I wanted to write this letter and share my story with you, not only to share my deepest heartfelt emotion, but also so that you know and believe that your loved one did not lose her life in vain. She literally gave life, not just to me, but potentially to many other organ recipients. The true greatness and selflessness of organ donation is just that: it is the Donation of Life.
I have attempted to write this letter unsuccessfully several times over the course of the past years. Rarely, can I even get past the first few sentences before becoming overwhelmed by my own emotions. Every time, the words I write just never seem to accurately express my appreciation and gratitude. I realize that words themselves will never be enough to express how grateful I am to my donor and how truly thankful I am, really, to your entire family. I hope that as you receive this letter, that you, your loved ones and friends, are well. I hope you are healing from the loss you suffered. I am sympathetically aware that you have suffered the passing of a wonderful and thoughtful woman.
As you read this letter, I know that you are someone who called her ‘Mother’ or ‘Daughter,’ ‘Wife’ or ‘Sister,’ ‘Cousin’ or ‘Friend.’ Of course, I do not know her given name, but to me, and to my friends and family, she is a Hero.
On August 15th 2013, I received a bilateral lung transplant. I have affectionately nicknamed my new lungs “Eloise.” The successful transplant of these lungs, donated by your loved one, has given me a second chance at life. It’s important to me that you know that I don’t think of them simply as lungs or an organ, but rather as their own entity. I respect and love them as if they themselves are human. I believe that the woman who donated these lungs, my new lungs, also donated several of her other organs. I can only begin to imagine what opportunity and potential greatness will come from the second chances that she now has provided, not just to me, but to the other recipients of her generosity. I hope that you believe, as I do, that your loved one continues to live on inside me. Her legacy will not be limited to her physical time here on earth. She lives on in me, my wife and children, my family, and the generations that will follow. Moments, now and in the future, that I share with family and friends are only possible because of her. Every time my children laugh, or my wife smiles, I think about ‘Eloise.’ I feel her greatness. Not a day goes by that I don’t reflect on how fortunate I am to have her with me.
I will share with you a little bit about me, just for your reference or if you are at all curious. I was born with Cystic Fibrosis, diagnosed at the age of one. Despite the diagnosis, I lived an exceptionally healthy life for 38 years. At 38, I was in love, had two beautiful children and a thriving dental specialty practice. I exercised five days a week. I spent my life caring for my family and patients. Honestly, I spent very little time thinking or worrying about the insidious disease that was festering inside me. Two years ago, I was befallen by pneumonia, resulting in a collapsed lung. Despite aggressive treatment at the Gunnar Esiason Adult CF center at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital my lungs never improved or recovered. Life quickly became a struggle. I became oxygen dependent. Even the most menial activities of daily living become incredibly difficult. For all intents and purposes, life as I knew it was slipping away.
Fortunately, on August 15th 2013 I received the Gift of Life; a double lung transplant. Through the most challenging time of my life I was, and continue to be, surrounded by a world class medical team at Columbia and the wonderful, unwavering support of family, friends, patients and colleagues. My recovery is going beautifully, and I am getting stronger every day. I returned to work full time and live a “normal”, fulfilling and happy life. Life as I now know it is magical. Amazing things are happening at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital and I am living proof. The Columbia Lung Transplant Program is the best there is. Their team is second to none with regards to every facet of lung transplantation.
I hope that you are able to find peace in the knowledge that your loved one lives on in me, my children and my extended family. Her legacy is eternal. I will forever feel her greatness. Not a day will go by that I don’t reflect on how fortunate I am to have her with me. May god bless you and your family and may you forever know that I will never forget what my donor and her extended family have done for me. Dr. Gregory Coakley – Transplanted August 15, 2013