying life. Donna Sheffer . Verona, Va.

    Liked by 1 person

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