This photo might appear to just be of Spencer Newell coming into the second transition of the Cabo Half IronMan this past November. But what I am writing about is what was happening behind the camera. It was special.
There were only a handful of people around the transition since it was early, and only pro triathletes had been through so far.
I walked up and stood next to the railing near where Spencer’s bike would get racked before he went out for the run. It was a hot day, full sun, and I heard a woman say ‘you can stand here in the shade with me if you want, there’s plenty of room.’ I looked over and there, under the shade of a palm tree, was a very friendly looking woman.
I happily joined her and we instantly started chatting. During the course of our brief conversation, I brought up my work with Kidney Donor Athletes. She had organ donation in her family so she instantly felt connected to the mission.
Our conversation was just getting started when Spencer rolled in on his bike and swiftly took off on the run portion of the race. I quickly snapped some photos and packed up my bag to run off onto the course. Before I left she asked if we could connect on social media. I told her how to find me and I was off.
Two months later I land in Kansas City for work, I check my messages… and I had one from the lovely woman I met at the race! She wanted to talk to me about becoming a donor! We set up a call, which we had yesterday. We had a great conversation and I followed up with giving her some connections in the area to reach out to, as well as a donor advocate at her local transplant center.
Isn’t that incredible? She even said she felt like she met me that day for a reason. Little old me, who just loves to talk about organ donation with strangers any time there’s an opening in a conversation.
But I wasn’t always that way.
In October of 2017, I was at an event that was sponsored by the University of Wisconsin Transplant Center. It was to celebrate the living donors of the last two years. I was excited to meet other donors and hear their stories, but still generally shy about telling my own.
The keynote speaker took the stage and started out by saying that this was the first time she had spoken publicly about her donation in 15 years and that it was the biggest mistake of her life. Let me repeat, not talking about it was THE BIGGEST MISTAKE OF HER LIFE.
She instantly had my attention. She went on to say that she looked back at those previous 15 years and saw so many missed opportunities to educate and inspire people to donate. And she was right. I changed my thinking about telling my story immediately while sitting in that chair.
Telling my story wasn’t at all about me, it was about the message. The message that I shared with my new friend under a palm tree in Cabo for all of ten minutes. Ten minutes that may very well have changed the course of this wonderful person’s life, and could even SAVE people’s lives. And that was just one conversation – just one.
If you are a donor and have been shy to talk about your own story, I hope this inspires you to start sharing. It blows my mind how few people know that you can donate a kidney while you are alive, or that you can donate to someone you don’t know, or that you can do a donor chain and save multiple lives. All it takes is ten minutes.