By Jennifer Larson, contributor
May 3, 2013 - Mary Saubert, MSN, RN, has worked with countless organ transplant patients and their families over the past 15 years.
Mary Saubert, MSN, RN, tells stories from her experience as a transplant nurse in her book, My Christmas Miracles and Other Stories about Organ Transplant
She treasured so many of the people she has met on the transplant unit in the Indianapolis hospital where she works that she took to writing down their stories. Many nights, even after she finished a long 12-hour shift and went home, she didn’t just collapse into bed. Instead, she plunked herself down in front of her computer and typed out their stories while they were fresh in her head. She named the file “Mary’s Book.”
“I would think of something that occurred during that shift that really impacted me, like the courage of a particular patient,” she said.
Saubert, who has been a registered nurse for more than 40 years, never dreamed that she’d actually publish those stories one day. But then on a whim, she entered a manuscript contest sponsored by Guideposts, a faith-based, inspirational magazine.
The result is her recent book, My Christmas of Miracles and Other Short Stories About Organ Transplant, which was self-published with the help of Guideposts’ Inspiring Voices service.
The preface to the book reads, “Their stories are all true. Some are sad, some are funny, but all of them show how precious life is.”
And that’s true, she said. It never gets old. She never ceases to be touched.
“Every person is still a miracle to me,” she said.
Mary dedicated one chapter in her book to Melody’s story. Melody had pulmonary fibrosis and pulmonary hypertension when Saubert met her at a support group picnic one hot summer day. She needed new lungs, but her doctors had determined that she needed to lose weight before she could receive a transplant. Her skin was “a ghastly gray” even though she was receiving oxygen therapy.
Another challenge: Melody had a very high antibody level, about 96 or 97 percent. Only a very small fraction of the population was likely to be a match with her.
Melody worked hard to lose weight, to stay active, to do everything she was supposed to do. It was hard, and there were setbacks. Saubert was struck by her positive attitude, her persistence. “There all these things that were against her, and she was still determined,” said Saubert.
But the years rolled by, and other people in her support group received organ transplants. People in her pulmonary rehab group received lungs. And still Melody waited for her own new lungs. Her face was purple. Her legs began to get numb. “As time wore on,” Saubert wrote, “I could tell it was hard to understand why she was the only one still waiting.”
Author Mary Saubert, MSN, RN, considers her years in transplant nursing as an honor, and she is constantly inspired by her transplant patients. She encourages everyone to be an organ donor.
The night that lungs finally came for Melody, she arrived at the hospital in a very fragile state. She was starting to be very confused, due to the lack of oxygen. “She was literally at death’s door,” Saubert said.
And the lungs were not in perfect shape, either. It was a risk to transplant them into Melody’s body, but “this was her only chance,” Saubert said.
As a nurse, Saubert knew all too well that Melody might have a tough road ahead of her, if she survived. She joined Melody’s husband, Gregg, in the waiting room until she came out of surgery. The days following the surgery were touch and go, but when sedation was finally withdrawn, Melody was back.
“She got out of the hospital, and she’s never been back,” said Saubert, the wonder still in her voice two years later. “They’re all miracles, but hers is really a miracle.”
She concluded Melody’s chapter by describing all the travels that Melody and Gregg are making these days, including visiting friends and taking their grandchildren camping.
“On their refrigerator is a crayon drawing of Melody from her youngest granddaughter. The face is drawn with a pink crayon and the lips are bright red,” wrote Saubert.
Saubert said she hopes the book will bring some comfort--and maybe even a few laughs--to transplant patients and their loved ones. Their lives are completely altered by the transplant process, and it’s something that can be hard for others to understand.
She feels it’s been an honor to work with organ transplant recipients, as well as a profound learning experience.
“They have truly learned to use every moment wisely, because you don’t know what will happen to you tomorrow,” said Saubert.
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