Don't take your organs with you
Leada DeVaney, Hartselle Enquirer
My sister, Anna, is a typical 17-year old. Her thoughts are consumed with notions of shopping, where she's going to college and, much to our family's chagrin, an occasional boyfriend, none of whom are good enough for her.
It seems like Anna always ends up in some sort of trouble. In the last year, she's wrecked my mother's car, gotten a speeding ticket and locked herself out of the house numerous times, not to mention missing curfew on a regular basis.
"I figure you will be grounded until you're 27," I told her recently.
Sometimes it feels we're never going to get Anna out of her teenage years. At other times, it seems just a few years ago she was in a neonatal intensive care unit, fighting for her life.
Anna was born three months premature, weighing in at 1 pound, 13 ounces. She had no hair and her skin was translucent. If we could have held her, she would have fit in the palm of our hands.
Like most premature babies, Anna had some early health problems. She had heart surgery and some breathing treatments. The biggest concern, however, was for her eyes.
Premature babies often have problems with their eyesight and Anna was no different. And while she was thriving in other areas, her eyesight was not. We faced the real possibility that Anna would not be able to see.
And then, a miracle occurred.
Anna, like some 45,000 Americans annually, received a cornea transplant. She recovered well from the surgery, continued to improve and, at age six months, came home from the hospital.
The outfit we brought her home in was made for Cabbage Patch Preemie Dolls. They were the only ones we could find to fit her.
While it may be strange to think of a 17-year-old as an advocate for organ transplants, Anna has become one.
When one of her friends said something about donating organs being "gross," she replied, "No it's not, stupid. Without an organ donation, I couldn't see."
I guess 17-year-olds aren't known for their tact.
March is National Eye Donor Month. It's a time set aside to raise awareness of the importance of ocular donations. The Alabama Eye and Tissue Bank – the same organization that provided Anna with her cornea and a group she later became a posterchild for – works to raise awareness of the procedure and the importance of organ donations.
Anna has a sticker on her mirror in her bedroom that says "Don't take your organs to heaven. Heaven knows we need them here."
And we do. I know one 17-year old who has benefitted greatly from a new set of eyes, even if they didn't help her see that policeman with the radar gun.