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!