Saturday, 13 December 2014

A Family Christmas

Christmas is around the corner and we are all ready more or less: presents wrapped, cards written and posted and house decorated both inside and out. It has got me thinking about last Christmas, just a few months following my transplant. I'm constantly being asked what was it like that first Christmas post transplant? This was how it was, that first Christmas morning...

I wake and there are tears in my eyes. It is still dark and I lie quietly while I pinch myself and absorb what has happened. It is Christmas morning. Another milestone has been reached. I’m still shocked.

I had hoped for this day. Hope. It can take you a long way on a journey into the unknown.

I’d arrived at my destination. Christmas. A normal loving family Christmas. The realisation dawned. It had been a hard route. Rob, my husband stirs and we wish each other Merry Christmas, we wander downstairs and put on the Christmas lights: festive white lights twinkling inside and out. Everything is ready. Tears slide gently down my face. I knew it would be emotional. I hold them back, but they cannot be contained – they trickle softly like snowflakes falling from a laden sky – they keep coming.  It is bittersweet.

Everything is ready. Stockings bursting: gifts waiting patiently underneath the tree. It’s a real Christmas tree – it’s family tradition.  Collections of Christmas trinkets and decorations gathered over many years and from many places have been lovingly placed around the house.

Rose appears downstairs, it’s 8am, late in comparison to years past, but she is grown now – not our excited young child anymore, but still excited, as we anticipate Christmas. We breakfast to Christmas songs while we wait patiently and restrained for Sarah to arrive.  A young woman, now flown the nest, but always excited for our Christmas together.

A family together – just like any other family. She arrives and the celebrations begin. Rob and I watch as Sarah and Rose follow tradition opening their stockings first. We laugh, joke and enjoy the moment. We exchange gifts and slowly unwrap each present, surprised and pleased with our discoveries.

I’m teary still; it’s overwhelming at times.

We are by the tree and it catches my eye. The beautiful bright red heart shape, sprinkled with gold that hangs there in prime position. It flashes in the Christmas light like the Christmas Star. It reminds me why I’m enjoying this beautiful moment surrounded by my family; why I enjoy every moment now; every minute; every hour; every day.

The heart decoration, a memory of my beautiful donor – the person who gave me a heart that now beats loud and strong inside me - and my new lungs, lungs that allow me to breath easily without fear.

The heart decoration, it hangs as a memory of the person who has given me another Christmas morning with my loved ones: a gift that has given me back to my family, a legacy rippling amongst us.

We carry on unwrapping our presents, but we know we have already had the greatest gift of all – the gift of a new life: a renewed family life. What greater gift could we have ever wished for?

We continue our day, just like any other ordinary family; but for us this is extraordinary …

It is NHSBT's Christmas Campaign this week and all in our transplant community are thinking of those still waiting on the transplant list and hoping they can have their lives and those of their families transformed. So if you wish to do something special for Christmas: have the discussion about organ donation with your families and sign up to the organ donor register. The link to sign up is listed below.

©Kathryn Graham

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