Honoring those who give the gift of life

For National Donor Day, a columnist shares how organ donation saved her life

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by Lara Govendo |

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Organ donors are ordinary people who make an extraordinary impact. Each day I’m personally reminded of how one decision can change a life. My life was saved because of my donor, who made my double-lung transplant possible five years ago. Each breath I take reminds me of the miraculous gift of organ donation.

For me, National Donor Day on Feb. 14 is a time to remember what I’ve been through and reflect on where I am now. It’s a sobering thought that I would have died without my organ donor. I was in respiratory failure nearly six years ago, and time was running out. The medications had stopped working, and I was getting sicker while in the hospital. The call that saved my life came just at the right time.

Born with cystic fibrosis, I never knew what it was like to breathe normally. My lung disease was always aggressive, so I was constantly congested. Breathing through thick, sticky mucus was my normal.

Before my transplant, I couldn’t fathom dreaming of a future beyond the next moment, let alone the next day. I was stuck in survival mode, and rightly so. As my lungs were failing, my life force was being sucked out of me. It’s pretty hard to dream when each breath is labored. My brain was hypervigilant in fighting the threat of oxygen being ripped out of my lungs.

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Two lives in one

The gift of new lungs did more than save my life — it changed it in a way I never could have imagined. It feels like I’m living two lives every time I remember what my life used to be like before my transplant.

The knowledge of how I’m still alive leaves me awestruck. My precious donor had pristine lungs, and now I’m breathing with them. I get to breathe in a whole new way I’ve never experienced before.

The best way I know to honor my donor is to live fully. I’m able to do so much more in post-transplant life than I ever dreamed was possible. Traveling with no inhibition, exploring the great outdoors, and taking in slow, deep breaths are now part of a life I am so grateful to be living. I have the chance to do all of the things I couldn’t previously do because my health was so frail.

Each day is an opportunity to honor my organ donor. He motivates me to take risks, live large, and enjoy every moment. I have a deep desire to influence others in a powerful way because of the magnitude of the gift I’ve been given. Paying it forward makes absolute sense to me.

It’s not lost on me that the day we honor organ donors coincides with Valentine’s Day. The greatest gift of love a person can give is the gift of life. Organ donation is a selfless act.

National Donor Day comes once a year, but I celebrate every day. My donor is my hero — without him, my story wouldn’t have continued. And that’s a precious gift I won’t ever take for granted.

Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.


Kay Tomczak avatar

Kay Tomczak

“Lara is an inspiration to all who have the pleasure of knowing her. She personifies love and gives hope. Thanks to those who offer hope to those in need of a transplant and all glory goes to our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ, who is the author of life!


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