Monday, April 16, 2012

The gift of Life

The evening Declan passed away we were faced with the daunting decision to donate his organs or not. I wanted to put off the discussion, I wanted to pretend I didn't have to make that decision.  I wanted someone to donate something to save my son's life... but of course, Declan's organs were perfectly healthy, not one thing wrong with them... a donation wouldn't have saved him.  The representative from LifeSource was nice enough. I remember sitting with her and Nate in Dex's room.  She was talking on and on and all I could think about was how tired she looked and wondering if she knew she looked exhausted.... thinking a little bit of concealer might make her look more alert.... I wonder if that is how the mind tries to protect your heart... or if that is how the mind tries to keep the situation real, as 'normal' as it can be?  She was very informative and filled with lots of insight we wouldn't have thought of on our own.  The big surprise to us was that if we wanted to donate Declan's heart, kidneys, liver ect... he would have to be on a ventilator for 72 hours... and that time didn't start until there was an official declaration of brain death... which for whatever reason, could not be made until he had been on the ventilator for 48 hours.  I told the representative that I wasn't comfortable with that... I thought it would be hard to have him on the ventilator for that long and it would be stressful to be in the hospital that long... she then made some comment, and I am thankful I don't remember it verbatim, but the effect was 'once he is declared brain dead, you wouldn't need to be here.... it's the same as if he passed away.'  I remember looking at her, wondering if I was totally understanding her.... she wants me to leave after the declaration of brain death, but Declan's heart will still be beating?  He will still be breathing?  He will be all alone...  I really couldn't believe it.  There was no way! I finally mustered up the courage to say, "as long as his heart is beating I will not leave his side. Ever!" We all kind of looked awkwardly at the floor, finally Nate says 'is there anything else we can do?' and yes, there was.  We could donate his heart valves and his knee cartilage.  We agreed.  After the decision was made, the representative from LifeSource and Nate and I had to fill out 'some' paperwork... it took an hour!!  Question after question... for both Declan's medically history and mine since I was still breastfeeding. It was arduous to say the least, but something Nate and I felt was important. The hope that a different set of parents would not have to endure losing their child seemed worth it.  It has been a roller coaster of emotions since we agreed to donate.  There are times when I think about it and I get mad.... Somewhere some parent is rejoicing, thanking God for answered prayers... while I sit here in my grief, crushed and broken because my child died.  Upset with God for not answering my prayers.... those parents have a future, where we no longer have one... they get to hear giggles and receive hugs, they get to see their child grow up... we do NOT.  I was darn right pissed for awhile... then Nate, my ever present support and voice of reason, talked me out of that anger, made me see that those parents didn't pray for a child to die, but that if a child were to pass away, God would grant that child's parents the ability to chose donation.  I still struggle with the idea that there is some family somewhere rejoicing at their new gift, their new lease on life, while our family will never again be the same... I KNOW with time I will come to terms with that.  I think of the day when I will meet the receiver of Declan's heart valves... I can only imagine wanting to hold him or her.  I can't imagine how it will be to know part of my son is living within them.  How strange, yet I know when that day comes God will help me accept the complexity of it.

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