Letter to the Editor, Sept. 1, 2010
EDITOR: The lives of two families, one from Troy, PA and one from Monroeville, PA, became intertwined over Labor Day weekend, 2002. On Aug. 31, 2002, 17-year-old Jordan Fitzwater lost his life in an ATV accident. On Aug. 31, 2002, I was barely alive, awaiting the gift of life. Ten years ago, on Sept. 1 and 2, I received that wonderful and beautiful gift of life when I received a pancreas, kidney and bone marrow transplant. Jordan Fitzwater was my donor. Jordan is also my hero, as are his parents, Don and Lynette and his sisters, Kelsey and Haley. Through their grief, during a parent's worst nightmare, they were able to reach out to a total stranger and give selflessly the gift of life.
Not a day goes by that I don't think of Jordan. I wear a button with his picture and the words "My Donor" every day on my shirt for everyone to see. Ten years ago, I was confined to a wheelchair and tethered to a dialysis machine. Now I can walk (albeit with the aide of a walker); I can bowl and I can play golf (even if I confuse the two scores, and bowl low and golf high!).
In the past 10 years, I have witnessed the birth of six grandchildren. I have participated in five national Transplant Games and one World Game in Sweden last summer. Next year, I hope to participate in the World Games in Durban, South Africa. I have been able to travel to Israel, France, The Netherlands and Belgium. I have been able to visit friends and family in Florida, California and Massachusetts. Jordan and I together are traveling the world.
We also volunteer weekly at the transplant centers of two hospitals, as well as at a dialysis center and CORE (Center for Organ Recovery and Education). I helped to form the Western PA Kidney Support Groups, which is a registered non-profit organization. We now have over 300 members in five locations in Western Pennsylvania.
Two observances will take place this Labor Day weekend, one in Troy and one in Monroeville. One family will still be grieving their loss, but I hope they will find comfort and solace in knowing that Jordan continues to live on in me. My wife and I will be marking my 10th "Transplantversary" by honoring Jordan's memory and bestowing our gratitude upon him for the amazing gift he bestowed upon me and my family and friends. Organ donation just doesn't touch the recipient; it affects everyone associated with him or her.
I want to publicly thank the entire Fitzwater family for their generous gift that has enabled me to continue along the journey of life. I never take their gift for granted and they are forever in my heart and thoughts and prayers.