5 On Your Side

Organ recipient recalls gift of life

Posted December 23, 2009 5:58 p.m. EST
Updated December 23, 2009 7:08 p.m. EST

Mary Conyers Tucker got a life-saving gift. She shares her story to encourage others to consider such an awesome gift.

She was diagnosed with liver cancer at age 13.

“At that moment, it's really just kind of disbelief,” she said. “How could this happen to me?”

She desperately needed a new liver.

Her mother, Mary Tucker, vividly remembers the night it hit her that her brave daughter understood the seriousness of the situation.

“Out of the dark, this voice says, ‘Mommy, am I gonna die?’ And after a couple of prayers, I said, ‘No sweetie, you're not.’"

After two rounds of chemotherapy, Mary Conyers was put on the liver transplant list, along with 17,000 other people.

Several months later, the call came.

“There's not really a lot of time to even think,” Mary Conyers said. “You're just so grateful for this gift that you know your life's about to be saved. It's a pretty … indescribable feeling.”

The first year, she fought her body’s initial rejection of the liver and other complications from the transplant. After three years, she got the all clear from her doctors. Aside from taking daily medication, Mary Conyers now lives a normal, cancer-free life.

Both she and her mother are big proponents of organ donation.

Mary Tucker speaks to driver's ed students. For her, it is a constant thank-you to the anonymous donor who saved her daughter's life.

“We hope that people will reconsider, if they haven't already considered, becoming an organ donor, understanding the impact the decision really means,” she said.

“Most of us don't have to know. We don't think twice about it. But it's life or death for so many people.”

Mary Conyers echoed her gratitude. “It's the best gift you could ever receive, and I can't imagine how difficult that decision must be, but it's given me life,” she said.

“It has given me an opportunity to graduate from high school, graduate from college and do all the things (that) at one point I didn't think I would be able to do. And, I'm just so sincerely grateful.”

Even simple, ordinary things, like making chocolate caramels with her family at Christmas, are a reminder of her gift of life.

“It's the little things you take for granted a lot of times that just really, you know, you think about and are appreciative of,” she said.

There are two ways to become a donor: Sign up through the Division of Motor Vehicles when you renew your driver's license or go to the Donate Life North Carolina Web site and click on “Become a Donor.” The site also has a lot of information about organ donation. The decision to sign up is legally binding, so make sure you talk about it with your family.

The organ donation groups say: Share your life. Share your decision.