This summer Asia went through driver’s ed class. One day the students watched a video on organ donation. I had spoken with the instructor earlier in the week about Asia’s heart transplant because she had been at a doctor’s appointment. After the video was over, the instructor surprised Asia by asking her if she wanted to talk to the class about organ donation.
So she did. At age 15, she got up in front of 60 students and told them the story of how she needed a heart when she was a baby, of how an infant died, and of how his family chose to donate his heart so that Asia could live.
When she mentioned it to me after class, I told her what I’ve been telling her for years. She and her heart donor, Cole, might have just saved another life. I have often said when Cole’s heart was transplanted into Asia, it was like a pebble was thrown into the water. And every time we tell their story, the ripple from that pebble keeps going further out. Cole’s gift didn’t just stop with Asia. A student in that class might become an organ donor now because of hearing her story.
Asia was featured in a Cincinnati Children’s Tell Me a Story video four years ago when she was 11. Since then, to say she has been busy is a bit of an understatement. Her accomplishments are so many that I sound like I’m bragging when I list them. In reality, I am not trying to boast; I am just so proud of her. From soccer to track to piano and drums, Asia doesn’t waste a minute of her life.
This year as a freshman in high school, she marched with the Lakota West Marching Band in the 126th Tournament of Roses Parade. The year before she was selected to participate in the wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. She has marched in the Reds Opening Day Parade three times. She participated in the 2012 Transplant Games of America where she won six gold and five silver medals. She ended her freshman year with a GPA above a 3.9. She has visited the Ohio Statehouse to support legislation for organ donation. And I’m leaving a bunch of other stuff out! I think Asia fully appreciates that life is a gift. She doesn’t seem to take one second of it for granted.
From a young age, Asia has been interested in the medical field. That’s not surprising since she’s grown up going to endless doctor’s appointments, taking a handful of medications every day, and getting her blood drawn regularly. She already knows that after high school she wants to go on to college and pursue nursing.
This December, Asia will celebrate her 16th birthday and the 15-year anniversary of her heart transplant. All these years later and we continue to visit Cincinnati Children’s regularly for follow-up appointments. She has transplant clinic visits twice a year, and a heart biopsy twice a year. This is to test for rejection. Her blood draws every six weeks check the levels of her medications and look for side effects.
The medical care for a child with a heart transplant can be worrisome and at the same time routine. When things are going well, Asia takes her 25-plus pills a day, does the things a typical teen does, and we carry on the way other families do. When things aren’t going well, we might find ourselves in the hospital til 1 in the morning waiting for lab results to see why one of her blood levels is out of whack.
I think all parents worry about their kids, but when you have one who’s fragile, it’s like worry on steroids. I keep an eye on her but I don’t want to be a helicopter mom either. Do I worry? Yes. Do I let that stop her from doing anything? I try not to.
The whole point of getting a heart transplant is to give a child the opportunity to have a life. As parents, we have to stop our fear and anxiety from getting in the way of our children going out and living their lives. It’s hard not to be overly protective of Asia. But I try to control that. I want to let her be a kid and enjoy growing up.
And I want to keep telling her story, so that ripple keeps going and going.