Well, what a year 2019 turned out to be. As I approach my “handiversary” I am feeling grateful for the second chance I’ve been given.
But when my son Rory and I marvel at the great gift I’ve been given, we are also reminded of the anniversary my brave donor family is facing and my heart breaks for them.
I’ve lost a few loved ones over the last year. I have also been thinking a lot about my donor’s family as they have just spent their first Christmas and New Year without their loved one.
I have been in contact and they know how thankful I am to be able to hold, touch and feel again after six years without hands. I will never take my new hands for granted and will push them hard – like the rest of my long-suffering body – with a total respect for their original owner.
The Organ Donation Register makes a big change this year as the “Opt Out” plan comes into being. Whilst it will include those who haven’t got round to joining and therefore create lots more donors, it still requires family consent, which is often refused.
My preference is still to encourage everyone who is able to consider opting in to be given the choice of what to include, and for it to be legally binding, like your will.
That way your family don’t have to even consider the subject at the worst possible time.
You choose to give life or change lives when you’re able and well enough to make the decision.
Organ Donation has a great website that considers your feelings and helps you decide (organdonation.nhs.uk).
Where do you want your body parts to go? The furnace, the ground…or to someone who may die without them?
I wouldn’t have died without new hands but having a transplant was life-changing.
It was a tough first few months as the wounds healed, the joints strengthened and the physios and occupational therapists encouraged me through the pain barrier. I fought off infection after infection in hospital and battled side effects which caused my kidneys to struggle.
Rory has had the best family supporting him while I’ve been less able to be mummy.
I’m so proud of how he has coped with changing schools and settling in to his new routines along the way.
We are now through the worst and it seems my body has not rejected my new hands (touch wood).
I feel more and more like my old self every day. I’m looking forward to 2020. I have set myself lots of new challenges, including the Edinburgh Meadows half-marathon, which I’ll run with friends (including some amputees) in only eight weeks’ time.
Later this year I will be celebrating my 50th birthday. I plan to make the most of the second chance I have been given and there’s lots of work still to be done. Although I am determined to stay positive, it’s hard to ignore the negatives in the world just now.
Talking to our “Troopers” at my charity, Finding Your Feet, I was sorry to discover a few were alone this Christmas due to mobility issues, such as an upstairs toilet at the host’s house, or simply because family live too far away.
Hopefully we’ll sort that next year.
It’s easy to get caught up in the constant festive hype and advertising, but this year I made a point of thinking about all those who struggle at Christmas and how I could help.
It’s so clear to me that we need a community now more than ever. I’m going to dedicate myself to helping Finding Your Feet thrive and help as many people as possible.
If you can get involved in any way, please do get in touch. May yours be a good New Year, of health, happiness and, above all else, helping others.
The best present ever…a scary mannequin for my brill brother
My best Christmas present was the one I gave to my humbug brother, Davy.
He hates all the drama, stress, exaggeration, commercialisation and expense of Christmas and its effect on people.
This year I stumbled upon the “White Envelope” theory that tells of a similar person and how a kind gift or action made him much happier.
Davy cared for a friend in Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice earlier last year and got to know it well, so I bought him five Christmas lunches to give to patients there. He understands mental health challenges much more than most and helps many friends, so I also bought him therapy sessions for amputees at Finding Your Feet to help their focus and positive direction.
Lastly, he is massively into environmental issues, often reminding us to “Save the Bumble”, so I bought him three saplings to start his own forest. It was possibly the best response I’ve had from him, ever.
I also managed to “acquire” him a scary butler mannequin from a now-closed museum – I wasn’t sure if he had one already, but apparently not!