Commentary: Thanks to tissue donation, I can dance at my wedding

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Anna Eggink and her fiancé Eli.

For most of my life, I was living in fear. I never knew when my knees would dislocate. I could be walking my dog, swimming, standing or even sleeping. It didn’t seem to matter. Because of that, I always held back and didn’t live life to the fullest.

In early 2015, I experienced my worst knee dislocation. My left knee completely gave out, and I couldn’t walk without crutches or a brace for about five months. I lost most of my leg muscle and had to learn how to walk again during rehab.

I saw several specialists over the years and was referred to countless hours of physical therapy. I did my exercises religiously, but my knee problems persisted. Every day was a struggle, and it was hard to stay positive. It was a relief when Dr. John Robert Green at the University of Washington Medical Center agreed to take my case.

When planning surgery, I had to decide what would be used to stabilize my knees – my own tissue or donated tissue (an allograft). I chose to use a donor allograft for both knee surgeries. Having dealt with knee issues for most of my life, I didn’t want to weaken a different part of my leg, risking further complications.

I had my left knee operation in 2015, followed by my right knee one year later. I felt the physical benefits of the tissue donation as soon as I healed and learned to trust my knees again. What I wasn’t expecting was the lasting impact this experience would have on my life. Because of someone’s generous gift of tissue donation, I am now able to live the life I’ve always dreamed of.

Since my surgeries, I am enjoying everyday activities that weren’t always an option before – going out for a run, walking my silver lab, Lily, or meeting up with my friends and not having to question if the location is a hazard for me.

But the one thing I am most excited for is taking dance lessons with my fiancé. We are middle school sweethearts, and he has been by my side through it all. Since we first started dating, we haven’t been able to dance like other couples. Every homecoming, prom and semi-formal, I was in knee braces. On our wedding day this June, it will be different.

If I could say anything to my donor, it would be thank you! I want to thank my donor from the bottom of my heart for donating, for giving me a life, for helping me through everything I’ve been through, for letting me trust my knees again, for letting me be 26.

Many people choose to be donors and give back. I knew about organ donation, but didn’t know about tissue donation until I had a need for it. A single donation can help more than 150 people. A heart valve can save the life of a baby with a congenital heart defect. Bone implants can help a person suffering from scoliosis, and skin implants are used to heal burn victims. This experience has inspired me to give back and encourage others to learn more and do the same. It gives us all an opportunity to help each other, and I think that’s amazing.

When I look down at my knee scars, I am reminded of where I’ve been and how far I have come. And I couldn’t have done any of this without the generous gift of donation.

One donor can enhance more than 150 lives through tissue donation. For more details, visit LifeNetHealth.org. Additional stories of hope and donor tributes can be found at Healingthespirit.org.

— By Anna Eggink

Anna Eggink and her fiancé Eli are Edmonds residents. Anna works with the nonprofit organization Provail, to help people with disabilities find meaningful employment.

6 COMMENTS

  1. You are the gift Anna! What a wonderful thank you. I have always signed up to donate anything I can should I have an untimely death and now I know why. It is great to hear such appreciation for the gift you received and see how people can help one another in this life by sharing and giving. What a wonderful wife and future Mother you will be. You lifted me up.

  2. Speaking as someone who did eye and tissue recovery from donors for years, it’s nice to see a story from a recipient of those tissues and to hear how well the donation worked out for them. When people hear about organ donation they think hearts, kidneys, livers and such, which are life-saving procedures that sadly there is more need for than supply of suitable organs, but donated tissues such as bone, tendons, skin, eyes and blood vessels can make a significant improvement in someone’s quality of life. Glad to hear how much this donation improved your life!

  3. What a wonderful story Anna and a wonderful thank you given. My son Merritt, passed away almost 10 years ago at 20 years old due to a motorcycle crash. He was able to be a tissue donor. He’s helped close to 100 people because of his tissue donations. At least something good could come from his death. His legacy gets to live on. My son was my only child, he was my life. So after he passed I needed a new purpose. Because of his generous gifts I started speaking and spreading the word about organ and tissue donation with the Wisconsin Donor Network. For the past 8 years I’ve been speaking to drivers ed classes regarding donation. I thoroughly love to hear stories like yours because the chance of meeting one of my son’s recipients is slim, so every story like yours is a thank you to my son.

  4. Thank you for this article! I have knees that dislocate due to a genetic condition. I’ve been considering surgery with donor ligaments but am uncertain due to the poor tolerance many have who share my condition. This was just added to my mental “info” list from which I’ll draw when making a final decision. I’m wondering if you also have EDS? Regardless, best wishes for your bright, mobile future!

  5. Thank You for the beautiful testimony of your experience. Your sharing of this ongoing event in your life will benefit many.

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