Last week I received a beautiful pair of handmade earrings in the mail. They were made using Swarovski crystals and my son’s birthstone. I can’t wait to wear them because it’s something I can have on me that will always remind me of my son. Also, they were given to me by the mom of the boy who has my son’s heart.
It’s hard for me to write about this. As I’m typing it, I’m not even sure I’m going to post this. The whole process of organ donation, both before, during and after is incredibly emotional. It didn’t take us that long to decide to donate. It is something we would do for ourselves and we thought, as our son was going to die no matter what decision we made, that it would make the most sense to give other people a chance at life.
But the decision didn’t come without drawbacks. After the moment I learned that my son was brain dead, I longed for the moment they would remove all the tubes and I could finally hold him again. I imagined that scenario over and over again during the days in the hospital. I would finally be able to see and kiss his face unencumbered by tape and tubes, and be able to hold him without lying on a cord or something else that I feared would interfere with his care. After we made the decision, I learned that all of those tubes, the tape, the cords and the noisy machines would all be staying on. The time I held him moments after he fell would turn out to be the last time I ever would.
They then took blood from me, as I was still nursing. They had already run a toxicology panel on him, but I assume they wanted to make extra sure there wasn’t anything in his system that shouldn’t be there.
We left him there, still connected to everything, and went home to our terribly worried daughter who had no idea yet that her brother had died. We drove the 2.5 hour drive home in the rain. All of the worst days of my life are within the span of February of this year through now. That day was one of the worst.
Weeks later you receive a letter from the Donor Network telling you what was successfully donated. A 6 month old boy received my son’s heart. A 5 month old girl received his liver. And a 26 year old man received both of my son’s kidneys. It is nothing short of mind scrambling to consider that your child is gone, and yet there are parts of them still here, in other people that you don’t know. How can that be? Is that OK? Does this make sense? I remember getting a questionnaire in the mail from the Donor Network asking about my experience with the donation. One of the questions was “Do you feel positively about your decision to donate?” My answer was “I think so.”
So far, we have received correspondence from the 26 year old man with the kidneys and the mom whose son has Jay’s heart. I email the mom several times a week. She lives in another state, so even though we would like to meet one day, it probably won’t be soon. I long to hug that little boy and have Jay’s heart be next to mine, even for a moment. I made that heart. But I need to be in a place where I can be objective, or at least not sob uncontrollably and run away with anyone’s kid (kidding, I think). I don’t even know how I would act.
I have read quite a bit on organ donation, and it has introduced me to several schools of thought, such as the belief that a brain dead person may still feel pain during the donation process. I don’t know the answer to that, and I cannot go back on the decision we made. It’s just another horrible, horrible thing to consider on top of everything else that’s happened. The trauma doesn’t seem to ever stop.
It was my goal for this post to write something that wasn’t so sad. Sorry. That totally didn’t work out. There are things I don’t even write about here, so at least you can rest easy knowing that I at least keep the saddest things off here. Maybe one day I’ll write about them. I have to keep the balance between using this blog as a way to express my feelings and experience and at the same time hold onto my sanity. It’s a tough line sometimes. It’s still my goal to incorporate the joy I do find in life still, because I do find it. I will promise to do that next week.