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Thank You, 8413494 and 3485761!

   Posted by: admin   in Musings

I’m not all me. Haven’t been since May of last year. Part of me is from an organ donor. I’m grateful more than I can express, and I’ve been thinking about it this week.

I witnessed a car accident a few days ago on my way home from the day job. A small sedan (nobody has ever accused me of being a gearhead, and I was moving along at 45 MPH, so “sedan” is the best I’ve got) decided to slow nearly to a stop. This isn’t uncommon on that stretch of road, where there’s no left turn lane but many businesses and cross streets. In the left lane, rush hour traffic can be a game of Red Light, Green Light (you may have to search childhood memories for that one). The SUV behind the sedan reacted quickly and stopped a few feet short of hitting the sedan. The pickup truck behind the SUV was not so fast to the brake pedal. Honestly, I’m not sure the pickup hit the brakes at all.

I think the SUV then bumped the sedan, but I can’t be sure. I was busy ducking small chunks of plastic bouncing off my window. The back bumper of the SUV ceased to exist, and I saw the crumpled front end of the pickup in my rear view mirror as I passed by. I thought of stopping to make sure everyone was okay, but that would’ve only caused congestion in the right lane and, I admit, there’s always that inkling that someone else is already on top of it.

Besides, there are seatbelt laws, so everyone was probably fine even though it was a pretty good hit.

Then I got home and wondered how I could know that for sure. Which, perhaps being self-absorbed, made me think, “What if that had been me instead of the SUV?” I had been ahead of that pickup truck earlier but having driven that stretch of road every day for the last five years, I knew to switch to the right lane. Sometimes, traffic doesn’t allow the switch, and I’m stuck with Red Light, Green Light. What if yesterday had been one of those days? I drive a Subaru Impreza Outback Sport (we now reach the limit of my vast car knowledge). It’s hardly a large automobile, and I can only imagine the damage that it would’ve sustained. I’d probably have been launched over the sedan instead of into it. Or maybe that’s just the writer in me being overly dramatic.

I’m really not one for what ifs, and I’m not all that concerned about damage to my car, but I did feel lucky as I heard the crack of plastic and the crunch of metal. My mind’s ear immediately heard the spinal surgeon I’d met a little under a year ago.

“If you are in a rear-end car accident, you’ll probably be paralyzed.”

At the time, I had bone spurs on some vertebrae, a bulging disk (between C6 and C7, if that means anything to you), and severe degeneration due to arthritis in my neck. The disk pinched the nerve that runs down my left arm, sometimes giving false tightness to the muscles as if I’d worked out too hard, and sometimes shooting sharp pains that were so intense I couldn’t concentrate on simple conversations.

The bone spurs needed to be filed down and the bulging disk had to go. But the arthritis was so bad that replacing just one disk would put an unbearable strain on the disk above. Yikes! I was a mess!

On May 9, 2011, I had a double cervical spinal fusion (I was asked to repeat that three times after coming out of surgery—apparently, it’s a better indication that you’re doing fine than answering “Who’s the current President?”). I’m told artificial disks last about 15 years, so at my age (forty-three and three-quarters at the time), I would be guaranteed another spinal surgery before turning sixty. I chose the donor option instead.

Two separate donors supplied bone (from the pelvis, I think, but don’t quote me on it). I don’t know their names, where they are from, why they chose to donate, or how they enriched the lives around them. I only know the lot numbers for the bone grafts. And I know that they were good people who have changed at least one life for the better. They did so in death, and I suspect that they’ve improve more than just my life. And while alive, I’d like to believe that they constantly made others’ days brighter.

I’ve had the dream of being a novelist since the eighth grade. I finally saw that dream fulfilled last August when Good Deeds became available as an eBook. The novella The Evolution of Mortality followed. I’m currently working on two more novels and another novella, and I have a dozen other stories battling inside my head to be next, with new ones joining the fray all the time. Like I said, I’m not much of a what if guy, but what if I hadn’t changed lanes that day?

I’ll tell you what if—I’d still be pursuing my dreams because two people gave of themselves so that I could be stronger. I wish I could thank them in person.

Your personal beliefs might not agree with organ donation. That’s perfectly fine with me. You should follow your heart. But if your heart says that being a donor is okay, and you haven’t registered, I urge you to do so. It’s easy. And you might give someone a chance to follow his or her dream.

You can register to be a donor at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services here.

If you’d care to share in my dream, both Good Deeds and The Evolution of Mortality can be found here.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, February 11th, 2012 at 1:26 am and is filed under Musings. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

7 comments so far


A lovely post. Its nice to know more about you. And well done you for all of your achievments :)

February 15th, 2012 at 12:17 am
D. Miles Martin

Thanks, Dawn! Coming from someone as inspiring as you, that means a lot!

February 15th, 2012 at 2:06 am

Hi D.! I think your surgeon owes you a better explanation of what’s going on with your surgery. I had an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion of c5-c6 and c6-c7 two years ago. The spacers were put in with the idea that they would always be there, but would also allow for bone growth. The bone that was grafted was taken from donors, like yours. All of the x-rays I’ve had since then have shown that the bone did grow and continues to grow back. A titanium cage was put in place to hold the screws and rods steady.

May 13th, 2012 at 12:17 am
D. Miles Martin

You may have misunderstood something in my post…or I may have misunderstood your comment…or I may be bad at making a point. At any rate, I want to clarify my meaning.

My “what if” was regarding my decision to have the surgery and not about my decision to switch lanes on that particular day. The near-crash only made me more happy to have made that medical decision, and I have total faith that my surgeon did an excellent job. I owe him and his team a debt of gratitude. If that didn’t come across well in my post, I may also owe him an apology. :-)

It sounds like our surgeries are very similar. (I too have a titanium structure holding everything in place–I wish that made me Wolverine-esque, but the truth is I’m still as much of a whimp as ever!) The surgery went very well, I’ve healed up nicely, and aside from being even less likely to spin my head around like an owl, I’m back to my old self.

Thanks for your comment and concern. You have my wishes for continued good health.

May 13th, 2012 at 12:55 am

I do wish more people would sign up to be do orss – we won’t need our bits when we are gone, but someone else might. I try to encourage people to get sogned up as organ donors (via driver’s license or other method) and also join the national marrow donor registry.

I think many people often don’t realize how important organ, marrow and blood donor programs are, until they need some themselves.

I’m glad you got all fixed up! :-)

November 30th, 2012 at 11:31 pm

Wow I wish I could edit my comment. My typing sucks on a Kindle. :-P

November 30th, 2012 at 11:32 pm
D. Miles Martin

@Gertie, yeah, I’ve been thinking that I need a different blog format that has better discussion capablity. Soon, I hope! In the meantime, no worries about the typos, and all my thanks for taking the time to stop by.

November 30th, 2012 at 11:52 pm

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