Data rules the world. As an investment banker, I follow numbers and statistics very closely. In terms of organ donation and transplantation, there are ample statistics to go around. More than 115, 000 Americans are waiting for transplants and every 10 minutes a new name is added to the list. But the truth is statistics like these never tell the complete story and reveal little about the human experiences behind them.
I know this because my father, George Andrew White II, died while waiting for a liver transplant. Statistics will record he was one of the 18 people who succumb each day because of the shortage in organ donors. But he is not just a number, he was my father. Numbers do not speak to the human loss, tragedy, and deep pain that lies behind each death of those listed waiting for a transplant.
In the early 1990s, when I was just a young boy, my dad was diagnosed with a rare liver disease. I remember feeling frightened to learn that my father so ill and I could sense the deep fear, anxiety, and sadness my family members were feeling at the time. At first, it seemed as though my father would be able to control his diabetes and liver condition with a measured diet, insulin and regular doctor visits.
However, in 1996, his condition deteriorated at an accelerated pace and he was taken from Hampton, Virginia to the Veterans Hospital in Pittsburg, PA. His only hope was a liver transplant. As an adolescent, I didn’t quite grasp what that meant. But I heard family members talking about it, and I knew deep inside this was something that could save my father’s life. There was hope, no matter how fragile.
Tragically, no liver ever came to give him a second chance. My father could not hold on. I was 13 and Dad passed away a few days before Thanksgiving.
Since losing my father, I've struggled with many different emotions. The loss came as a double blow to me, following my mother’s death more than a decade earlier. What can I say about losing my dad when I know that a liver transplant could have kept him alive? How can I overcome feelings of regret and even anger that there was no donor to save his life?
After all these years, while the pain of loss never goes away. I now look to help others cope and I advocate for organ donation so that more children won’t have to lose their fathers too.
I urge everyone to sign up as an organ donor and to give the gift of life. For me, as for thousands of others, losing someone waiting for a transplant will always be more than a statistic.
The lives lost are real; the ongoing loss of families and friends can never fully be diminished. Our only hope is that others will come to know the joy of life reborn because someone like you decided to give the gift of life.
To register to be an organ donor, please visit http://donatelife.net/register-now/.
Drew White lives in Manhattan and works as a credit trader at a large investment bank. His hobbies include golf and reading.
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