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The gift of organ donation

Just before 1 a.m. yesterday morning, I had a Facebook messenger call from a friend in Huntsville. Reid and I both woke up, but I assumed it was an accidental dial, silenced it, and went back to bed. Something in me (and my dream) told me to wake up and check to see if that was in fact an intentional call. I checked my messenger app to discover several messages from Jennifer (the person that had called), saying she knew of a family who was keeping their grandson on life support so they could find recipients for each of his organs. And she wondered whether Reid could potentially use his liver. My heart jumped and I sat straight up in bed. I immediately called her, and gave her the information that she needed to pass along. The family was going to do a direct donation to Reid. A Directed Organ Donation is something that we hadn’t heard much about. But Jennifer shared that the family spoke with their doctor, and the doctor said that as long as the recipients were on the list, no matter how far up they were, they could receive a direct donation as long as the organ was a match. Jennifer was very familiar with our story, as she followed our blog, and immediately thought of Reid when she heard the family was looking for organ recipients through friends and family. First off, wow. What an amazing thing that she saw that opportunity, and reached out to help us. Second, that poor family. My heart sunk thinking about the tough decisions they had in front of them. What an absolutely amazing thing they were doing.

This seemed like a dream. Reid and I lay in bed, wide awake, and not sure what to do. Should I pack a full hospital bag? No, we don’t know for sure. Should we start alerting our family? No, too early for that. Should we call our transplant center and alert them? I tried, only to get the answering service and decided to let the system work the way it should, and wait for the hospital to alert our transplant coordinator.

How does this even work? What do we do? What can we do to ensure this works out? I posted in our online support group to see if anyone else had gone through this before. And Reid and I laid in bed and talked about the potential. We agreed that this didn’t mean he’d get the liver, but we were sure he’d at least get a call to come in and start the testing process to see if it was a perfect match. So we were cautiously optimistic. Heavy on the optimism, which is unusual for both of us. We turned both of our phone ringers up and tried to get a couple more hours of sleep (yeah right).

The day went on without a word. I called our transplant coordinator around 10, and they informed me that they hadn’t heard anything. We still remained cautiously optimistic, not knowing how this particular situation usually works, and just so hopeful that we’d get a call any minute.

Unfortunately, we received a text at 11:30 that there was a miscommunication at the hospital, and the liver ended up being matched with another recipient. The family expressed, through Jennifer, their apologies that Reid wasn’t the recipient. This family just took their loved one off of life support, and donated all of his organs to save the lives of others. And they were apologizing. Sure, Reid and I are disappointed. More so than we thought we would be. We never saw this as an opportunity we’d have, but we’re not any further back that we were the day before. And sure, we did get our hopes up, and we thought this may actually work. But for the family to be apologizing to us? Reid is still here, and we are able to keep fighting for a liver for him. As they mourn the loss of their grandson, son, and friend. My heart breaks for them. If you are praying for us, please say a special prayer for this sweet family today. They took their loss and extreme pain, and turned it into something amazing for several families. That takes so much courage, so much strength, and so much generosity. We can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done, even if we weren’t the recipient. 

I hope that at the very least, it gives them comfort knowing their loved one is living on through other people. Organ donors, and their families, are true heroes. 

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