A chance to say thanks in a very special way . . .

Tears of thanks all around

Tears of thanks all around

In September, I was offered another very special opportunity.  TRIO and ITNS (that’s Transplant Recipients International Organization and the International Transplant Nurses Society) were going to offer their annual symposiums together in St. Louis for the first time.  Pam and I were invited to speak at one of the workshops for ITNS, as well as appear on a panel for a TRIO workshop.  With over 500 transplant nurses expected from around the world, I came up with an idea on how to use this unique event to express thanks from transplant patients around the world to these nurse who had been so instrumental in saving our lives.

The concept seemed simple enough at first.  I would post an invitation to my various transplant web groups and local networks to have each patient write their own one page letter of appreciation “to a transplant nurse.”  I would copy those notes onto some special pretty papers, insert each into a coy of Reg Green’s beautiful book, The Gift that Heals, and have TRIO transplant patients hand deliver each book to a nurse at the luncheon where, as it later turned out, Reg Green would be the keynote speaker.  Reg himself got very excited about the idea (especially since it meant I was buying 500 copies of his book putting him back on top of the book selling charts again) and even accepted my offer to autograph the gifts, a huge task as this wonderful man came to our hotel room and worked for hours signing his message in each of those 500 books.

Reg Green autographing 500 books

Reg Green autographing 500 books

The idea really took off and in about two weeks I found myself with 600 letters to reformat, sign and print out on 28 different kinds of special papers – they were GREAT!!!!  People from from near and afar wrote letters that brought me to tears in their reading.  Of course, I continued to get carried away with more tweaks of the idea, adding a brief PowerPoint slide show explaining the idea as a backdrop to the luncheon presentation and the music of Michael Bolton singing “I’m Alive” (see song lyrics below).  When Reg Green finished his very moving talk, I got up to explain the upcoming gift.

Jim presenting the letters story

Jim presenting the letters story

Even before I had addressed the group describing the unique gift that each nurse had just received, there were surprised discoveries as nurses realized their fellow table companions each had a totally different letter of thanks in their book, causing a stir throughout the huge ballroom.  Quickly the books were passed around to allow others to read the various letters with even bigger surprise when they discovered letters from small children thanking them for saving the life of their father, or letters from as distant as Australia and the UK, and in several cases, nurses received letters from their own patients!  As 50 TRIO transplant patients moved about the 50 tables of 500 nurses, offering hugs of thanks along with each book, the lyrics of I’m Alive playing so strongly,  and tears flowed freely among those nurses and patients hugging everywhere.

(PS: I also shared that just before coming to St. Louis I had asked my church pastor to bless these 600+ thank-you letters that their messages from the heart would be received with open hearts of joy, not pain, by the nurses in the way they were intended.  Pastor John was pleased to do so and asked if he might read some of the letters.  Certainly, I replied.  Pastor John sat down and began to carefully read first one, then more of the letters.  As he continued, he reached into his back pocket and pulled out a handkerchief to wipe the tears as he cried in reading the beautiful stories and messages of thanks in those donor and patient letters.  I was very moved in witnessing the impact of those messages.  He went on to bless the letters and they certainly did touch the hearts of the nurses when received.)

Long after the luncheon was over, many nurses (and patients too) were coming up to say thanks for orchestrating this special opportunity to share those thank you’s this way.  It was the highlight of the symposium to many and I felt so blessed to have been the one to carry it out on behalf of patients who were not able to be there in person, but they certainly were there in spirit and love.

And so it goes on even further . . .

The project has taken on a new turn when I realized that these 600 letters had to be somehow shared with all the nurses around the world who were not there for the ITNS event.  Today that involves capturing each of those letters and posting them on the TRIO web site whcih will make them available worldwide, hopefully offering affirmation and loving support when any nurse needs it, given the very tough daily work they face in their home worlds each and every day.  You can see these letters yourself by clicking on the web site link here –> Thank you to a nurse letters

And in closing, let me ask you – what are your own special memory moments of this past year?  I do so hope and pray that they are as wonderful as my own as shared above, and trust me when I say, those two are only the tip of my iceberg of 2008 memories, many too many to list here.  And don’t forget, you still have time to create some  more before the year ends….

– Jim

Lyrics to Michael Bolton’s song: I’m Alive

(imagine this being sung by a transplant patient to their nurse after years of life post transplant, or better yet, imagine this being sung as those patients delivered those letters and hugs to the ITNS nurses in St. Louis…. beautiful tears were shared that day):
(Billy Mann/Gary Haase)

I’ve slept under the sun,
And I’ve tasted the rain, cold rain
I’ve loved more than once
And I’ve stared down the face of pain
But look at me
I’m still standing here today

Chorus:
I’m alive, yeah, I’m alive
I’d rather walk this winding road and let love take a leap of faith
than be alone
Yeah, I’m alive
Life is stronger, and more powerful, and beautiful than ever

Yesterday I was a fool
But in our yesterdays we are all fools
Watched the news in disbelief
Prayed for love to bring relief
Giving up is always easier than standing up to fight
…but baby

Chorus

Everybody gets scared a little
Everybody gets tired a little
Everybody feels low
Everybody feels high
When life is a journey, take a deep breath and enjoy the ride, enjoy the ride
All on borrowed time, I’m alive, look around baby
I’d rather take a leap of faith than be alone, yeah I’m alive,
Life is stronger, and more powerful, beautiful than ever.

Chorus

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