This month marks 8 years since my life was saved. In September of 2010, whilst lying in ICU, not knowing whether I was waiting to live or waiting to die, a stranger, somewhere in the country, donated the very thing that had once kept them alive so that it could do the same for me.
I’ve learnt a lot about not only myself, but about the world around me since my heart transplant (and later my kidney transplant) so I thought I’d share some of these things with you.
1.) Life is Damn Precious
I’m sure you already know this but sometimes everyone just needs a little reminder. Having nearly had mine snatched away from me so many times, and knowing that the only reason I’m still alive is because someone else wasn’t able to continue living their’s has taught and reinforced to me the fragility of the thing we are all guilty of taking for granted. Remember this – as hard as it is to think about, life can end at any moment so make sure to relish every second you have on this planet. The thing you wanted to do, do it today, not tomorrow. That person you wanted to see, text them now, not next week. You never know when you might not get the chance.
2.) It Does Get Better
Life can be a real b*tch at times – and don’t I know it. The onslaught of problems and hiccups and dilemmas can be relentless. I often wonder whether there is someone up there, whether it be God or another ‘all-controlling’ force, simply throwing bad things my way for fun. I can’t say I necessarily believe in God but I have always liked the saying: “God gives the toughest battles to his strongest soldiers”. Sometimes, when everything around you seems to be crumbling, it pays to tell yourself that you wouldn’t be experiencing the problems you were if you weren’t able to overcome them. I’ve learnt over time that although it can seem like your world is destined to fall apart, in most cases, there is always a way to put it back together again. Things usually do look up. So, I want to encourage others to believe in themselves when they feel like they’ve hit rock bottom. Believe that things will get better, because I’m telling you, as someone who has thought many times about giving up, they do.
3.) Things Don’t Always Go to Plan
For example, as I write this, I’m supposed to be unpacking and setting up my new room for my second year of university but instead I’m in a hospital waiting room as my heart rate is double what it’s supposed to be – and has been for two days. We all experience times when our plans don’t follow through exactly how we imagined they would and it is bloody frustrating – in my current state, I’m trying my hardest to refrain from banging my head against the wall- but it’s important to remember (as I’m trying to now) that bumps in the road don’t signify the end of it, just that we might have to take a different route. So, as I wait for the doctor to see me, I know that although I’m not doing what I thought I would be doing now, I attempt to convince myself, as hard as it is (VERY hard) that my room will still be unpacked and decorated – just not yet. Things often don’t go as expected – roads change but the destination will always be the same, as long as you stick with it, as tempting as it might be to pull onto the hard shoulder, turn your hazards on and cry into your steering wheel (metaphorically).
4.) Time is Fleeting
I mean this in the most literal sense. Time never, ever stops moving which means every second you spend sleeping in, watching Netflix or online shopping (in my case, that’s a lot of seconds), is a second you can never get back. Time goes so quickly – quicker and quicker, it seems, each year. I remember when I was little, a year seemed to stretch into decades. Now it seems that I’ve barely finished eating my last Easter egg before I’m wrapping last minute presents on Christmas Eve and by the time I’ve done that, I’m already standing in supermarket aisles full of heart shaped chocolates and ‘I Heart U’ Valentines teddies. We all know the feeling – time sometimes just seems to get away from us. It feels like my transplant was months ago yet years worth of stuff has happened since. Sometimes, I like to just stop and relish in the moment, appreciate every minute that I’m given because if I don’t pause to think, before I know it, I’ve lost another year. I encourage you to do the same: enjoy each moment, be excited for the future but remember take some time, occasionally, to appreciate your existence before the moment flutters off into the distance becoming a distant and blurry memory.
5.) Laughter is the Best Medicine (no, seriously)
Some may call it ‘being inappropriate’, yet I call it: making light of the situation. My family has an unrestricted ability to turn everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, into a joke. For example, as soon as the Doctor revealed I had a brain tumour, I turned to my mother – who was at this point as white as a ghost, close to passing out – and asked whether that meant I didn’t have to complete my summer reading task to finish Jane Eyre. Looking back, this probably wasn’t the most appropriate way to respond to such news but I guess it was my brain’s way of coping with it and in the end, it made the moment easier for the both of us. Time and time again we would find ourselves laughing in the darkest of times – constantly cracking jokes with the nurses and doctors treating me and doing things to make each other laugh – one night in PICU, my nurses helped me turn 180 degrees in my bed so that I was upside down. We took pictures and showed my parents in the morning. It was the little things like that that kept me from succumbing completely to cabin fever. I’m not saying that you should laugh in or make jokes out of serious situations but I want you to know that a little bit of laughter can make a world of difference. I always believe that I wouldn’t be here today if we hadn’t laughed the way we did in such dark times – people would look at us like we were bonkers – but I always make sure, even when I feel like screaming and crying, to laugh a little if I can. Don’t be afraid to say that thing that you think you shouldn’t – grace and decorum is so overrated.
6.) Support is always around.
This lesson is simple. Support is always available. Loneliness and isolation is something that I have experienced and often the people we believe would want to help us, simply don’t have the time or interest. It is times like these that its easy and logical for us to conclude that nobody cares or wants to help but that is never, ever true. I can guarantee that there is someone around you who wants to lend you their support and comfort. Honestly, you’ll find that many of the people who you thought weren’t there for you, are – you just have to ask. Never be afraid to reach out to those around you. Always be sure to tell someone when you feel alone, or down or are struggling to manage. The load is lighter when there’s more than one person carrying it.
7.) Problems are Relative
Everyone encounters problems throughout their life. We know this. However, it’s important to try and remember that problems and the impact they have on those facing them aren’t proportionate to the size of the problem itself. Therefore, we should have respect and empathy for others even if to us, it seems that they shouldn’t be complaining. In its simplest sense, to you, an incident or dilemma might seem fixable or mundane, but for another it may be the thing that ruins their week. An example being when I tried to make courgettes fries – my dad interfered and completely ruined them. I couldn’t let it go for a week despite the fact he thought I was wholly overreacting. I really like courgette fries, okay? This applies for life problems too. That’s why I never accept when people compare their issues to mine. Yes, I’ve had nearly every illness in the medical encyclopaedia but no, that doesn’t mean I’ve been through more than you have if you have ever faced your own struggles.
8.) Being Alive is a Privilege
This one is pretty self explanatory. Go out there and rock it, baby!
Bloody hell – record for the most metaphors in a blog post or what?
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my insights and that they’ve made you stop and think a little.
See you soon,