Health Matters Blog

The Ultimate Gift

By Arthur Magnaghi, Jr.

This is the time of year we give gifts to our loved ones. We also may give a little more or do a little more to support charitable efforts we find meaningful. With just a few clicks of the mouse button this holiday season, Vermonters can help save a life, just like my own life was saved nearly four and a half years ago.

With that in mind I would like to share some important thoughts and facts with you that come from within a person who would eventually die if he had not received the “ultimate gift” of life, in my case an organ donor’s healthy heart. If it were not for the compassion, kindness, caring and understanding of a donor and donor’s family, I would not be alive today. I would not have seen one of my daughters married and I would not have experienced the births of three grandchildren. I would not have had the chance to continue to live a healthy life with my loving and supportive wife and family.

I had suffered two heart attacks, one in 2003 and the second in 2007. I “flatlined” twice on landing at Tufts Medical Center in Boston on March 25, 2007. After being treated for one and a half hours in the helicopter on the roof at Tufts, I made it into the Medical Center where I remained unconscious for six days. I eventually went home only to return to Tufts Medical Center in June with the beginning stages of congestive heart failure. My remaining heart function was at 25% and I was told without a heart transplant I would not live very long. I was put on the transplant list in June of 2007 after a battery of tests and returned home with a permanent IV infusing the drug Milrenone into my heart with the aid of a pump which assisted my heart function, all the time praying for a heart transplant opportunity.

On August 24, 2007 at 3:00 a.m. God answered my prayers and I received the most important phone call of my life from Tufts Medical Center that a donor heart for available for me. I can’t really put into words my total feeling that morning except to say that my wife and I were extremely grateful and very, very sad at the same time that one had to lose their life in order for me to continue mine.

There is not a day or night that has passed since then that I don’t pray to God to bless the donor and donor family for their gift of the heart that beats within me. I never refer to the heart within me as mine, because it is not. It comes to be within me as a very precious gift that has given me a second chance to live a longer and healthy life.

Because of this wonderful gift I have become a volunteer with the New England Organ Bank (NEOB) to help others in their quest to obtain the “ultimate gift” of life. With 112,000 people on the waiting list for organ transplants, the need is as great as it has ever been. Currently, 18 people die every day in the United States waiting for an organ transplant. When one becomes an organ and tissue donor, he or she is not only giving a

gift that can save eight people, but you could also enhance the lives of as many as 50 people. One donor can free two kidney patients from dialysis treatments and save the lives of patients awaiting heart, liver, lung or pancreas transplants. Donating corneas can give sight to two people; bone and tissue can repair injured joints and save limbs threatened by cancer; burn victims can heal more quickly with skin tissue.

Brattleboro Memorial Hospital is currently participating in the Donate Life Vermont Registration Rally, a campaign organized as a friendly competition between Vermont hospitals to increase the number of organ and tissue donor registrants in the state, with the goal of adding 5,000 Vermonters to the Organ Donor list before December 21, 2011. It takes less than 5 minutes to fill out the registration form at www.donatelifevt.org and give the gift of life this holiday season. On behalf of those of us who have been the recipients of this miraculous gift, I thank you very much for reading my personal story.

Arthur Magnaghi, Jr. is a Brattleboro resident, past President of the Board of Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and former owner and President of DeWitt Beverage. He is currently working with the New England Organ Bank and with the help of legislative friends in Vermont was successful in introducing legislation in the Vermont House, Bill # H242, an act relating to the creation in Vermont of an advisory council on organ and tissue donations and transplants. Also a data base for organ donors at the DMV is being currently updated. Arthur wishes to thank Governor Shumlin for his support and recognition of organ donation in Vermont and for his guidance on current legislation in progress and wishes also to thank Steve Gordon, President & CEO of BMH and Ellen Smith, Director of Development for their support on behalf of organ donation in Vermont and throughout New England.

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