Scrolling through Facebook the other day I came across an ad for a t-shirt supporting organ donation. It read, “The Ultimate Second Chance. #TransplantStrong.” It was a striking idea.
As a nurse for 7 years in a neuro-trauma ICU, I was blessed and humbled to be a part of dozens of organ donations. It is an awe-inspiring process to partake in. In our hospital, we managed the donors until the transplant team arrived. This process could well take several days at times, and let me tell you, the emotions during such an intense time are overwhelming. Because the truth of all organ donation, whether from a living donor such as in kidney donation, or a donor who has passed away such as heart or lung transplants… is that a death of some sort is involved. Blood is spilled. There is such LOSS present, even in the midst of joy.
I’ll never forget the first time this striking breadth of emotions hit me full force. I was working night shift and had already managed several donors in my nursing career. This particular night was different somehow. We had a car wreck victim come in late that evening and before even a couple of hours had passed, he was declared clinically brain dead. In situations like these, patients like these, the team scurries to alert the organ donation organization because if they or the family choose to donate their organs the time frame to do so is quite limited. The team approached the family to give them the sad news of their loved ones passing away, and then gently asked if he was an organ donor. He was! They agreed to allow the team to take whatever they needed to help save lives. I walked out of that meeting ramped up… my work for the night just increased ten-fold in acuity (managing an organ donor is not for the faint of heart). But my heart was heavy. The excitement of the possibility of life for one (or many) meant the utter loss of life for another.
Suddenly I cried. Right there in the middle of the ICU….
Imagining the flurry of phone calls being made in those ensuing minutes to families all over the nation, who had most likely been sleeping next to their phones for months… just awaiting for that one call that would inject LIFE into their dying bodies. The elation and hope being phoned around must have been off the charts. “We’ve found you a match!” “Your new heart is on it’s way!” “We have a donor for you!” I imagine even to this day, years later, many of those recipients could tell exactly where they were, what they were doing, what time of day they received their news.
And yet, despite knowing these calls were being made, that such joy and hope was once again kindled… in spite of this I was still stuck, in the middle of the night, with a family who had just experienced the ultimate loss. The joy on one side could not outshine the loss on the other. The juxtaposition of the two sides of this coin were more than I could handle that night.
And I cried some more.
Yes, organ donation is the ultimate second chance… almost. Though there is death and always blood involved, the pain and suffering is a sacrificial offering for the good of someone else. We are fortunate in this country that no one is ever forced to donate their organs, it is always voluntary… a thought-out decision that is not made lightly. I know no donors or families of donors who regret their decision to share life with someone else… often perfect strangers. It is one of the most selfless and fantastic ways to give back and save lives.
But the picture doesn’t stop there. Did not Jesus do the EXACT same thing for us? If organ donation is a second chance at life, then Christ on the cross- His death, His spilled blood, His resurrection- is the penultimate second chance at life. His sacrifice for us infused an entirely new (and eternal!) joy and hope… capital-L LIFE into our dying bodies.
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
Ezekiel 36:26 ESV
Recipients of organ appreciate life in a way we cannot understand. The second chance they’ve been given I imagine sweetens each breath, moment, and memory for them just a bit more. They see and experience life in a different way- perhaps with an awe at the grace of a second-chance, of a renewed purpose and trajectory to their paths.
I would hope we as Christians feel the same way. We were dying a slow and eventual death. Christ’s donation, His CHOICE to spill His blood for us- infused new life into us. Let us walk in awe of that reality everyday. Let us not take for granted or brush off the death that had to occur in order for us to live. I assure you organ recipients don’t pass so easily the sacrifice that was made for them! As spiritual organ recipients, the donation to us is no less important. Those who believe in Christ have all received the ultimate second-chance- so live like it!
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”