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Inspirational Thoughts: Katie’s Gift

reflection and loss

Reflect and Appreciate

The muse for today’s inspirational thoughts is Katrina (Katie) Howell. I learned about her family’s desperate search for two living lung lobe donors via their Facebook page about two months ago.

The unlikely odds of finding lung donors were multiplied in Katie’s case due to a blood issue that made her compatible with only 17% of the population.  My heart went out to this young woman, her husband, her parents and friends.  Sadly, Katie died last week (June 9, 2011); but something about this story left me feeling more inspired than saddened, more hopeful than hopeless. That something is what happened during Katie’s life, which stands out much more to me than her passing.

For obvious reasons, donating a lung lobe is far more risky and involved than donating financially; yet complete strangers from all over the world signed up to give Katie the gift of life.  Average, everyday people actively pursued the family with the eagerness to give of themselves to someone they’d never even met.  How remarkable is that!

In a time when there is so much focus on the negatives happening in our world- war, joblessness, disorder, selfishness, greed- Katie reminded us all that miracles happen everyday.

Despite the odds, donors were found for Katie; but her weakened body could no longer withstand the needed surgery. So, the miracle was not what we may typically regard as a happy ending.  There was no transplant, she didn’t go on to live another 40 years, and she is no longer physically here with her family. But there were miracles nonetheless.

The miracle was in seeing the true essence of the human spirit.  The miracle was in the power of faith; the mass display of love, support, generosity and togetherness.

Those who weren’t a donor match for Katie, spread the word to others who spread the word to others who spread the word to others.  People provided encouragement to the family, the medical team, and to each other.  People refused to be “realistic” about the potential for finding a matching donor.  Instead, they believed in amazing possibilities despite all odds. That IS a miracle!

Another miracle that I can’t ignore is the wake-up call that Katie gave us, reminding us to count our blessings. Take a moment for reflection.

As Katie’s husband cherished the last few weeks, days and moments with the love of his life, what was going on inside and around you? What were you doing while her family sat in agony at her bedside, watching her cling to life? Were you even remotely aware of how much you have to appreciate?

Unfortunately, as Katie struggled to breathe, someone was complaining of a bad hair day, the price of gasoline or the quality of the fruit in the grocery store. Someone was having a fight with their spouse, parent or friend over trivialties that don’t really matter.  Someone was staring at a closet full of clothes while thinking, “I have nothing to wear.”

In some way, shape or form; most of us were in the midst of wasting precious moments by spending them in blissful ignorance of what Katie and her loved ones could not ignore.

  • Life is precious
  • Every breath is a gift
  • People, despite their flaws and inconsistencies, are inherently good
  • Love abounds in our Universe
  • We can never say thank you too much
  • The time to show love and appreciation is NOW
  • When tackled together, the impossible is possible
  • The present moment is the only one promised to us

Katie is no longer walking this Earth, but the spirit that surrounded her and lived within her lives on.  I thank Katie for the message that she, knowingly or unknowingly, spoke into my life and the lives of others.  Because of her suffering and strength, the powerful determination of her loved ones, and the attitudes of those who reached out to help; eyes were opened and hearts were touched. But that’s not the last of the miracles.

Katie’s father posted the following message on Facebook, “Out of death, comes life.”  The family donated Katie’s healthy organs to save the lives of others. Another miracle indeed!

Related Information

  • Facebook page for Katie Howell
  • In lieu of flowers, Katie requested that donations be sent in her memory to: UCSD Adult Cystic Fibrosis Clinic, Perlman Medical Office, Suite 2, 9350 Campus Point Drive, La Jolla, CA 92037
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