Today, I want to talk about STRENGTH. Strength of character, strength of convictions, strength to accept that which we cannot change. Strength to overcome grief, disappointment and loss. Strength to overcome adversity and statistics.
When I think about what it means to be strong, there is one person that comes to mind. That person is one of my best friends, a soul mate and “my person” (for those familiar with Grey’s Anatomy).
I can’t give this story the justice it deserves in a short blog format, but I want to share just a glimpse into the person that has inspired me time and time again. The person who reminds me what is important in life and what it really means to live life fully and stay strong during the most challenging of situations.
Shit Happens (to put it mildly)
In 2003, at the age of 23 and just a few years upon obtaining her Bachelors degree, Aisha was in and out of doctors’ offices. After weeks of miss-diagnosis, going in and out of emergency rooms and doctors’ offices, Aisha was faced with a diagnosis that seemed impossible. Her heart was damaged to the point of no repair. Meaning the physical damage to her heart could not sustain her – at its worst point her heart was operating at 10%. This led to the need for a new heart and subsequent heart transplant. Pause. Um ya, NEW HEART. We aren’t talking about a triple bypass. We are talking about old organ out, new organ in. Just need to make that clear, because I think some people don’t really digest the magnitude of such a diagnosis.
I sometimes wonder why I was stuck with a body where all my weight has to go right to my gut. Seriously? Aisha had to wonder why her heart failed her before growing one gray hair. Why her? Why now? We both gazed at the sky and of course had no answers. I think the reality is that we can never know why we have the cards that we do, but I think the real question is; what are you going to do with the hand you were dealt?
Navigating this question of what to do now? This is strength.
Interview from a Hospital Bed
During one of the times when Aisha was in the hospital for an “extended stay”, she was determined to take a phone interview from the hospital room. Well shit I said, “You are crazy, but you can do it!”. With her goal in mind, she prepared for an interview that would mean a big shift in her career direction. Not surprisingly (if you know Aisha), she ended up getting that job.
Avoiding self-pity, staying determined and eliminating the obstacles that only exist in your mind. This is strength.
Life is What Happens When You’re Busy Making Other Plans
When Aisha and I used to play basketball together in high school, I can pretty much guarantee that pursuing a career in the world of health care was not part of her life plan.
Whatever path Aisha saw for herself at the age of 24, given her new reality, it was going to need to change. Dreams had to be morphed into new visions. Plans had to be postponed or perhaps abandoned. Aisha had to open herself up to figure out what her purpose in life was, now that everything she knew was put upside-down. When something this big happens to you, I imagine part of the process is that you have to accept that change is gonna come.
So eventually, over the course of time, Aisha made new plans. Big, audacious plans. Like “I’m gonna change the game” plans. Currently she is over half way there to getting her PhD in Health Communications. Like I said: Game Changer. (And a bit of a show off, right?!)
Accepting a new reality. Changing course. Making bigger plans. This is strength.
A Number to Celebrate
Today is a big day. We celebrate 12 years that Aisha has her new heart and chance to live. I celebrate her strength, the strength of the donor family, as well as the strength of her own family and friends.
Aisha is my compass. She reminds me to live life to the fullest because we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. This includes eating NYC pizza every chance you can (you should know she was blessed with a good metabolism and ability to cycle like a champ). Most of all, she reminds me how strong we can be, as the human race.
Without donors Aisha wouldn’t be here today, and I most certainly wouldn’t be who I am today. I urge you to consider signing up to be an organ donor, if you aren’t already. To learn more go to: http://donatelife.net
ps. If you want to hear more of Aisha’s story, let me know. Maybe I can convince her to start that biography, documentary, etc. etc. …