High school prom. College graduation. Wedding. Honeymoon. Job. These are just some of the plot points from Erin Geraghty’s life. While to her they just feel like ‘normal’ accomplishments, to other transplant families her ability to live such a “typical” life gives them hope for their own happy ending.
Erin received a heart transplant at Boston Children’s Hospital 23 years ago, when she was just 1 year old. Ever since, she and her family have been attending the Transplant Center’s annual Family Celebration Day. Over the years she has become an unofficial role model for many other families who are earlier on in the transplant journey and looking for inspiration.
This year’s Family Celebration Day, held back in September, took place at Kimball Farm in Westford, Massachusetts. The day was packed with games, food, and transplant education. In addition, attendees had a chance to talk and support one another and share questions, concerns, and advice.
“It’s great to see everyone and hear what they have accomplished over the year,” says Erin. “It’s also nice to be able to see the doctors, nurses, and other care team members out of the hospital, having fun with their own kids and patients.”
This year she brought a new guest with her to share in the festivities: her husband.
“Every year at Family Day, there are name tags for your family members that say, ‘my sibling had a heart transplant.’ This year I got married, so I had to cross off ‘sibling’ and write in ‘wife’ for my husband’s name tag,” she says, adding that it was rewarding to be able to introduce her husband to the other attendees.
Serving as a role model
“For me, though, the most meaningful part of coming to Family Celebration Day as an adult is seeing how strong and resilient all of the younger recipients are,” she says.
She also enjoys sharing her experiences with others who can use some encouragement.
“This year I met some recipients who are looking into college and was able to give some advice. We also shared our experiences with sports, our cancer battles on top of transplantation, and how to talk about these challenges that we go through with friends of all ages who might not understand our experiences,” she says.
She also points out that others seem to find the stories of her life inspiring, even though for her, it’s just her “normal.”
“I was able to talk about my recent wedding and honeymoon with families. It’s pretty silly to me because I am just living my life and doing things that all of my friends get to do — nothing out of the ordinary. But I think other families see these events as huge milestones and it gives them hope that someday they will be able to walk down the aisle with their daughter or son,” she says. “It feels good to give these families hope, even if I don’t see it as me doing anything special.”
An annual tradition
She encourages other families that are early on in their transplant journey to make Family Celebration Day an annual event. “It’s great to be surrounded by people who get what you’ve been through and want to hear more about your experiences,” she says, adding that she is motivated by the other transplant recipients, too.
“It’s great to see what others have accomplished and to be inspired by all the cute little kids who are so brave and such great fighters,” she stresses.
Learn more about the Pediatric Transplant Center.
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