Saturday, October 31, 2009

I'm giving it all away – the rest of the story

The week after I signed up to be an organ donor, a letter came in the mail from the Department of Public Safety.

Fingering the thick envelope, I thought it must be a big thank you with some sort of certificate of appreciation.

Eager to open it, I wondered aloud, "Hm-mm, maybe I am the one-hundredth donor this month and I've won the grand prize."

Since I decided to give away all my organs, I had been floating on a cloud of satisfaction, knowing that I could help as many as 60 people.

When my number is up, maybe, just maybe, one of the 16 who die every day waiting for an organ transplant will live.
Wow, did donating my organs make me a wonderful person or what?

I’m no Mother Theresa, but definitely a qualifier for one of the lesser saints. I could see it in lights: "The deceased Paula Bosco Damon enters candidacy for sainthood." Talk about helping others. It doesn’t get any better than this.

In my usual fashion of exuberance over getting real mail in a real envelope that's glued shut, I ripped that baby open. As I quickly read the header "Department of Public Safety, 118 W. Capitol, Pierre, South Dakota 57501-2000," I totally expected praise for my selfless act of generosity.

The letter reads...

Dear Ms. Damon:
Thank you for sending your Organ and Tissue Donor Registry Form. In checking it, I noticed that you had put your doctor’s name in the "Donor's Name" field.

Therefore, I am returning the Form to you, along with a new Form so that you may enter the correct information and return it to me.

Thank you! If you have any questions, please contact me.

Geneva Barkley
In disbelief, I flipped to the next page and quickly scanned my completed Form. At the bottom, Geneva marked with a yellow highlighter exactly where I had screwed up. The Form reads "Donor's Name," not "Doctor's Name"!

I could not believe it! I had donated my doctors organs, every last one of them, along with all of his tissue without even knowing it!
I donated his heart and heart valves, his lungs and liver, his kidneys and pancreas, his intestines and corneas, even his skin and bones, and I didn’t even ask him.

As every ounce of pride drained out of me, I felt dejected, deflated and disappointed by my silly mistake. I tried to laugh it off –ha, ha, ha. I laughed some more, ha, ha, ha, but I felt so embarrassed. Way to go, Paula.

I had to quickly blame my mistake on something. My eyestrain! That’s it! My job as a writer and editor made me donate my doctor’s organs. Plus, who in the world could read that teeny-weeny 10-point-size font on the Form.

I couldn’t find one of my gazillion pairs of reading glasses and filled it out in a blur. I was so distracted by CNN that it’s a wonder I didn’t donate Wolf Blitzer’s organs.

Prior to receiving this piece of news, I had been strutting around with an interior glow, and outwardly, I was clipping along with gleeful lilt in my step.

Similar to being baptized, confirmed and married, by agreeing to devote my organs had changed me in an indefinable way.

I have learned in life, and in golf, that a do-over can be healthy for your game. So I put on my reading glasses, got out my 4-inch diameter, 3-X power magnifying glass, filled out the Form and mailed it, again. Now, I thought, this time I hope it's official.

(For more information about organ donation, please call 1-888-5-DONATE or 1-888-5-366-2833, or visit

2009 © Copyright Paula Damon. A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her columns have won first-place in National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women Communications Contests. In the 2009 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contest, Paula's columns took three first-place awards. To contact Paula, email, follow her blog at and find her on Facebook.

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