She is 47, lives in Sicily and likes true stories with happy endings. That’s understandable. She was on her deathbed when she was 19.
Her name is Maria Pia Pedala and she was saved from a seemingly inevitable death by a liver transplant. When I met her a few months later she already looked full of good health. Her way back continued so well that in two years she married her loyal sweetheart, Salvatore, and four years after the transplant had a baby boy and two years after that a girl, two whole lives that would never have been.
All this was a long time ago — she received her new liver in 1994 — but recently, back in Sicily for a few days, I chatted with her just before she gave a speech promoting organ donation at Donarte 2022, an international conference on transplantation at the University of Messina, and I could see in her the prototype of a busy matronly housewife, who gets up by 5.30 am daily, keeps the house clean and tidy, gardens, cooks and deals with all the other needs of a loving family.
She watches her health carefully, goes to bed early, eats sensibly and takes her medications meticulously, feeling she has an obligation to both the healthcare staff who have kept watch over her from her teenage to middle years and to the family who saved her life.
The result is she can do everything normal people of her age can do and in a line-up no one would pick her out as the one who had been the sickest. She also finds a preciousness in the small things in life that eludes most people.
Transplantation is a medical miracle and, even though it is an everyday procedure in hospitals all over the world, it doesn’t stop being a miracle that physicians can take a body part of someone who has died, put it into the body of someone who is dying and bring out of it a healthy person.
In this case, for my family, the story has an element in it that takes it to a higher level still: our son was her donor.
Author: Reg Green