THE MEASURE OF A MAN
by Lisa Bradshaw
When I first launched the DWP®, I was most determined to
bring awareness to organ donation registry when sharing
our own story, then I set out to find the most amazing organ
transplant story ever told. After a few days of researching,
I found numerous stories of people who had given and received
life saving organs in ways that were truly remarkable, but
discovering one story that proved the miracle of life five times
over was not something I expected to find.
I met Kyle in front of a restaurant in Los Angeles to have lunch
before I started interviewing him at a nearby park. At first,
I found him to be shy, but I soon discovered he wasn't shy at
all. He was just incredibly humble.
My brother, his film team, and I had flown to Los Angeles to interview
Kyle and his family and, trust me, I expected to learn from it, but I
had no idea just how much this man had been through and hearing it
told by his mother and father, particularly, was heartbreaking yet
inspiring at the same time.
Here was this seemingly "normal" family, that, if you met them outside of this setting, you would never know they had endured such ongoing tragedy together. I felt a special connection with Kyle's mother, Matri Garlett, because I could see the pain she was still in when recalling the events that rattled her family. Although I do not think anyone truly ever gets over such an experience, her ongoing pain was still evident as she recalled all she had endured and still had not, in any way, forgotten.
Kyle's father, Fred Garlett, was stoic in sharing his side of the story as the head of his family, clearly defining his role as the deliberate leader when the life threatening hits kept coming. I was warned that Fred didn't really talk about these things and might be the least open when I interviewed him. Knowing this, I separated Kyle's parents for the interview and spent time talking with Fred as he opened up about his side of things, never once seeming reserved or incapable of expanding upon what he'd endured.
It was obvious that Kyle and his wife Carrie had told their story, even to the media, more than once. They were open and articulate and they were very aware of where they had been and where they were heading, both an individuals and as a couple. Neither of them told their sides of the story about Kyle's health as if it was representative of their entire story. It seemed, instead, the beautiful way that lead to their meeting and the rest was a compilation of the typical relationship decisions we make that lead to marriage and spending our lives with someone.
Kyle started out with the same kind of cancer at 18 that I had when I was 22—Hodgkin's disease, a form of lymphoma. Only our stories split from there as I never suffered a recurrence and he would suffer two. Not only would his cancer return but the treatments he had endured to cure Hodgkin's disease also lead to his fourth cancer—Leukemia. Although four cancers in less than 25 years would be more than enough for any family to endure, much less the human body, Kyle prevailed and beat all four cancers. Unfortunately, his respite from health catastrophe's didn't last long and soon Kyle and his family were faced with yet another battle to survive, only this time it would take more than their will to win the fight. This time, it would take the generosity of a complete stranger for Kyle to even have a chance at living a longer life. How he got to that miracle and what he has done with it thus far, we did our best to capture over the three days we spent with Kyle and his family.
During my interview with Fred, Marti had been inside with Kyle. When we were done, she came outside and embraced me as she held back tears, then let them flow as we began to talk. She had been told that I had survived Hodgkin's disease, but I had not told her of my late husband's double lung transplant or about him dying six weeks after the surgery. Kyle had told her when I was outside interviewing Fred, and Marti was apologizing to me for not knowing and feared their own story of survival had shadowed my family's loss. I assured her that my reason for not telling her was so she would share freely because I believe in the power of telling the stories of others. She still seemed apologetic, so I told her that mine was a best case scenario of Hodgkin's disease survival while Kyle's was admittedly once of the worst. I then told her that while Wesley's transplant story is one of the most tragic, Kyle's is one of the most triumphant. It was then she smiled and the two of us became friends.
We have not posted the entire interview yet but wanted to post a shorter version above in effort to share Kyle's story and encourage you and your loved ones to become registered organ donors. For more information about organ donation, please visit www.donatelife.net.