Ever since I discovered I was pregnant, I’ve wanted to write another letter to my donor’s family. I’ve written to them twice before, once was soon after my transplant - too soon actually. My emotions were still too crazed to be able to write words that somehow got across my gratitude while acknowledging their grief. I was trying to share my happiness as though that might be a silver lining in the face of their sadness, how absurd! I wasn’t surprised I didn’t get a reply. I wrote again last Christmas, but just a very short letter to say I never stopped thinking about them.
On the one year anniversary of my donor’s death, last January, I planned to write to them again. Only on the exact date, by some cruelness, I witnessed the other side of my experience and saw exactly what they’d been through when one of my very best friends lost her Mum unexpectedly. I saw everything differently and wanted to write to my donor’s family to say that I’m sorry it had taken me a year but now I get it and I’m so so sorry for their loss. But I couldn’t find the words. They felt empty and hypocritical.
Then yesterday, in a WhatsApp group I’m part of for the Transplant Games, somebody let us know that he had received a letter from his donor’s family. And a feeling I wasn’t expecting at all pierced my gut. I am so happy for him, but I am so envious.
Sometimes I think about if I’d like the option to meet my donor’s family. I would of course jump at it, but I’m not oblivious to the fact I might regret it. I think about my donor a lot and imagine what she’s like. I imagine her as this perfect angel with every trait I value in a person and I imagine her family to be just like mine. And that’s just not that realistic is it. Maybe I should hope she was actually an awful person with no family so that her loss isn’t so big. But I know that’s not true because she was on the donor register, therefore I know she’s a good person - a really really good person.
So I think it’s time for me to write to tell my donor’s family about the baby. About the brand new life that wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for her - and for them and their kind consent. Maybe it’ll go something like this…
To my dear donor’s family
It has been twenty-one months since my liver transplant. Twenty-one months since the passing of my donor, your loved one. I have wanted to write to you again on so many occasions but I know tales of my life must be so unimportant compared to the life that you lost. I think about her every day and I wish there was some way I could thank her. She’s given me so much more than my life back.
Since my transplant I am back to full strength and fitness - back to work, running, decorating, even moaning again! I feel as good as new, only even better. I feel stronger and filled with a gratitude that makes every day - even the rubbish days - so special they almost sparkle. There’s only one person that has made this possible for me. Without her I wouldn’t be here at all and there is not a moment I don’t think how lucky I am that she chose to be an organ donor and that you agreed to her wishes. I cannot thank her or you enough, you saved my life and I want you to know that there’s somebody out there always always grateful to you.
I also have some news that I’ve wanted to share with you for a while now - I am expecting my first baby this Christmas! Your loved one didn’t only save me, she has helped to create this whole perfect new life and they will grow up knowing there was this wonderful woman who saved their mum and that there are good, kind people in the world. I know nothing will bring her back to you, but I would like you to know she has left a lifelong legacy in my family, she’s our hero.
Thinking of you always
Letters are anonymous, sent via the hospital and checked for content, but if I were allowed I’d finish the letter by saying how much me and the baby would like to meet them, how I’d love to show them the little life (and the big life) they are so much a part of.
Mainly I just want to hug them. Now I’ve written that draft I feel ready to put pen to paper, thank you for helping me warm up my words!