It’s National Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Week in Canada. During this time of the year I feel the responsibility to share my story and encourage organ donation. Especially now that I have received a third chance at life.
Some people define themselves by their job, and others by their family. As for me, I have always found my identity in my illness and the treatments I have undergone as a result. In the past I have been Rare Disease Girl, Glycogen Storage Disease (GSD) Girl, Liver Failure Girl, Liver Transplant Girl, and Heart Failure Girl. Now I’m Liver and Heart Transplant Girl while still being GSD Girl. But when I talk to others about my transplants, I morph into my alter-ego: Bright, Shiny Transplant Girl.
Being Bright, Shiny Transplant Girl means that no matter what’s going on, no matter how I’m feeling, I’m fine and life is great because, let’s face it, I’m alive to live it. After two transplants, years apart.
As I learned in a first year Psychology course at university, it’s an example of Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. In Maslow’s hierarchy, the first level is physiological need. This level includes the absolute basics to human survival: breathing, food, water, sleep and sex.
While I can see sex being a basic need for our survival as a human species, the other needs are about personal survival. I’ve almost died more than once, and now when I talk to other people about my life, it is extremely difficult for me to show that I am anything but thankful. Seeing as my entire live exists because of the gifts of two strangers, I don’t want to seem ungrateful by complaining. I’m alive, and everything else is icing on the cake.
Except Maslow’s hierarchy continues. As humans, once we achieve one level of need we reach for the next one. After physiological needs comes safety, followed by love and belonging, esteem, and finally, self-actualization.
Likewise, now that I’m not facing the imminent threat of death, I, too, am reaching for other levels of need.
Needs like figuring out what’s going on with my GSD after a liver and a heart transplant so I can feel secure in my body. Or hanging out with my friends so I don’t feel alone. Or working so I have a sense of accomplishment and contribution to the world. Or even writing my blog, which gives me a place to figure out my head and be authentic.
I am more than Bright, Shiny Transplant Girl, GSD Girl, and Liver & Heart Transplant Girl. I am also Artistic Girl, Writer Girl, Bookworm Girl, Loyal Friend Girl, and Resource Coordinator Girl.
Perhaps then it’s okay if I’m Bright, Shiny Transplant Girl with most people. It isn’t a lie or an alter-ego after all. Having someone ask about my transplants brings me right back down to Maslow’s first level of need. And from that place, all I can be is grateful that I am still alive.