Thursday, July 16, 2009

Organ Donation

The topic of organ donation recently came up in our grief group. A mother 10 years later was still dealing with her decision to donate her daughter's organs. Her daughter's heart had actually gone to a little boy who was staying in the room next to another grieving mother's son who is also in our group. These two women have a unique bond that formed through this experience. As they were both grieving their children, this other little boy's parents were celebrating his second chance at life.

The girl's mother talked about her daughter's decision to donate her organs. The girl had just turned 16. When she came home with her license, she proudly displayed the license with the Organ Donation marked boldly. Silently the mother thought to herself that she never wanted to donate her child's organs.

Just days later, the girl suffered a trauma. As her daughter sat on life support, the mother was faced with the decision, one that haunts her to this day.

I was not prepared for what she shared next. The decision to donate a loved one's organs is made while the individual still appears to be very much living. All of the machines are going. The person's chest is moving with inhales and exhales of breath. Other than the fact that there is no brain activity, the person appears to be alive.

There isn't that moment that one might picture based on media induced images where the loved one is there as the heart stops collapsing in tears on the deceased. Instead the child, husband, wife, mother, father, is wheeled into surgery where the organs are harvested and transported to new recipients.

This was not a decision we were faced with for Cara obviously. However, I tried to think through this scenario if it was Tim lying in that bed and that would be terribly hard for me. We both have the Organ Donation on our license, but we never really talked about what that proclamation means.

Another mother in our group shared how she faced a similar scenario with her son. She too struggled with letting him go only to find out later that his organs could not be used because of his condition at death. She was devastated that she didn't get to spend his final moments with him and later learned she could have.

I write all this partially so I can remember this experience, not that it's one I will forget. But also because although Tim and I were at the grief group together, we still didn't talk really about the impact and I imagine many others have not. Death is not a topic we like to approach in conversation, but perhaps an experience we could all stand to be more prepared for. It is after all inevitable.

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