My turn

Register to be an organ donor and give the gift of life

2013-04-21T00:00:00Z Register to be an organ donor and give the gift of lifeBy Bill Vargo Times Columnist
April 21, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Do you find that you have become a little jaded when you come across testimonials on websites or in magazines about the value of such and such product or the opportunity to take part in some good cause? There is the smiling face and a quote that is meant to encapsulate the mission in the words of someone who should know.

I’m guilty of the same thoughts that most people have, some I keep to myself in the event that I don’t want to appear to be too much of an idiot or Neanderthal. My story is a little different, though, because the awful picture that accompanies this column is an advertisement for more than hair transplants or teeth whiteners. At is a picture about giving and receiving.

Ten years ago, I was in the middle stages of a devastating disease that could have meant the end of me. I had a case of acute endocarditis. To make a long story short, there was an infection in my heart that over time had shredded my aortic valve, causing symptoms that mirrored lymphoma. The first step was to take care of the infection, then start to treat the damage that had been done.

The first part took a great deal longer to take care of than an ordinary infection, but finally we were ready for the second part. Here is where my story becomes less about me and more about the rest of us.

In order to treat the damage, the doctors had to replace the valve. They ruled out the mechanical valve for a variety of reasons and settled on a human cadaver valve.

My donor was identified as a 47-year-old man, meaning that I was gaining about eight years in age, I suppose. The prognosis was good and the recovery was fairly quick considering that I had been sick for a long time before the valve replacement.

What I always found interesting, but never pursued, was the story of the man who gave life to me, even after his own had ended.

Donate Life Indiana is about those stories. The smiling faces in its photos belong to people who received that gift of life and lived to tell the tale. Their stories are much like mine and since the organization does a good job of airbrushing, their photos are so much better than mine.

Donors come under the heading of heroes, an apt description of someone who selflessly gives with no tangible reward in return.

This man who I never met gave me a life that I might have been denied. Today, we have the ability and the wherewithal to give our very organs to someone in need.

In Indiana, more than 3 million people are registered to donate organs and tissue. Still, the statistics are startling; an average of 18 people die every day waiting for a life-saving transplant. Every 10 minutes, another man, woman or child is added to a transplant waiting list.

Numbers are the bane of any story, because they don’t tell it all. We are more than the sum of numbers. We are humans with real hopes, dreams and aspirations.

More than anything else, we are humans who, as was proven in Boston this week, will come to the aid of those in need.

Take time during Donate Life Month to register as an organ or tissue donor. The process is simple; the good you will do cannot be measured or quantified. Register at

The opinions are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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