Saturday, November 19, 2005

Time for Thanksgiving

Ah yes, Turkey Day is upon us. Time for Thanksgiving. A time to recall Pilgrims who owed their survival to the Wampanoags tribe who did for strangers as they would have done for their own.

Giving thanks is something we have the opportunity to do at many times during the year. For some, the gift that warrants the thanks comes at great cost; even the cost of life. For that reason the thanks is seldom sufficient.

Just such a cause for giving thanks was reported last October – by Patti Forbes. In this instance, the subject of the story was a woman who I had done a story on only the preceding June. In my story, it was a matter of the national recognition afforded a local teacher. Patties tale was more personal.

In my article, I reported that few who knew her were “surprised that she could inspire students to overcome obstacles which are, to those of lessor dedication, often seen as insurmountable.” This was the recognition of a dedicated woman teaching special ed kids to beat the odds and excel.

In Patti’s story, “dedication” became “determination” – when, the teacher’s liver failed, just prior to the beginning of the school year the obstacle to overcome was survival itself.

In a cascading series of events first treated at Eastern Maine Medical, and then at our own Downeast Community Hospital, 90 percent of liver function had been lost – her liver was closing down.

Doctors Imad Durra and Doctor Edwin Tan rapidly identified the symptoms; stabilized their patient; and arranged for her to be transported to New York Columbia Presbyterian Hospital – where it was hoped a liver could be found.

When the confirmation of an e-vac flight and bed at the hospital came through, an acquaintance was visiting the hospital. So she wouldn’t have to travel alone, the acquaintance changed her schedule and joined the 4:00 AM mercy flight.

That acquaintance spend three days at the bedside in New York – refusing offered compensation for expenses incurred. Another friend handled the various notifications and insurance problems; then removed logistical impediments which had arisen and would possibly prevent a liver transplant.

The next day, a perfectly matched, and healthy, liver arrived in the form of an accident victim – a 51 year old male, apparently DOA, who had designated himself as an organ donor. How do you thank such a person for your life? How do you thank those who extend themselves beyond the norm?

After discharge from the hospital, follow-up observation necessitated her remaining in NYC – a Jewish widow, a total stranger, provided use of her apartment (only 10 minutes from the hospital).

Thanksgiving – A time to give thanks that is often seen as only a time to over eat, or watch football.

How do you give thanks to a transplanted organ which decides it likes it’s new body – immediately adapting and functioning as if it had always been there? How do you thank skill, knowledge, and selfless generosity for saving your life? What is proper thanks during a “Season of Thanksgiving”?

Perhaps it is to give thanks for Samaritans who consider others as themselves. OK when do we eat?

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