DEAR ABBY: At 35, my husband, Tony, was so gorgeous he stopped traffic. He was also artistic, talented, and had the biggest heart of anyone I'd ever met. Like most young couples, we dreamed of buying our first home, starting a family and growing old together. However, on Sept. 23, 1996, our dreams were shattered.
The memories are still a blur: The ambulance trip to the hospital. Emergency surgery for bleeding in the brain. The shocking discovery of a brain tumor. He was briefly conscious after surgery, then my darling slipped into a coma. The bleeding was unstoppable. Brain death was imminent.
That's when I met Mary. She was Tony's nurse in intensive care. Mary asked me if Tony was an organ donor. From the depths of my grief, I was suddenly given a different kind of hope –- that other lives could be saved and Tony wouldn't die for nothing. I remember that we had talked about his becoming an organ donor when he renewed his driver's license. I knew it was what he had wanted.
Tony's gift of organ donation is his living legacy in the truest sense. Just ask Mel, the liver recipient, who is healthy today; or the farmer who used to have to drive six hours for kidney dialysis, who can now enjoy the work he loves again. With so many people on the waiting lists today, organ donation is truly a gift of life. -- ROSE D'ACQUISTO, NATIONAL KIDNEY FOUNDATION DONOR FAMILY COUNCIL
DEAR ROSE: Thank you for your important letter. April is National Donate Life Month. For more information about organ donation, or a free organ donor card, readers can contact the National Kidney Foundation at Box DA, 30 E. 33rd St., New York, NY 10016, or call (800) 622-9010. The Web site is: � HYPERLINK "http://www.kidney.org" ��www.kidney.org�.
I've learned that as of October 2002, 80,000 individuals are waiting for transplants; of those, 53,000 are waiting for kidneys. Last year, 28,000 potential recipients died waiting for kidneys. In 2001, 14,000 kidney transplants were performed -– 8,200 from cadaver donors and 5,900 from living donors. The good news is that living donation is becoming a viable alternative to cadaveric donation. The number of living kidney donors grew 12 percent last year, while cadaveric donations showed only a 1 percent increase.