A Tale of Hope By Julie Nelson

The diagnosis came as a surprise. My father, Jim Rhatican, would need a liver transplant to live. Those were certainly tough words to absorb. Other than checking the box on my driver’s license since I was 17, I knew little about donating organs. Was this something people do? I prayed and prayed that people far more educated than I on this topic were out there and one of them would literally save my father’s life.

Team Rhat Pack

Team Rhat Pack at the 2013 NJ Sharing Network 5K

This feeling, of course, came with extreme guilt knowing that there were people who would have to lose a loved one, someone near and dear to them, in order to save my father’s life.

During my father’s difficult journey waiting for his transplant, my husband and I learned we were expecting our first baby and we bought our first home. I knew there was no way that my father would miss out on the chance to create new memories with his growing family.

We waited.

Christmas 2008 came and we cherished every second not knowing if we would have the chance to celebrate together the following year. Saying goodnight had never been so difficult. It was 12 hours later that he received that AMAZING call. Our real gift had come; an angel was giving my father the gift of life and giving our family the gift of the future.

Five years later…we are thankful and grateful every single day for the decision made by the family who lost their loved one and CHOSE to save our loved one’s life. We know it had to be the most difficult decision made during the most difficult time. But we could not be more appreciative. My father has seen his family grow from four grandchildren to eight! He has spent days on the beach with his family, he has seen his grandson play baseball, he has gone to dance recitals and spring concerts, and he has read to his grandchildren’s classes and has honored his weekly Pink Donut Day tradition! He has hugged his children and kissed his wife.

WE thank our angel every day for the memories we are blessed to create. My father has become involved with the organization that helped to save his life. He educates others by speaking on behalf of NJ Sharing Network about the importance of organ donation. He meets donor families and recipients and guides others through their journey. We, Team Rhat Pack, participate in NJ Sharing Network’s 5K as a celebration of Jim Rhatican’s life and as a THANK YOU to all those who have given the gift of life!