September 9, 2006, a day that will be forever etched in my memory. A day that changed our lives, a day that was filled with so much pain, hope, fear, love, uncertainty, direction and every other contradiction you could possibly think of. The day my daughter was involved in her fatal accident, the day we had to say good-bye.
As many of you may already be aware from previous postings, Rachel was an organ donor. She had chosen to register herself as an organ donor when she renewed her license earlier that year. I still remember how happy she was not only to have renewed her license, but that if anything ever happened to her, she would be able to give the gift of life. We had discussed what the gift meant to her and why she had chosen to be a donor.
So when it came time to make that decision, we simply followed Rachel's wishes, giving the ultimate gift - life! We were very fortunate to have had the opportunity to discuss this wish with Rachel, and since then not only am I a registered donor, but have made sure my family knows my wishes as well.
Why do I bring up this topic? Today I was invited to share Rachel's story, my story with the physicians and staff of the very hospital Rachel had been taken to and cared for. It is not the first time I had been invited to share the story, I had been there once before. But today I was invited to speak to the doctors who are involved in the care of critical patients, as well as to share my gratitude with the staff of the unit Rachel had been transferred to.
So what do you say to physicians? What could they possibly want to hear? They are not the ones who bring up the subject of organ donation to the families, their only task is to determine the prognosis and decide on the steps needed to help their patient, and the best course of action. First let me explain, the doctor's role is to determine if there is any medical hope, if there is something that can be done to save the life of the person in their care. If they determine that even with the most extreme of measures, nothing can change the outcome, they are in turn to notify the nearest organ bank that there may be a potential donor. That is the extent of their involvement in the organ donation process.
So why is it so hard to make that referral? I have come to realize that they are afraid that this will have an adverse effect on the family, how can the family be subjected to this, aren't they in enough pain already. I have spoken to many other donor families, and each one feels as I do, the worst that could have happened, has, anything further, really has no more tragic effect. One common theme that I have heard over and over, is that most families were glad for the opportunity to help others live. It is comforting to us to know that Rachel helped 3 individuals live a more productive life. Rachel was able to donate both her kidneys and her liver, which helped three gentlemen, one of which had a young son and was engaged to be married the following spring.
Is it an easy decision, not necessarily, but the hope it fills the families with is amazing. It allows our loved ones to live on through others, helping them live their life to their full potential. I have met many a recipient of organ donations since Rachel's death, and I have had the pleasure of co-speaking with many of them and learning how truly grateful they are for the gift of life. It is funny how they consider my family and I to be heroes, I don't feel like a hero, I simply feel like someone who fulfilled my daughter's wishes; allowing her to do what she did best, giving selflessly to others.
|Visit with the Staff from BMC & NEOB (I'm on the fair right).|
Even well after Rachel had been officially pronounced 'brain dead,' and we stayed until the moment Rachel was taken to the Operating Room for the removal of her organs; Rachel was treated with the utmost dignity and respect. She was still a patient, their patient, and we were still a family in need of compassion and care; even to the point of being almost force-fed by one of the nurses, (thanks Odessa for making the soup); we mattered, we were important and they showed us that throughout the day and well into the evening hours. It may take years before so many memories of that day are gently erased from my memory; but until then I remain indebted to all the hard work of all the medical staff, from EMT's, physicians, nurses, coordinators, technicians, and all others who performed their jobs, and went beyond what was required of them.
A special gratitude goes to the staff of the NEOB (New England Organ Bank), who worked their magic to guide us through the donation process, and keeping us informed every step of the way. And a very special thanks to all of you who have said yes! to organ donation in light of your own tragedies, giving the ultimate gift.
I must clarify here, that unfortunately, not everyone who dies, can donate. Much depends on the manner of death, the health of the potential donor, and how quickly all the parties involved are notified. Also, please do not feel as if this should be an automatic option for you or your loved one, not everyone is comfortable with such a gift. There are also cultures, religious beliefs, or other personal factors, that may make donation difficult or unfavorable. The important thing to remember, whether for yourself or a loved one, is to discuss the possibility of being a donor, making your wishes known. This simple act lifts the burden off your loved ones, helping them fulfill your wishes.
For more information about organ donation, what is means, who is helped; contact your nearest Organ Bank or local hospital. There are thousands of people waiting for the gift of life. In the New England area, you can contact the New England Organ Bank. There are many networks nationally and internationally, that focus on the gift of life. Many of these organizations have websites, which give you insight into the the entire process. They also share with you the story of donor families and recipients. And as I said earlier, the recurring theme is one of gratitude, not only from the recipients and their families, but from the donor families as well.
Blessings! and until we meet again.