A month ago I found myself on a bus with a single other passenger. We were heading to Reagan National Airport. The gentleman decided to strike up a conversation with me. Had the bus been full, it is likely no conversations would have been struck up with strangers but being a one-on-one scenario somehow it seemed less intrusive or disturbing. He was a doctor. A surgeon, in fact. A heart surgeon who specialized in transplants, in fact. He had just finished a three-day seminar at Inova Fairfax Hospital where he and 50 or so other transplant specialists had convened.
He was heading to the airport to fly home to Cleveland. He works at the world-famous Cleveland Clinic. We glossed ever so briefly over politics, and I moved the conversation to his work, which I find fascinating and applaudable. Political conversations often end badly, and I did not want to ruin our day.
He told me that his business was booming! Apparently, the opioid epidemic had caused the unfortunate deaths of hundreds of young, otherwise healthy people whose organs are still in their prime. Many of these deaths are caused by saliva flowing into their lungs thus causing asphyxiation. Their organs remain undamaged and are therefore excellent for transplants.
My job often requires my going to hospitals, and I’ve seen firsthand the opioid problem all around Baltimore. Now when I see these people standing at intersections with handmade cardboard signs, I wonder if they will soon be dead with parts of their bodies being spread around the country to save the lives of others. Is the silver lining to their misery the chance to extend the lives of several other people and bring joy to their families?