Eight years ago, today, I was granted the gift of life – I was saved with a bilateral lung transplant. April 18th has become a second birthday of sorts to me; a day where I celebrate the milestone of living – and appreciating – another year with my family and friends.
When I wake up on this morning, I always reflect back to the time before my donor, Chris, and my medical team at Columbia saved my life. My lung function decreased to 18%; I had no quality of life. I went from being an athlete, a pole vaulter, a marathoner to someone who couldn’t take a few steps without oxygen. I was hopeful but anxious and scared, and each dry run leading up to my transplant only increased those mix of emotions. But then, my life saving miracle happened – I received new, healthy lungs because of someone else’s selfless sacrifice.
I try my hardest to honor my organ donor every single day. I remain strictly compliant with all of my treatments, exercise routine, and nutrition (with the occasional delicious baked good!). My health has been pretty good, but like anything in life, it takes work and sacrifice. My last year has been filled with a lot of bumps in the road – 7 weeks in the hospital and 2 surgeries because of liver issues and some skin cancer scares. But I remain positive and have worked hard to recuperate.
As always, I am dedicated to my volunteer work with the Boomer Esiason Foundation – developing new programs for people living with CF, doing Bike 2 Breathe with my friend Emily every year, and enjoying time with my colleagues.
In the past few years, I have realized how true it is that coaching my pole vault kids keeps me young. They try to keep me in the know about things like Instagram and Tik Tok and all the latest music… and I love them for it. Because of my second chance at life, I have watched so many of my athletes move on to compete at the collegiate level, set records, and eventually succeed in their careers. It’s so inspiring to see young people set goals and achieve them, knowing that I was a small part of their success.
2020 should prove to be a busy year for me. I want to try and do more Century Rides and another Bike 2 Breathe as long as things settle down with COVID-19. I plan to release another children’s book and am working on part two of my documentary, Up for Air. I can’t wait to coach my kids again and try to teach them a few life lessons along the way. And most importantly, I look forward to spending as much time with my friends and family as I possibly can.
This year, on my re-birthday, I ask that you honor my donor with me by considering registering to become an organ donor. I am living, breathing proof that you can save at least one life (but most likely up to 8) if you do.
You can register today at registerme.org.
You can learn more about organ donation at donatelife.net.