I found a note from my son to his dad the other day. Written around 18 months ago when he was still eight, when his father was unwell and yet again back in hospital, it had found its way to the bottom of a kitchen drawer.
“I miss you so much,” he’d written, huge awkward letters that sloped all the way down the page. “It’s like a big part has been taken out of my life. Please get well soon.”
There were kisses all over and a wee drawing of the two of them. And reading it took me back to a hellish place which, looking back, is almost hard to believe was for real. On Saturday, it will be a year to the day since my husband underwent a lifesaving liver transplant and not a day too soon either, for the weeks leading up to September 28, 2012 were spent tottering in a strange twilight zone between him being here and not.
Since then not a day has passed when I’ve not thought of the miracle of transplant surgery, of how somewhere behind that ridiculously long scar that stretches across his abdomen, is someone else’s liver keeping him alive.
As the first anniversary of his transplant draws nearer, it’s impossible not to think of the family at the other end of this invisible chain that binds us together. We have no idea of the circumstances surrounding their loss, their loved one’s age, sex or background, but as we nudge closer to the first anniversary of an event that brought us such relief, it’s with the acute awareness that for them, this is a time of immense sadness and grief.
I hope if they could see us going about our day-to-day lives – my husband now back working part-time, home life ticking along – it would bring some comfort to them as they count the days to the anniversary of their loss.
Last year 1200 donors helped more than 3000 patients undergo life-saving transplants in the UK, which is phenomenal. But still three people die every day because a suitable organ hasn’t been found, leaving behind a permanent missing part for families, friends and colleagues.
Signing the organ donor register and telling family of your wishes takes moments but the impact, should the very worst happen, is – believe me – immeasurable.