I had the great honor of speaking to the staff at Central DuPage Hospital last week at a ceremony recognizing their efforts in saving lives and harvesting organs for donation. For the past few years I've heard the hospital advertised on the radio for advancements like a proton treatment cancer unit and a robotic surgical system. At the end of each ad, they mention their slogan "Always thinking, Always caring." I think they've lived up to that slogan. Everyone I met had positive energy flowing through their veins. They raved about their workplace and buzzed around with spirit and pep. The entire complex is amazing and for the little town of Winfield, IL - it's a true gem. I had no idea what great things were happening, right in my neck of the woods.
More important to me than any robotic surgery was the fact that for the past 4 years, CDH has been handed the award for their organ donation efforts. I got to sit with Dr. Huml who heads up the critical care unit and helps families make the decision to donate. Rarely does he get to see my side of it, rather he sees the loss, the death and the struggles of every donor family. He called me his "new best friend" and felt refreshed after seeing me so alive and so well.
I talked about how I got the heart of a beautiful, athletic, 14 year old girl from Chapel Hill, NC. How her name was Chloe and how with her heart, I climbed to the top of the John Hancock Center this past February. I got a standing ovation for that comment! When the cheers stopped and everyone sat back down, I told them how Chloe's parents were waiting for me when I got to the top, waiting to hear Chloe's heart with stethoscopes. I lifted my arm and told them how I wore a bracelet in Chloe's honor, one given to me from her father who felt the best excuse to take it off, was to give it to me. The words "goshness and spectactical" are engraved on the band. These were words Chloe made up. After seeing many tears and smiles during my talk, I concluded my speech by saying - "From me and Chloe, you are doing a spectactical job in helping people like me, live longer. Thank you."
The day continued with a tour of the critical care unit where I met nurses who also teared up, seeing my side of the story. They were all young, all thankful to hear about the hope offered by organ donation. They were taking a patient off of life support as we walked the halls and maybe, if that patient was a donor, they felt a little glimmer of hope seeing me. Like oil and water in a cup, the two emotions of death and new life seldom mix. On this day, it all came clear for a few CDH staffers. To me, it's apparent everyday. I'll never forget my sickest moment and the bright stars ahead.
This is the last week of National Donate Life Month so get out there and tell someone this story or any story that will inspire them to register today!
P.S. On a fun note, I got to meet Chloe's sister Liz a few weeks ago! I took her to my favorite place in Chicago, Wrigley Field. She told me, "Chloe was a cool chick." More to come...