After transplant, you are given the opportunity to write a letter to your donor's family.
A chance to disclose your thoughts, your appreciation, your story, your hopes and dreams. Whatever feels natural to you at the time of sitting with pen and paper.
I knew this would be something I would have to do and want to do before I had my transplant whilst I was still on the waiting list. There's a board on the wall in transplant clinic that has a few questions and answers about writing your letter to the donor family.
I used to sit and read it every time in my wheelchair and oxygen or huge NIV whilst waiting to see one of the transplant consultants. I'd daydream about what I would write.. what it would feel like to have that opportunity to thank a complete stranger for giving you life. Someone who has no idea who you are either.
I would sit and daydream and in all honesty I would underestimate how hard it would be when the time come.
Fast forward 2 years or so and that call came for me. I am a very, very lucky girl. When I went back to my first clinic post transplant, I sat in the reception waiting room and I read that same board with the same questions and answers. Suddenly it felt different, of course it would do. These questions where so much more real now. This time when I began to think what I would write to my donors family. I drew a blank and I started to panic. I felt utter dread about writing that letter. Just a deep anxiety.
That call was my last chance. I was so close to being on the verge of too poorly for transplant. It came in the nick of time for me but on the other hand for this family's loved one.. time had ran out.
So what do you say to them?
What do you say to a family who are grieving while you're learning to live a whole new life?
I pushed it to the back of my mind. It wasn't the right time and they highly advise you refrain from writing your letter till you are at least 6 months post transplant.
It allows you to recover, it allows you to settle in to this new life a little bit and it gives the family of your donor time to grieve for the one they've loved and lost.
6 months flew by before I knew it and one day it just felt right so I sat with my pen and notepad and I wrote. I wrote whatever came to me and it just flowed. I didn't stop till I felt I had written what I wanted to put across and when I had finished, I had wrote 8 pages. That sounds ridiculously huge but it was a little notepad! When I had gone through and edited out little bits I felt didn't sound right and typed it up on the computer it was 3 and a half pages long.
I worried it would be too much but I passionately wanted to get everything I had in my mind out. I didn't know them and I was under strict instruction to be very careful what I let them know about me due to confidentiality reasons. I was given free rain though really. It was very obvious things I had to stay away from, things like my full name, where in the UK I lived, my age and which hospital I received my transplant at. Other than that, I was told to write anything I wanted to.
Given this information, I felt I wanted to let these people know more about the girl they had selflessly thought about saving at the worst time of their lives.
So I started by introducing myself, as best as I could given the "rules" of confidentiality. I decided to start from the beginning and told them my story with little facts about me such as interests or achievements I had made along the way. Then I got down to the day that call came, I expressed exactly how my health was at the time, I told them the truth. I told them this was my last hope and I would not be here in July (when I wrote my letter) without them making that decision to say yes.
I then wrote a message trying to tell them what that meant to me; if words can even begin to express it.. which they can't.
To end my letter, I wrote a list.
A list of things I intend to do with this life so they knew I wouldn't waste this opportunity and I would be eternally thankful to them and my donor. I told them I would live my life with all the highs and lows that were to come in honour of the person they had lost.
I wouldn't let them down and I don't think I am so far still.