From a giant Boba Fett action figure to the first copies of my published book, I’ve received some pretty cool presents my previous 44 birthdays.
My family and friends have been beyond generous over the years, bestowing me with more gifts than I could possibly deserve. Obviously, however, the greatest gift I ever received on Sept. 19, came 45 years ago, when I received the gift of life. After greedily gobbling up gifts on all my previous birthdays, when it came time to celebrate my birthday this year, I decided it was time for me to start giving back on my birthday.
I decided to give the gift of life.
One of the joys of my most recent birthday was the fact I had to get my driver’s license renewed. On every previous trip to get my license renewed, it has been a pretty routine process. First, I grab a number and sit and wait in line for interminable amount of time. Then I usually sit there for a while before my social anxiety disorder kicks in and I start getting annoyed by the people around me. To pass the time, I’ll start making mental lists of all the reasons I dislike the complete strangers sitting around me.
After a while, they’ll eventually call my number and I’ll saunter up to one of the workers, who will begin asking me questions. I’ll start off by lying about my weight. Then I’ll lie some more about my height. I always like to add or subtract an inch or two, depending on my mood. I’ve been as tall as 6-foot-2 and as short as 5-foot-10 on my licenses over the years. I always worry one year I’m going to walk in to have my license renewed and see a scale and tape measure there waiting for me.
A little further down in the process, they have always asked me if I’d like to become an organ donor and have it listed on my license. And every other time I’ve had my license renewed, I’ve politely said, “No, thank you.”
I’m not particularly proud of this, but it’s the truth. I have no good defense for not becoming an organ donor earlier, other than I foolishly bought into the myths and misinformation surrounding organ donation. Here are just a few of the things I had previous believed … which, through even the most cursory of research, can easily be proven false.
If you have any concerns about the following, you really shouldn’t:
• If you are sick or injured, they aren’t going to let you die in order to harvest your organs for someone else. This is probably the biggest misconception surrounding organ donation. It’s an insult to the entire medical profession. It doesn’t happen.
• Even if you have a medical condition, you can sign up to be a donor. The transplant team will determine at your time of death if you are a viable donor.
• There is no age limit to be a donor. If you are under the age of 18, you can become a donor with parental consent.
• Most major religions in the United States support organ donation.
• There is no cost to be an organ donor.
• No one is going to attempt to steal your organs and sell them on the black market.
I didn’t buy into all of those, but certainly enough to politely decline every time I had been previously asked if I wanted to become an organ donor.
This time, however, it was different. Perhaps I was moved to do so by two of my friends and former coworkers, both of whom are anxiously awaiting organ transplants for their children. God forbid, maybe one of my loved ones will one day need an organ transplant and the pain of waiting and hoping is more than I can imagine. Or maybe I was motivated by one of my friends from college, who is battling leukemia and in need of a bone marrow transplant.
Or maybe I’m just getting older and am continuously trying to find a kinder, gentler version of myself.
Whatever the reason, I am now an organ donor. I don’t bring that up to put myself on a pedestal or hold myself up as some sort of martyr. I bring it up solely in hopes that it may make at least one person join me in considering organ donation.
If you are interested, you don’t even have to wait until you renew your license. You can do so online at organdonor.gov.
It’s fast. It’s easy. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.
David Fong is a writer for the Troy Daily News, a publication of AIM Media Midwest. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong