“I believe most people understand the words Christmas includes the word Christ and a celebration of his birth. The raw basics of the story is that he was born, lived died and miraculously rose to live again. I hope the person whose liver and kidney were donated can look down from heaven and see my wife and I, children and grandchildren around the tree Christmas morning….all because of the anonymous gift of life they made possible”, wrote Ted.
Ted and Linda (not their real names) live in a single-wide manufactured home in the rural Lost Coast of Northern California. He works in the trades and is currently dealing with knees resembling a puffer fish in full expanse. He returned to work too early after his knee replacement 5 years ago, but saw no other way to support his family.
Linda worked in a gas station convenience store making just over minimum wage until her health conditions made it impossible for her to continue. She was put on the list for combined liver and kidney transplant in the spring of 2018. This procedure requires enormous preparation and an arduous selection process. The cost is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, plus the post-surgery medications can easily run thousands of dollars monthly.
Clearly a minimum wage employee and HVAC tradesman are not going to be able to afford this type of procedure without insurance.
The ACA (Affordable Care Act), passed in 2014 requires employers with over 50 employees to provide affordable health insurance to all employees working 30 hours weekly or more. In this case, coverage at Linda’s job cost her less than $150 monthly and allowed her to have the surgery without bankrupting the family.
Navigating the insurance circus and jumping through the hoops is never easy. “I got all this mail that I didn’t understand and I would cry. I started smoking again. It was simply overwhelming at times”, Ted confided.
The procedure had been approved by the carrier, but then her employer started the process of changing insurance carriers effective the first of the month in which the procedure was scheduled. But, he explained, they were given a gift. “We were lucky Linda’s employer had a quality, experienced broker to listen to us and work on our behalf. It was not some bargain computer (online) broker or disinterested newbie. This broker truly earned every penny they were paid! I often had to call after hours due to my work schedule and all the doctor appointments. This was never a problem.”
Getting “the call” that a donor organ is available is nerve-wracking at best. You hope you don’t have any unknown infection. You hope that something doesn’t change by the time you make the long trip to the transplant c. The surgery is complex and lengthy, as is the recovery and the balancing act of anti-rejection therapy. But in this case, the result is that a family has been able to continue to make memories together.
Linda was recently ill and there was great fear that it was Covid. “ I listened to the rain on the roof of our mobile with her next to me and prayed again for one more day together”. It turned out not to be Covid and all is well, but the mixture of fear and gratitude is ever present.
“Believe me, when your life depends on receiving the gift of an organ, it doesn’t matter what race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or political party they were. It’s simply a gift of life. My wish now is that we may be good to ourselves and others around us,” Ted explained. To learn about becoming an organ donor:.
The holidays can be a complicated time emotionally. I hope that this reminds us of what we truly value and how to best honor those values. Whether in our profession, our family or the public square, kindness and generosity are values that never goes out of season.