The Circle of Life

Continuing with our 2009 Donate Life Rose Parade float series, I asked Anne to do a post about meeting one of her husband’s recipients.


Anne Gulotta

The moments that lead up to organ donation/transplantation can be riveting. TV series are written about it.  But, living it is a surreal experience. Imagine if you will for a moment this scenerio:

In a small town called Havana, IL a woman waits patiently by her telephone for a phone call that will change her life. She’s in need of a kidney transplant, and she’s been called before but to no avail. Her eyes swell with tears thinking she may  never get a call, and a compatible donor will never be found.

A few hundred miles north in Barrington, IL a family experiences a terrible tragedy. A man is rushed to the hospital, and the family is told the damage to his brain is irreversible, and that he is going to die.

The family in Barrington consent to organ donation, and spend the next 24 hours with their loved one until they are told at 10pm  that he is brain dead. In the middle of the night the phone rings and the lady in Havana, IL thinks it’s a prank call. The call wouldn’t go through so she hung up. Then, it rang again and the voice said we have a donor for you! As one family grieves over the loss of their loved one, another family rejoices. In fact, it’s the wedding anniversary of the couple in Havana, IL, and the woman tells her husband he need not buy her an anniversary present. Nothing he could buy her would top this.

The events above happened to me and my family.

My husband Jay died on may 8th, 2002. A few months after his death I received information from Gift Of Hope about the recipients of Jay’s organs. His heart went to a 55-year-old man, his left kidney to a 42-year-old woman, his right kidney to a 16-year-old girl, he gave someone sight, and more.

At Thanksgiving I received a thank you letter from the recipient of Jay’s left kidney. She’s the woman I describe above from Havana, IL.  Julie suffers from diabetes and would not be alive today if it weren’t for Jay’s gift of life. Julie sent flowers at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and we corresponded by letter writing for one year.

On the one year anniversary of Julie’s new life, I called her. I felt like I knew her forever. Our friendship continued to grow, and in August of 2005 I met Julie, her husband Ed, and their family and friends in Havana, Il. I pulled up to the front of their house accompanied by a dear friend, a representative from Gift Of Hope, and a reporter from the Daily Herald.

Anne and Jay's recipient, Julie.

We were greeted by signs that said “Jay My Gift Of Life” and “Anne My Gift Of Hope.” My feelings were indescribable –  it’s grief and joy all mixed into one. When I saw Julie, I ran to her and I didn’t want to let go. Then I said “Where’s Jay, I want to see Jay,” and she put my hand over her scar.

I spent the weekend with Julie and her family. Everywhere we went there was a place set at the table for Jay. Since then I’ve been back to Havana, IL to plant a tree along the Illinois river in Jay’s memory. Julie and I talk all the time. I couldn’t imagine life without her now.

Our situation is atypical. The percentage of individuals that are eligible to become organ donors is 1-2 percent. The number of donor and recipients that ever meet is less, and the friendship that Julie and I have is priceless. I look at other recipients with great admiration, and I understand the grief and pain that donor families feel over the loss of a loved one.

” It’s the circle of life and it moves us all. Through despair and hope.  Through faith and love. Till we find our place. On the path unwinding. In the circle. The circle of life. “

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