It's our duty to donate organs
By MATTHEW LOUGHRAN
This week, as many of you are probably aware, the Chicago Bears lost one of their legends: Walter Payton, the NFL's all-time leading rusher died at the age of 45.
While the cancer that killed Payton had spread too far to be cured by a liver transplant, he still taped a Public Service Announcement urging for organ donors. I saw a picture captured from the commercial (on the Washington Post Web site www.washingtonpost .com). There was the man whom I used to watch as he brushed off Dexter Manley and the rest of the Washington Redskins defensive line with just a flip of his head and a couple of extra steps. You could see in his eyes that it was him, only chemotherapy and the terrible corrosive effort of cancer had whittled away the broad shoulders and the strong arms.
Payton needed a liver transplant earlier in the year, but he waited in vain. Then, when no other option presented itself, he waited, pursued as much treatment as possible and weathered the storm as best he could.
Did he really have to die so soon? Could something have been done about it? Was it possible that in those months that he was waiting, someone with a perfectly healthy liver and of the same blood type had died with the organ that could have given him the gift of a few more years? Yes it's possible.
I never checked the box on my driver's license calling for organ donation until I got to college.
My freshman year, my father went into the hospital complaining of chest pains and shortness of breath. He was diagnosed with UIP, an immune disease that uses the white blood cells to slowly turn the lungs into scar tissue. It had been working on him for 20 years and finally had done enough destructive work to eliminate the usefulness of one lung and severely impair that of the other.
Through sheer determination and a rigorous treatment schedule of chemotherapy, immune-suppressing steroids and physical therapy, he was able to hold the disease at bay for 30 months. Meanwhile he was waiting on lists at four different hospitals for a lung transplant that might have given him an extra few years of his life.
Then, in January 1997, five months before I was supposed to graduate from his alma mater, he finally got his lung transplant. But by then, his strength and will had faded to the point that the transplant didn't take. A week later he died.
Since then I have gone to the Motor Vehicle Administration of Maryland and had my status changed to that of an organ donor. I am on file with the bone marrow transplant people as a possible donor. I have given blood.
I am not writing this so that you can feel sorry for me or think what a great person I am. I don't really care what you think of me. But I am begging you: Register to be an organ donor, donate blood when the Bloodmobile comes around, give what you can to the National Cancer Society or other organizations that are racing to find cures to the horrifying diseases that plague our world.
Remember that no doctor will use your organs to give life to another unless you give permission. I know that you realize that you will not need the organs after you die and it is hard to think that you need to immediately do something like this. But, however of a morbid thought it is, you never know the time or place that God will call you on. You cannot afford put off something that is so important to so many people. Registering now will guarantee that you will continue to do unto others even after you are gone. You need to insure now that when you die, this corporeal form will give someone else a chance.
Matthew Loughran is a 1998 graduate of Notre Dame and an MALA candidate at St. John's College in Annapolis, Md.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not neccessarily those of The Observer.
All Viewpoint Stories for Wednesday, November 3, 1999