Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Another milestone

I make no secret of it - I'm a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. I have been since I was a young boy. I enjoyed watching Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann, Franco Harris, Jack Lambert, "Mean Joe" Greene, and other members of the Steelers Dynasty of the '70s win four Super Bowls. In 1982, I watched the Steelers play the New England Patriots in a pre-season game at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, TN during the World's Fair. The Steelers won 24-20, and I still have the ticket stub. Unfortunately, Bradshaw and many of the star players did not play. I had never seen the Steelers play a regular season game .... until this past Sunday.

The Steelers played the Tennessee Titans, the NFL team I dislike the most, in Nashville. I usually refer to them as the Tennessee Thugs because so many of their players have been arrested over the past several years. Plus, their owner, Bud Adams, has been known to give opposing teams' fans the "finger" (read earlier post here). So, when the Steelers ran the opening kickoff back for a touchdown, built a 19-3 4th quarter lead, and won 19-11, I was pretty dadgum happy. However, as we were sitting in the stands in the 4th quarter, my wife reminded me that this was more than just a football game - it was another milestone in my comeback from the brink of death. That got me to thinking as I sat there watching the clock wind down bringing the one Steelers victory I wanted the most this year ever closer to reality.
Three and a half years ago, I was literally fighting for my life. The last thing on my mind was football. Then, "the call" came and we headed to the hospital for my transplant and a "second chance." As I thought about how it was SOOOOOO HOT at LP Field Sunday, I could not remember ever drinking that much water and sweating that much over the course of three hours. Going to the game Sunday would not have been possible before my transplant. Besides the fact that I didn't have the energy nor strength, I would not have been able to breathe in that heat. Plus, I would not have been able to drink the water needed to rehydrate. If I had even tried to drink enough it would have built up in my lungs as fluid because my sick heart would not have been able to pump it out to my body where it was needed. It was the dark reality of the life I was not living in, but only existing in.

I have been blessed and able to enjoy so many "extra" things since the transplant. In addition to my first regular season Steelers game on Sunday, I've watched them win two more Super Bowls including their greatest one, Super Bowl XL, where they had to win all their playoff games on the road. While attending the 2008 U.S. Transplant Games in Pittsburgh, we were able to tour Heinz Field. I've watched my Detroit Red Wings win another Stanley Cup. I've visited and toured Daytona International Speedway for the first time ever. It's a place that's brought me much pain as well as one of the happiest days of my life (Dale Earnhardt's victory in the 1998 Daytona 500). I've harvested my first ever wild turkey (spring 2009) and 8 more whitetailed deer. I've seen my oldest nephew baptized. I could go on, but you get the idea. I've enjoyed all these "extra" things, many for the first time, because a man I had never met made the decision to be an organ donor. "Thank you" doesn't hardly seem like enough, but I'll say it anyway ..... again ..... thanks Kent.
There's approximately 108,000 Americans currently awaiting a life-saving transplant and about 19 of them will die today waiting for their "second chance." You can help. Visit the Donate Life America website today to learn more about organ and tissue donation. Then, click on "Commit to Donation" to learn how to become a donor in your state. Then, tell your family that you want to be a donor. You could make a difference in someone's life by giving them the opportunity to enjoy some "extra" experiences just as Kent did me. He was a hero. You can be one, too.

P.S. One last thing that I thought about while sitting there hot and drenched in sweat on Sunday. I thought about our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. As hot as we were during the game, that was only a little taste of what they have dealt with. Can you imagine 130 degrees, wearing a military uniform, carrying God knows how many pounds of gear, having very little water, and all while getting shot at. I was in shorts and a ventilated jersey with all the water I wanted available. I'm a wuss. We don't know what HOT really is. Thank a Veteran next time you see one. I sure will.
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1 comment:

The Contemplative Mama said...

Beautifully written Johnny...I think you need to get this published somewhere. Love the picture too : )