If you know me at all, you will probably think this article is about delivering babies. Yes, I have been an Obstetrical nurse for over 10 years. I have been present at the birth of over 450 babies and 35 of them I have delivered myself. I worked night shifts for many years and doctors don’t always get there in the middle of the night! My experience with delivering life as a nurse has been a great chapter in my life. But, I am not sharing a story from my nursing history. I am sharing a story from my flight attendant job.
Last night, we left Memphis in the afternoon. It was a flight full of business types headed to Chicago. It took awhile to leave the gate and some were getting a little miffed. If you have ever worked a flight out of Memphis, you would not be surprised to endure slow operations there! We finally pushed back and took off. Once we got above 10,000 feet the captain called and explained to me why things were so slow. The ramp personal were loading some very important cargo. Our flight was actually designated a medical evacuation by the air traffic control tower in Memphis. The captain questioned that designation and found out that we had two live kidneys on board in our cargo. Those kidneys were headed to Chicago for transplant.
Now, I have only been a flight attendant for about 2 and a half years. Perhaps this is common place for some flight attendants but I have never knowingly transported live organs on my plane before. We learn about it in training, but this was a new experience for me. To be honest, there was nothing really for me to do regarding the kidneys. It is a ramper’s job to handle them safely and for the captain to know they are present. But, I was overcome with the need to pray.
Our family has been profoundly touched by organ donation. My sister-in-law Joy Richards received a kidney about 20 years ago now. She had down’s syndrome and was born with just one kidney. It started failing for her and she was enduring peritoneal dialysis at the time. Her siblings were just starting to go through the process of matching for kidney transplantation when my in-laws received the call. University of Wisconsin Hospital transplant team called them early one morning and told them to get Joy to Madison, they had a kidney for her. It was an answer to prayer and the best situation for Joy. She never had to time to think about the transplant. She just had to go and do it. We were all so excited for her and my in-laws. She lived a very full life for 18 years on that kidney. Truly a gift of life.
As I thought about the 2 kidneys on my plane last night, I was overcome with emotion. We still miss Joy. Luckily, I could have a moment behind the galley curtain. I prayed for those 2 recipients about to receive a new lease on life. I prayed for their families. Maybe, they could have even more than 18 years! Transplants and their longevity continues to improve. And I prayed for the family of the person who passed away and donated those organs. A family that is grieving today but assured that their loved one will live on in the recipients. I was excited to be a small part in delivering life today, as a flight attendant. A flight I won’t soon forget. If you are not currently an organ donor, consider it today. Perhaps one day, you will deliver life to someone!