On a cool day in March of 1999 my family got the call that would change our lives forever.
It’d been more than a year since my mom, Kim Hampstead, was diagnosed with a terminal and rare lung disease at age 34. She needed a double-lung transplant to live much longer, news that wrecked her and dad as they both wrestled with the reality that life was forever changing. But as one of the more than 100,000 on the transplant recipient list, we held out hope.
We waited anxiously to hear from her doctors and experienced a few false alarms. Organ transplants are very complex and all the variables must match perfectly to work.
Then, around 3 a.m. that March morning, dad picked up the phone to hear a doctor’s voice. It was time.
Surrounded by family and friends, my twin sister Nikki and I waited anxiously at UAB hospital in Birmingham. After 10+ hours a surgeon walked out and delivered the news: she made it through the operation and the transplant was successful. It was a miracle, a second chance. And when mom received her second chance at life that day, we did, too.
After recovery, mom was herself again. She enjoyed everyday stuff – walks in the grass barefoot, hangouts with our dog, Toby – her bff. I remember one time when our family went out to dinner and laughed so hard we all cried … for a long time …. in public. I’ll never forget that night.
She drank Kool-aid on the porch, waiting for us to walk home from school each day. Dad took her on dates more often than ever.
“She loved dancing so we’d go out and sometimes shut the place down,” Dad said.
Mom stood by our side through stuff like prom-hair-gone horribly wrong in ninth grade and sporting events. She helped Nikki through her first horrible heartbreak and teased me about my first real crush. We ventured to Florida for family vacations. She taught me to drive. She taught Nikki to be tough. She was there.
The transplant afforded her the chance to be a mom, a wife and a friend, to do the little things we take for granted every day.
Although she passed away in 2006, mom got to make memories and do life with us for seven beautiful years after the transplant; years we could’ve missed, dances un-danced, laughs un-laughed. But we didn’t, all because a woman from Miami decided to be an organ donor.
April is National Donate Life Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness and support for organ and tissue donation. Saying “yes” to being an organ donor now could mean being a miracle later for those waiting on an ever-growing transplant recipient list. Their families will be waiting on that call. They’ll be hoping for their second chance, just like us.
Visit Donate Life to learn more about organ and tissue donation or to register as a donor.