One family's loss is another family's hope.
That's the crux of organ donation. It's the good coming out of something awful.
April is Organ Donation Month, and if ever there was a way to emphasize the importance of becoming an organ donor, two recent Tri-City stories do just that.
One was the death of Alicia Foss. The 29-year-old Kennewick woman had waited for nearly four years for a double-lung transplant she hoped would change her life.
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She finally did get her new lungs a couple of years ago, and they provided her with something that she otherwise never would have had -- the gift of time to make memories with her family.
Her story began as a baby, when her lungs were damaged by treatments she received for leukemia. She grew up not realizing there was a problem until she hit her teens and found she couldn't catch her breath.
By her early 20s, Foss was using oxygen regularly and soon became a candidate for a double-lung transplant. She had to use a wheelchair to minimize the chance she would get winded and pass out. But even though she had to be careful about exerting herself, it didn't stop her from becoming an advocate for the Donate Life Today program. She routinely talked at service club luncheons and high school assemblies, encouraging people to become organ donors.
And all the while she waited, waking up every morning hoping to get the call that a match had been found. Finally, almost two years ago, she got it.
The transplant seemed to be a success. When she returned home she was able to walk to her front door on her own without a wheelchair and she began physical therapy to strengthen her leg muscles.
Most of all, she began to make plans. Plans for trips she wasn't sure she would ever be healthy enough to make. During the past couple of years she was able to go to Disneyland, South Carolina, Georgia and Disneyworld in Florida. She was able to move out of her parents' home and into her own apartment. She was on her way.
Then, last fall, she started having trouble breathing again. As it turned out, her body was rejecting her transplanted lungs, and there was nothing doctors could do.
She died April 3.
That was just a few days after a flag raising ceremony was held at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in recognition of the need for organ donations. In attendance was the mother of 16-year-old Sierra Murray, who was killed by a motorist last fall as she was crossing the street near Richland High School.
Sierra was an organ donor and her mother, Roxanne Murray, is a dialysis nurse. She sees patients every day who are waiting for a donor match, so she understands what a difference her daughter's gift likely has made to someone else.
While nothing can truly ease the grief of losing a loved one, knowing a part of them is giving life to someone else is of some comfort.
Anyone wishing to register as an organ donor can do so by contacting Donate Life Today at www.donatelifetoday.com. People also can register to be an organ donor when they renew their driver's license.
It's a simple step that can change someone's life. If anyone needs inspiration, think of Alicia Foss and Sierra Murray. That ought to be enough motivation.