Lucy Jensen

I knew she had been unwell for some time. When I say “sometime,” I mean years. It was quite shocking when I saw her the last time. The liver disease was really taking its toll on her, and she told me that she was now actively looking for an organ donor.

Knowing that the liver regenerates itself made me optimistic that a donor would be quickly found. Either one of her children or her siblings would most likely be her perfect match; but that was not to be the case.

As an O- blood donor, I was a match, but I still had to complete the Stanford questionnaire and see if I might qualify. I was almost immediately told that I was too old, which was disappointing because I feel so young; but the lady went on to explain that the liver donor parameters were very slim and rigid.

I told my daughter Francoise about Rita’s situation. She remembered her well from when Rita used to bring their horse Rojo to the ranch, and we would joyfully ride him in the vineyard. From time to time, we’d enjoy dinners at their house — Rita is an excellent cook — and for a long time we also worked in the same office.

My daughter told me how she wanted to step up and help, if she could; how, if that was her Mum, she would want people to show up and test. That she could only imagine what her children Josh and Brooke were going through, not being to help her.

And so, my daughter put her application into Stanford and went through an extensive interview process. She was the right blood type and age — check — but she needed to lose a little weight and get a mammogram. No problem she said. And I know she will. My girl is nothing short of feisty and determined when she puts her mind to it. Stanford told her that she would be feeling much better about four to six weeks after surgery and her liver would be completely recovered and regenerated within four months of the surgery, which begs us to question — what is the price of a life?

When Rita posted her dilemma on social media, a lot of “thoughts and prayers” went out from her receiving public; which always annoys me, because it’s such a passive response that acknowledges a person’s suffering, but does not add to the pile of helpful suggestions or proactive behaviors.

How about sharing the situation and encouraging people in Social Media Land to test? How about updating your status as an organ donor and letting people know that you don’t mind what happens to your carcass when you are no longer breathing, especially if it can help someone else to live?

When I renewed my driving license, I made sure my status as donor was clearly stated and that my next of kin were dutifully notified that I wished to be a donor when I pass. My husband has the same status. Do you?

We are all so busy in our busy, busy lives and I imagine many people have not thought about putting themselves forward as an organ donor, or seeing what they might be able to do to help a person in need. I don’t mean to be sun-shining on my own parade, but I take my O- status very seriously. It is an honor to be able to donate blood to anyone in the world and yet some people don’t even know their blood type.

When I worked in the newspaper industry, I was a match for a co-worker’s teenage son. He needed bone marrow and I was able to give it to him. Not to toot my own horn, but it was really nothing to be able to do this for another human being. I also need to donate blood more than I have been since the pandemic. Thanks for the reminder!

I don’t like to be a bully, but there are so many ways we can help our neighbor if we just stop to think, if we pause to participate and be a part of a better world where we help our fellow man with whatever it is they need. It doesn’t take much more than a cursory glance at the calendar and a social media sharing among our friends.

Rita’s friends and family are going to be hosting a fundraiser for Rita’s additional healthcare costs, in addition to the extra costs for their donor (who will need to spend a week in hospital in Stanford) and, I’m sure their family. It will be held in King City or San Ardo in the coming weeks, but not too far in the future.

It will be a delicious steak dinner with all the trimmings, plus likely wine, silent and live auctions — also information about becoming a liver donor and the importance of just being a donor, period. The Tavernettis are an institution in the City of King, and I know that their people — plus friends like us on the periphery of the City — will show up and help out where we can.

In the meantime, I hope that my daughter is able to shed the necessary pounds in order to be able to go to the next level of being a possible donor for Rita — and/or another potential donor or two is found to help Rita and her family move forward with the life-saving liver surgery that she so badly needs.

To offer up a well-used cliché, it does take a village to fix the large and the small problems in our communities. It takes all of us to come together and work on solutions to problems that are larger than all of us — without a shadow of a doubt in this case, issues of life and death.

If you would like to test and see if you might be a match, you need to be an O- or O+ blood type. You must also be 55 or under to qualify. Contact Rita at 831-206-6155 for more information about how you might be able to help save her life.

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Soledad columnist Lucy Jensen may be reached at [email protected].


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