15 March 2006

I finally get it...

I've always heard it said that when you have the opportunity to do what you love most, to delve into your passion, that it isn't work at all. I understand that today.

I'm working on a feature story for a local magazine, and the theme of the issue will be "Legacies". My feature story focuses on Organ Donation. I was excited when handed the assignment because I have always been a huge proponent of organ donation, both living and after death. Talk about leaving a legacy!

I had the privilege today to meet with an incredible woman who, unfortunately, lost her husband to complications following a kidney transplant. The kidney was donated by a friend of the couple and the procedure itself was successful. The patient passed away due to an opportunistic infection that struck his compromised immune system. Of course, his immune system was compromised due to the immune-suppressing medications essential in order to prevent his transplanted kidney from being attacked and rejected by his body's built-in defense system.

The interview I conducted today gave me the opportunity to meet a very strong, kind, empathetic woman who managed to rise above her fresh grief in order to publicly express her support for organ donation and to encourage others to recognize the need. She wasn't bitter that her experience didn't quite turn out as she hoped it would. This woman cared enough about raising public awareness and, perhaps, changing some attitudes by offering information on something she still believes in.

I know it couldn't have been easy for this gentle lady, having to revisit the entire experience with me as we talked about the etiology of her husband's disease, the point where it became clear that his body required a new kidney and how touched they were when friends stepped forward to offer up a very personal, physical piece of what makes their own body's function.

And then we discussed the post-transplant crisis that resulted in a return to Duke University Medical Center and the subsequent rollercoaster ride she and her husband endured has his condition flickered optimism from time to time, but ultimately dwindled into unfortunate demise.

I love to write and it has always been such a wonderful outlet for me and, from time to time, I've actually got paid to do the thing I love doing most and what I eventually hope to transition to full-time. One of the best caveats of writing is that many times it affords the opportunity to meet some amazing individuals who might not normally cross my path. Such was my experience today.

Writing also has the bonus feature of educating both the intended reading audience, as well as the person penning the piece. During the course of our two hour interview this afternoon, I learned a great deal about the "before, during and after" phase of an organ transplant. But even more importantly, I was granted the gracious gift of learning not only about the topic at hand, but of the quiet dignity and gentle spirit of a woman who has had a pretty challenging time of it. She probably had no idea how much I was gleaning by simply sharing time with her on this bright, almost spring day in Wilmington, North Carolina.

To be sure, the theme of our discussion was fascinating, but the physical and almost spiritual presence of this woman was what affected me even more than the facts of her experience. I am so grateful for that gift and that our paths intersected.

Later this evening, I had another wonderful opportunity of interviewing another subject for my feature story. This time, I had the pleasure of meeting and learning about the experience of a gentleman who donated one of his kidney's to his 33 year-old stepson. Once again, I listened to a quiet, unassuming hero share his experience with the transplant process - what it felt like to learn he would be the donor, and how he gathered the courage, though he would never term it as such, to donate a living piece of himself to a young man he has raised as his own. Unique circumstances. Ordinary folks facing extrordinary life and death situations with grace, generosity and immeasurable strength, touching countless lives - among them, the person taking down their story.

To write of such people and be privileged to hear very personal, private pieces of their life story is a most humbling experience. Rather than be given a paycheck to be in this position and learn exquisite facets of the human spirit, I almost feel as if I should pay for the opportunity. However, since I have bills to pay, I will accept that check, but researching this genre of story can't help but make an indelible impact on the messenger and, if I do my job well, the folks learning from my selected words expressing what I have learned from others.

And in between these two interesting interviews, my son popped into the salon and Vanessa got snippy again. The results were so great that, about an hour later, she got snippy with my husband. Both results were perfectly executed but, then again, she is a professional snipper.

To round out a nearly perfect day, I got a call from NY and an invitation to do a feature story for a national magazine. I'm beyond excited and looking forward to this most welcome challenge! I must thank my dear friend for recommending me to the editor and paving the way for me to play with my passion some more. Thank you so much Bruce! You rock!

Today was a good day. Tomorrow should be lots of fun because a surprise is in store for someone very dear to me. I bet I have new photos to post and I'll finish with...the rest of the story tomorrow...