Have you signed up to be an organ and tissue donor yet?
NEWS: The Tennessean and its Williamson AM section were kind enough to help promote our cause:
To the editor:
April is National Donate Life Month
In Nov ’09 at 11 minutes before 11 PM on the day before the 11th we received the call that a liver and kidney had become available for my life-saving transplant. My family suffers from the genetic disorders of Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) and Liver Disease (PLD) My organs were massively enlarged and shutting down. The liver they removed weighed 30 lbs.; the kidney 9 lbs.
But did these circumstances come about solely because of fickle fate or was it a small piece of God’s plan? It was the incredible generosity of an anonymous organ donor that saved my life. And where was God’s hand in this? God guided the heart of my donor and gave me and my family the strength and will to persevere through:
Faith. Without pure, unadulterated faith it could have turned out quite differently. With a chronic disease and a slow descent you get a lot of time for both reflection and prayer. And to give up?
Very early on I stopped praying for my good health and the delivery of a miracle and instead came to pray that “God’s will be done.” Oh I desperately wanted to live don’t get me wrong but I concluded that if you believe in a soul, in an afterlife, and have faith in a power greater than yourself then you cannot fear death. I prepared myself really believing the outcome would be what it was supposed to be and I made the necessary preparations for my wife, Anne, and the kids.
Hope. While faith comes from within hope is where all your loved ones, your friends, the complete strangers who hear about your situation carry you further than you could ever go alone. Hope is contagious and, when driven by so many, powerful. There were many times in the hospital, like when they almost lost me in an internal bleeding episode, that we knew we were being uplifted up by the hopes and prayers of so many.
Charity. I don’t know my donor’s name or family. Anne has written to them and not yet received a response and that is certainly their right. Frankly, I’m still working up to that because I have a hard time feeling worthy enough and there is so much I need to do to live up to my donor’s charity. Maybe that’s why I’m so driven: I have a goal of enrolling 1000 new donors and I do it to honor the incredible charity of my donor.
And the greatest of these is Love, of course, and I have received much more than my share.
I can only pray that a system is maintained that is as equitable as possible to those who wait because, candidly, “fair” is impossible.
And beyond that: God’s will be done. Hear the call and become an organ and tissue donor today!
Also special thanks to Joe Biddle, TN’s top Sports columnist, for his kind remarks:
• “Franklin resident Steve Baum is not only an organ recipient, he had a double transplant in 2009. Baum was on the transplant list for 11 months. He had a rare blood type (B-positive) and needed liver and kidney transplants to survive.
He has written a book, The Life and Times of Chuck Basement. After the transplants he lost 40 pounds. Both his liver and kidneys became enlarged. His liver weighed 30 pounds.
He got back on a treadmill he had used eight years as a clothes hanger.
Baum last month completed the Disney’s Princess Half Marathon in 12,518th place. He wore a T-shirt that said “An Organ Donor Saved My Life.”
His next run will be the Country Music Half Marathon on April 30. After that, he and his brother-in-law will hike a 14,000-foot high mountain in Colorado. At age 56.”
Completing the Disney’s Princess Half Marathon” in 12,518th place last month was a proud accomplishment for Franklin resident Steve Baum. Women runners slapped Baum on his bum as they passed him, offering words of encouragement such as, “’atta boy!” and “you go for it!”
Double transplant recipient Steve Baum crosses the finish line at the Disney’s Princess Half Marathon in Orlando.
He surmised it was a response to the T-shirt he was sporting, which proclaimed, “An Organ Donor Saved My Life.”
Baum, who has a somewhat rare B+ blood type, was on the transplant list for 11 months. Due to a rare combination of unrelated polycystic liver and kidney diseases, and both organs had to be replaced. He got the long-awaited phone call 11 minutes before 11 o’clock on the day before the eleventh month.
In November 2009, he received a double transplant. Both organs came from the same donor, at the same time. “I can only call that a blessing,” he said.
The transplant provided him new organs and an instant weight loss of 40 pounds. His original liver and kidneys had become so enlarged, Baum said, “I walked like a woman who was nine months pregnant.”
When removed, his liver weighed 30 pounds, and one of his kidneys, 9 pounds. “I must’ve been the only man in America who lost 40 pounds over Thanksgiving,” Baum joked.
Getting from the hospital bed back onto his treadmill, which “had spent eight years as a clothes hanger,” Baum said, was no easy feat. It was a journey he took one step at a time, and one he chronicles in his new book, “The Life and Times of Chuck Basement,” which also includes a second memoir, “The Road to the 2010 US Transplant Games.” The title character of Baum’s book is named for his childhood alter ego. “When I was four years old, I was kind of short, fat, and had a lazy eye. I was somewhat of a target to get picked on a little bit,” he said. “Little Steve wasn’t going to be able to deal with bullies very well by himself,” so he decided to create his own tough guy persona: Chuck Basement.
“Whenever I face challenges in life-whether it’s a bully or even my surgery-I look back and say, ‘what would Chuck Basement do?’ He has more courage than me, and he gets me through those moments.”
Baum is quick to add that his real-life wife, Anne, and family are his primary support system, without whom he might never have crossed a literal or metaphorical finish line. “I can’t imagine having gone through this without them,” he said.
Recovering from his double transplant has been a “step by step process,” said Baum, who was still using a walker through mid-January 2010.
At a hospital-hosted picnic for transplant recipients that April, Baum, who stands at 6 foot, 3 inches, was recruited to play basketball in the US Transplant games. “At that point, I could walk fine, but it was still difficult to stand in one place for longer than five minutes because I still lacked a lot of core muscle,” Baum said. “So I thought, well, that’s a goal.”
And that mentality stuck with him, through the US Transplant games and beyond, when he started eyeing the Disney’s Princess Half Marathon this year. “I knew enough to know that it was flat there, and the weather would probably be good,” Baum said.
“Plus, my extended family all live around Orlando, and I knew they would be there to support me. So, I went ahead and enrolled. Even if I just walked the whole thing, I wanted to be able to say I did one and got it done.”
And so he did-mostly in a gait he described as a “sort of shuffling jog,” due to the still weak muscles in his legs. Nevertheless, Baum said, “It was a great moment for me, because when I was healthy and 25, I was a fair athlete, but I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing a half marathon then.”
And of course, there was the whole double transplant thing. “I did it first of all to honor my donor and the incredible charity and generosity of the person who signed on that line,” Baum said. “And secondly, I did it just to do something with this second gift of life. I didn’t want to just sit around and just say, ‘gee, how lucky I am!’ I wanted to do more.”
Baum has set a personal goal of recruiting 1000 new organ donors. Running half marathons in his T-shirt is one way he’s promoting his life-saving cause.
Next up, he’ll try his hand-or rather, feet-in the Country Music Half Marathon, April 30 in Nashville.
After that, he said, “I’m going to climb a mountain.” He’s currently planning a trip to Colorado where he and his brother will hike 14,000 vertical feet. “It’s not a difficult technical climb,” Baum said, “but I’d like to get a picture with me wearing that T-shirt at the top of a mountain.”
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