September 22, 1990. Three things happened in Los Angeles 24 years ago today.
One: Tommy Lasorda celebrated his 63rd birthday at the Ravine.
Two: The Dodgers gifted their skipper with a 6-3 victory over the hated Giants, Dennis Cook besting Mike LaCoss. Kirk Gibson went two for three while playing center field, with Juan Samuel contributing a homer among his three hits.
Three: Your humble scribe received the gift of life, after a year on dialysis, with a great and wonderful transplanted kidney, which to this day (thanks to my sister Analee for the naming suggestion) I call “Special K.”
And by the way, while I’m not always all that humble, as implied above, I certainly am today. Humble and grateful to the family of a young man who’d died tragically after a motorcycle accident the night before, for their incredibly caring and selfless gift.
I’ve thought about this a lot in the 24 years of my new life, and especially each year when I celebrate September 22 like a birthday. And I wasn’t the only one – there was a heart transplanted into a recipient that same day from that same young man, and presumably another kidney, a liver, two lungs and God knows what else – but it might very well be that I’m the longest surviving patient. Probably, in fact.
Twenty-four years is a long time for a cadaver kidney, and I have a responsibility to that family, and to the transplant community. I’ve thought about it a lot.
I take damn good care of that organ (yes, I pay more attention to certain organs than others; you can use your imagination as to which ones), taking it out for walks, to plenty of baseball games, and watering it regularly. I hope to take it to a bleeping World Series before much longer.
And I’m planning on 24 more of these birthdays. More, if I can help it. And I can help it. I struggle with diet and consistent exercise, but I know I have to keep trying. Move forward. Progress, not perfection, yes, but I have to keep trying.
There is no call to action in this blog post. I’m not asking you to send money to this organization or that, and I’m not going to give you some big schpiel about signing and carrying a donor card. You can do those things, certainly, and great if you do, but I’m not asking.
Talking to your family about your wishes is a good idea too. It’s a real good idea, in fact, so I’ll go ahead and make that suggestion. Please talk to your loved ones about your thoughts – and about theirs. Do you want to be a potential donor? Do they? If you haven’t decided, perhaps you can ponder awhile, and whatever you come up with is fine by me.
I will say this, however, and emphatically: the system works. The organ transplantation system works in this country. Not perfectly, but it works. Please don’t get caught up in the sensational, and often fictional stuff you may see in a “Law & Order” episode or wherever. The system works, and I am “living, smiling proof.”
They say there are two times when you are to be congratulated walking into a hospital. One is when you’re having a baby; the other when you’re arriving for a transplant operation.
I felt congratulated when greeted by the good people of UCLA (Go Bruins!) that beautiful Saturday morning, September 22, 1990, and it made a difference. Special K starting functioning – with pee, glorious pee flowing by the bucket full – almost from the moment they hooked me up with that extension cord thing, and it hasn’t stopped since.
I’m just extremely grateful to my support system of family and friends, to the many doctors and nurses in my two cities of L.A. in San Diego these 24 years, and to the family who made the call. And I wanted to share with you.
Now, can Special K and I have a World Series to attend, please. Finally. Is that too much to ask? See what you can do, Dodgers.