But not in the way you’d think. It’s not the hours or the pay or the poops. It’s how keenly and constantly aware I am of our precious and fragile lives.
Today while I was driving, I came up behind a car with an “organ donors save lives” bumper sticker and I immediately thought, that driver or a loved one of his must have received an organ.
I thought of the times at work when I’m comforting a family who have faced the terrible and sudden death of their loved one who decided to donate their organs. I thought of the gut-wrenching pain that I’ve seen them experience.
And then, the scenario immediately played in my head of what it would look and feel like if my husband became brain dead and was a donor.
As I pictured myself outside of the OR, right after saying my last goodbye to him, doubled over in those kind of tears that make your throat burn, just before they cut him open to procure his pristine organs to immediately ship them to someone who is already asleep on the operating table somewhere else, my eyes flooded with tears at the next stoplight as I pulled up behind him again.
I pictured the would-be family of the patient that would get his lungs, sitting in the OR waiting room with looks of pessimistic relief. They know there’s a possible set of lungs, but they don’t know yet how perfect his lungs are, they don’t know yet that my husband’s death will literally breathe new life into their loved one. I pictured their faces as the surgeon comes out to say the lungs are perfect and they’re going to proceed.
I then thought of that video I saw online of a mother whose 14-year-old daughter suddenly died and they donated her organs. She found out who got her daughter’s heart, and she flew across the country to listen to it beat. And I thought of how I’d want to listen to lungs of my husband, breathing life in someone else.
I stopped to breathe deeply and thank God for every single breath. I uttered a prayer of protection over my husband. And I again realized how thankful I am for each breath he’s breathing right now across town. I forget how thankful I am for those breaths. Each shift that I take care of someone that looks like him, or my dad, or my mom, reminds me how thankful I am for every single breath.
And all of that came from that darn bumper sticker.
Just another day living this nurse life.