Taylor's gift: Saying thank you for a second chance
WESTMINSTER - Mothers often tell their children about the importance of a thank you note. Jonathan Finger knew this would be the most important thank you note of his life, and it was addressed to a mother and father.
After writing and rewriting the note he still questioned whether it was good enough. One line reads: "You've literally given my life back to me. There is no other way to put it."
Jonathan's wife, Anna, wrote a letter too. Despite laboring for hours on these letters, neither of them could find the courage to send them. Nearly six months passed before they decided it was time. Before reaching for a stamp, Jonathan Finger picked up the phone.
"I went on the website and found the phone number and called and left the most awkward voicemail of my life," Jonathan Finger said.
For the next two days, the Fingers waited. Then it came, a text message that read in part, "Hey, it's Tara Storch."
The connection was instant; Jonathan Finger compares it to a new branch of his family. Finally, they knew it was time to send those thank you letters to the parents of Taylor Storch.
The story of how these two families connected goes back to March 2010. The Storch family traveled from Texas to Colorado for a spring break ski vacation. On the last day of their trip, on the very last run, 13-year-old Taylor crashed into a tree. She was wearing a helmet, but it wasn't enough to save her life.
While grieving the sudden death of their daughter, Tara and Todd Storch made the decision to donate Taylor's organs.
Jonathan Finger had nearly given up hope that he would get a second kidney transplant. His first transplant took place 10 years before. His mom gave him a kidney after he was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy, a condition that often leads to kidney failure.
Unfortunately, Jonathan Finger's body rejected his mom's kidney and he realized dialysis would become a part of his life.
Initially, he went to dialysis three times a week for four hours at a time. Eventually, Jonathan and his wife Anna got the training needed to administer dialysis at home. This way they could do it in the evening after work. Five nights a week, for two hours at a time, Jonathan Finger would get dialysis.
"There was no being, spontaneous. We had to plan things months in advance. Friends would call us and say, 'Let's go to dinner,' and we'd say, 'No, we have dialysis,'" Anna Finger said.
While dialysis limited their ability to do the things typical young couples enjoy, the Fingers refused to dwell on it. They held on to the hope that someday they might find another kidney donor. They had some friends interested in becoming donors, but unfortunately they could not find a match.
Then Jonathan Finger's medical condition took a terrible turn. He became very sick with what doctors thought was H1N1. Sick for three weeks, he had to be rushed to the hospital where doctors found he had an infection that was attacking his heart. After open-heart surgery, he was dealt another blow: His body had developed so many antibodies the odds of finding a kidney match were extremely slim.
The Fingers admit this was devastating news. They decided this was how their life was supposed to be and there was no point on focusing on the negative.
In accepting this news, they no longer jumped if the phone rang in the middle of the night. They didn't even bother picking up the call that came early on the morning of March 14, 2010. By 6 a.m., Anna Finger was on her way to work when it rang again and Jonathan Finger answered. He was shocked when the transplant coordinator at University of Colorado Hospital told him there was a kidney and preliminary tests looked like they found a match.
Less than hour later, the Fingers were at the hospital preparing for the transplant. From the start, they struggled with mixed emotions, knowing that someone had died for this transplant to be possible.
A couple of months after the transplant, Jonathan Finger was given the option to read a letter from the donor family. He was stunned to learn the kidney came from a 13-year-old girl. Taylor was tall for her age (5 feet 8 inches), another critical requirement for this match.
Tara and Todd Storch shared family photos, along with their letter explaining their decision to donate Taylor's organs. Anna Finger sobbed reading about this vibrant girl and her kind and loving spirit. Jonathan Finger felt an instant connection to Taylor. He frequently finds himself talking to her, almost like a guardian angel.
"If I'm anxious about something, I'll say, 'Just stick with me, hang close,'" he said.
Nearly everything about Jonathan Finger's life has changed, thanks to Taylor's gift. He is able to exercise, travel and do all the things he couldn't do before.
Jonathan Finger works in web development and is helping the Storch family with their foundation and the website. Taylor's Gift Foundation is devoted to increasing organ and tissue donation in the United States. The website is www.taylorsgift.org.
This summer, the Fingers will be participating in RAGBRAI, also known as Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. They will be riding for Taylor's Gift.
(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)