Why organ donation is important to me

After moving into our new home a few months ago, members of our family visited the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles to update our credentials with our new address. I had another mission to accomplish during my stay. I wanted to register as an organ donor.

I don’t remember when I decided to become a donor, but I know exactly why. It’s because of a remarkable friend named Brad Dell.

Brad was born with cystic fibrosis, and by adulthood his condition had progressed enough that he desperately needed a double lung transplant. His case was so severe that many hospitals rejected him, but a transplant team in California decided to take a risk on him. A pair of donor lungs were located just in time and Brad’s medical team completed the difficult but successful procedure.

That was five years ago, and today Brad is living life to the fullest with his new lungs. His list of accomplishments, world travels and career advancements seems to be growing day by day, and the number of lives he has affected are countless. And even in the midst of his busy life, Brad always finds time to quietly reflect and appreciate the blessings and beauty that surrounds him in life.

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My path crossed that of Brad three years ago, when I accepted this post of columnist for SMA news today. Brad is the one who interviewed me, and he’s been my wise and kind supervisor ever since. But for me, he became much more than my boss. He’s also a fellow writer, a spiritual mentor, and one of my closest friends.

If Brad hadn’t had that lung transplant, he wouldn’t have survived this long, and I would never have met him. My life would be robbed of the blessings I derived from his friendship, and I wouldn’t even know it.

Brad’s donor gave him one of the most selfless gifts a person can give, and Brad shares that gift in some way with everyone he meets.

As you can imagine, Brad was on my mind – along with the many other transplant recipients and family members I met at BioNews, the publisher of this site – when I signed up for my donor registration.

Another person was present in my thoughts as I signed on the dotted line. That person is my friend Jack Freedman, who passed away in October at the age of 26.

organ donation |  SMA news today |  photo of a young man, Jack Freedman, in a wheelchair in front of a large fountain

Jack Freedman enjoys a fountain at one of his favorite spots, Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, in 2021. (Courtesy Albert Freedman)

Jack and his family have been prominent members of the SMA community since Jack’s childhood, and his sudden death was hard on all who had the privilege of knowing him. He and his father, Dr. Albert Freedman, were instrumental in creating the metaphorical map that helps guide families through their SMA journeys, and Jack was a kind-hearted friend to all.

Jack has always done things for others, from wishing everyone a happy birthday on social media to testing Painted Waters, a video game designed to be accessible to children with disabilities.

Even in death, Jack selflessly chose to give of himself by donating his kidneys, both of which were successfully transplanted.

In an email, I asked Freedman what his son’s organ donation meant to him.

“It means a lot to me to know that Jack made life better for two other people who needed help,” he wrote. “It also means a lot to know that Jack’s kidneys literally live inside two other people, who carry a part of Jack and his spirit with them wherever they go.”

organ donation |  SMA news today |  a photo of Jack, in his wheelchair, and his father kneeling beside him

Jack and his father, Albert Freedman, at Longwood Gardens in 2021. (Courtesy Albert Freedman)

April is National Gift of Life Month, and during this time I can’t help but think of the people in my life who have received this gift of life and those who have given it. I think of how their lives have been affected by organ donation, as well as the lives of the people around them. It is unquantifiable, and it is also indescribably beautiful.

When I asked Freedman what Jack might want to say to someone considering becoming an organ donor, he wrote that he thought Jack would say, “I needed a lot of help in my life, and others have helped me in so many ways. Being an organ donor can be a way for me to help someone else – and can be a way for you to help too.

There are more people like Brad who urgently need organ donations, and we need people like Jack to step up to help meet that demand. When I look back at the lives and legacies of these two incredible young men, I have no doubt that I made the right choice in choosing to one day give life. I sincerely hope you will consider joining me.

To note: SMA news today is strictly a disease news and information site. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosticWhere treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosticWhere treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of anything you read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA news today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion on issues relating to spinal muscular atrophy.

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