No, I mean it, there are people in my head.
Three to be exact.
And, at least two of them have helped make possible almost everything I have accomplished in the last 20 years of my life.
This realization occurred to me last Tuesday in the strangest of places
…while seated in an oral surgeon’s chair. After almost a dozen attempts, the oral surgeon who had finally managed to yank the stubborn root of my cracked tooth out of my head informed me that he was packing the hole left behind in my maxilla with cadaver bone. Granted, I was still recovering from the extraction when I was hit with this news, but my first thoughts were a combination of fear and repulsion.
Coming to terms with the fact that someone else’s ground up bone was going into my mouth was difficult to stomach, even for me.
After the initial shock, however, this fear quickly turned to gratitude – gratitude that we had the technological capability to use someone else’s bone to strengthen my own to the point it could receive an implant and, even more importantly, gratitude that someone selflessly donated their body in order to help others.
I also came to the realization that this cadaver bone is going to have good company in my head along with the cornea transplants I have from two additional organ donors.
Although my posts are typically focused on food, it is really all about nourishing our bodies and living our best lives.
This blog fits squarely within this larger context. I steadfastly believe the human body is incredible and has the ability to heal from most modern health problems when we nourish and take care of ourselves properly. This is an empowering way to approach life and I am looking forward to the day the mainstream modern medical community adopts this approach. I also realize that there are some things we simply cannot fix with diet and lifestyle changes alone no matter how powerful they may be, and am very thankful to be living at a time when some of the advances in medical technology can truly help. Organ, eye and tissue transplant technologies are a large part of that.
I received a corneal transplant in 2002 in my left eye followed by another in 2003 in my right eye to help mitigate the damage caused by a disease known as keratoconus. As a result of those transplants, along with several additional surgeries (PRK and crosslinking), I not only overcame blindness, but was able to achieve almost 20/20 vision without correction for the first time in my life.
These eyes have allowed me to accomplish so many things in my life and I literally saw the world through them. In fact, merely two weeks after receiving PRK laser surgery on my transplants (which is rarely done) I landed in Tanzania with National Geographic to begin filming the Great Human Race. This was followed over the next few months with filming on location in countries all over the world. It is through these corneas, I have experienced all of the pleasures of life over the past 20 years. The impact the transplants have made on my life have been so significant, in fact, that I wrote the following in the Acknowledgement section from Eat Like a Human:
To the families who made the decision to declare their loved ones – in the final moments of their lives – organ donors and enabled me to receive two corneal transplants. I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been to be so generous during such a heartbreaking time. I have literally seen the world through your loved ones’ eyes. And to Dr. Theodore Perl, the talented surgeon who performed the corneal transplant surgery. All of you gave me the gift of sight and changed my life. Thank you.
So, what is my point?
Well, I am attempting to make several here.
First, in order to live our best lives we need to take care of ourselves and do everything in our power to nourish ourselves. We should feel empowered that we can heal so many issues simply through diet and lifestyle while also realizing that there are some medical advances that can drastically improve our lives.
Second, organ, eye and tissue donation has the ability to transform the lives of others. If you are interested in becoming an organ donor and want to find out more there are plenty of resources online. Organdonor.gov is a great place to start. And, finally, don’t underestimate the tremendous power in a simple “thank you.”
20 Years Overdue
It finally took writing this blog post to take a step of my own that was 20 years overdue. I have been putting off contacting the families of the cornea donors because I didn’t quite know what to say. I justified my hesitation in the desire to have accomplished something exemplary enough to somehow warrant the level of selflessness the families of the organ donors exhibited.
- I thought maybe after I earned my PhD I would reach out to let them know that the transplants helped me complete my graduate degree. But, I didn’t think it was worthy enough.
- Then, once I finished filming the Great Human Race I could let them know that the corneas of their loved ones literally saw the world. But, I didn’t think it was worthy enough.
- Then, I thought maybe after Eat Like a Human was published I would let them know that the corneas were instrumental in my conducting the research and writing the book. But, I didn’t think it was worthy enough.
What I realize now is that my flawed line of thinking was doomed for failure and simply a way of procrastinating something difficult to do. Instead, a simple, genuine, “thank you” is 20 years overdue.
So, I am proud to say that this morning before this blog post went live I reached out to the corneal transplant center and initiated the process of making contact with the families of the cornea donors. All of the power is in the hands of the families, as it should be, and ultimately the decision to accept contact or not is theirs. But, at least the first step has been taken and I am hopeful for the possibility.
So, yes, there are 3 different people in my head and I am so, so very thankful for them.
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