One of my New Year's resolutions this year was to write more feature stories. I love news reporting, but storytelling has always really been my passion.
I came up with a list of topics I was going to write stories about in 2011, and at the top of that list was organ donation.
I set about finding sources for my story, figuring I'd just write one piece.
After my first interview, it became evident that I was going to have to turn my one story into a series.
I've already talked to several people who have been organ donors or recipients, and I have interviews scheduled with several more. I have been struck by how different the stories are from person to person.
I've always noted on my driver's license that I want to be an organ donor, but I never knew before talking to people who had actually dealt with organ donation exactly what I was agreeing to do. It was more a reflex than anything ... "Do you want to be an organ donor?" Sure. Check the box.
What I never thought about was what checking that box could mean to another person -- and to his or her loved ones.
I always figured I couldn't take it with me anyway, so I might as well give what I could if it would help someone else. What doing these stories has done for me is put a face on those someones.
Not all of the stories I'm doing have happy endings, but there is always some sense of joy from the people I talk to. Whether the situation was that someone gained sight because of their deceased loved one's generosity or a sibling's donation to a sister gave that sister a few months of health she wouldn't have otherwise had, there was an underlying current of "we did the right thing."
I've started thinking a lot about what I can do right now as far as organ donation goes. I don't have to wait until I pass away, and after talking to all the people I have for my stories, I don't think I want to.
I am going to get myself on a bone marrow registry, and I'm going to start looking into how I can get tested to possibly donate a kidney or part of my liver to someone who may need them.
I just can't imagine one of my children or my husband needing a transplant and watching them wither away because a matching organ can't be found. I can't even fathom what that must be like.
What if I could help a family in that situation?
The bravery and generosity of the people I have interviewed so far for this series have inspired me to take action myself.
I'm always looking for ways to make a difference.
I really hope this can be one of those ways for me.
Jamie Barrand is the editor of the Banner Graphic.