Written by Robert Boudwin, aka Clutch "The Rockets Bear"
In 2011 after my Dad had suffered for four years from IPF - a degenerative and terminal lung disease that has no known cure or treatment - his health was getting rapidly worse and the only solution left was a lung transplant. Knowing that someone you love is in need of an organ transplant is a nerve wracking experience. Because organs are in high demand and short supply, doctors must ensure that organs go to those patients who can benefit the most. To be a candidate you need to be sick enough to significantly benefit from a transplant, but not so sick that the transplant won’t help if there are other problems. The only thing we could do was hope and pray for a donor before things got worse.
Photo: With my now wife Amy after running 13.1 miles for organ donation
Finding Out It’s Time for a Transplant
On February 2, 2012 I brought my twin boys, Jack and Luke, to visit my parents. Upon entering the house I immediately realized the condition of my father was critical. Even with oxygen, my dad could barely get out of bed; he could not even get through an entire sentence when speaking. After some discussion, I convinced him to let me call his doctors and speak to them about the current situation… which resulted in me rushing him to the ER. We came to find out that the disease had significantly taken hold of my father’s body, deteriorating what little was left of his lungs and compounded by a severe case of pneumonia. Doctors saved his life that day. They said that if he hadn’t come in when he did, there was a good chance he could have died. My father spent a week in the hospital, receiving high doses of steroids and antibiotics as well as other medications… and we were told that he only had a few months to live without a transplant.
Within seven days my father was placed on the transplant waiting list in the second position. A week later, on February 15th, my dad received a successful double lung transplant that saved his life. Something that will, God willing, allow him to see his grandchildren grow up and continue to dance to the Beach Boys with their Pop-Pop. :)
The roller coaster of emotions felt through the process of all of this is hard to put into words; everyone is experiencing something unique and the collision of joy and pain is different for everyone. In the early morning hours of February 15th when my mother, brother and I were huddled around my father’s bed awaiting news about final go ahead, he cried. We asked, “Dad, are you OK?” He responded, “Someone had to die for this chance for me.”
Meeting Our Donor’s Family
Photo: My dad and the parents of his donor, Ian, listening to his lungs
When I met the parents of Ian, the generous young man who saved my father’s life, the experience was surreal. As I imagined the pain of what it must be like to lose a child without actually knowing what it felt like, I started to cry uncontrollably. Rob, Ian’s dad, grabbed me and hugged me. A man I had never known before ten minutes ago was consoling me about the loss of his son, a young man who I had never met and would never meet. Janis, Ian’s mother, kissed my cheek. The couple shared with me that meeting our family didn’t hurt more, it hurt less. It gave them a way to feel like Ian was still with them and gave them further closure. I was speechless at their willingness to help us through our grief with a face and name that had given us a second chance. I introduced my twins. We all became instant family. I don’t know how they summoned up the grace and power to meet us, but it forever changed my life and set an example for me of how to LIVE! Thank you Rob and Janis.
Photo: Becoming instant family - Heidemann's, Boudwin's, King's (heart recipient), and Brownhill's (kidney & pancreas recipient)
Photo: My father and his grandsons, Jack and Luke, with Rob - his son saved their Pop-Pop's life!
Serving a Greater Purpose
What a journey it has been these last three years! Surreal, grief stricken, terrifying, humbling, devastating, life changing, overwhelming, awe inspiring, victorious, motivational, purpose driven, and absolutely LIFE SAVING! Ever since my father’s transplant I have been on fire for organ donation. With the help of TEAM CLUTCH, I’ve run long distances in “full gear” (in the Clutch the Bear costume) in an effort to fundraise and raise awareness for organ donation. For the next three years I will serve on the corporate board of directors of LifeGift, a $50 million per year Organ Procurement Organization (OPO), where I help by serving as one of the 18 volunteer unpaid owners of the non-profit. I am also honored to have joined the board of the Todd Krampitz Foundation, a Houston based organ donation awareness non-profit organization, in January. And now, I am excited to be a part of what Taylor’s Gift is doing.
Photo: About to run for organ donation!
Teaming Up with Taylor’s Gift
When Tara Storch, co-founder of Taylor’s Gift, reached out to me through common friends and contacts this past February, we became instant friends. We have teamed up to promote the Taylor’s Gift Houston Golf Tournament. The event will take place at Topgolf in Spring, Texas on Friday, May 15, 2015 and funds raised will benefit the mission of Taylor’s Gift Foundation. Taylor’s Gift works to spread the word about organ donation while also providing financial help and support to donor families left in the wake of immense loss and grief. Register for the tournament today at at taylorsgift.org/event/itsaboutlife. If you are unable to attend the event but still want to join me in support of Taylor's Gift, check out my online fundraising page here.
Photo: With Tara Storch getting ready for the Houston Golf Tournament at Topgolf!
I can already tell that my wife Amy and I will be long term friends and allies with Tara and her husband Todd both personally and in our joint effort to get everyone to say YES to organ donation. I love their added mission of helping donor families going through financial hardships in the aftermath of losing a loved one. My mission is to try to inspire as many people as possible the rest of my life to self designate themselves as organ donors and give the greatest gift of all, the GIFT OF LIFE! Visit taylorsgift.org to register as an organ donor TODAY! It will take you only 60 seconds and may one day save several lives. You never know, an organ donor may even save your life, or the life of someone you love. #outliveyourself