I’m a gift-lover. I certainly never mind receiving one, but I find so much joy in carefully wrapping a thoughtfully chosen present for someone else. The best gifts to me are the ones given unexpectedly, and without any reason other than thoughtfulness. There is one gift, though, that has truly captured what it means to ‘give’ and how lucky I am to have ‘received’. I literally have carried this present around for twenty years now.

When the bones in my shoulder and hand were reduced to dust because of the close range shotgun blast I suffered at Columbine High School, I was facing a possible amputation of my arm. Another option was to leave my arm attached, but with no function. The suggestion was made to use allografts (donated cadaver bones) to reconstruct my shoulder and hand. “Donated bones will give Kacey the best chance to keep her right arm, even if the function will be limited,” my surgeon said. My parents had never heard of such a thing. We all knew, of course, the life-saving impacts of organ donation, but tissue donation was a new concept to us.

It wasn’t until I became a mom that I was able to realize the enormity of the gift I never wanted to need. One time, when I was speaking, an audience member asked, “Did the bone donations save your life?” My initial response was ‘no’, but after I pondered the question, my answer quickly changed. I started to ask myself-what is life? To me, life is holding the hands of my four children, hugging them with two arms when they get home from school, holding a book in one hand and a child in the other. The gifts given to me through donation absolutely saved my life.

This gift didn’t come to me in beautiful, colorful packaging, but in the envelope of a life story continuing its journey with me. How very different my life would look with only one arm. With two arms, I feel mended and whole…in mind and body. That is life; life given to me by a family wanting the story of their loved one to continue in the life of another. I feel honored to be given this second chance at a quality life, and to carry the story of another with every hug I share with my husband and children.

Register here to become an organ, eye and tissue donor. You, too, can give someone a gift they never wanted to need.