Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Debby's Story: Organ Donation

Dear Reader,
I want to thank Debby for sharing today. She's still in that difficult first year of grieving and this was a brave and powerful story to tell. Please visit again tomorrow for one of her poems and a lovely free gift she'll offer.
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Phil, my husband of 41 years, died of a massive heart attack in August of 2009. Within an hour of returning home from the hospital, I received a call from the organ donor organization. My house was full of people, and the nice woman on the phone asked if I might step into a quiet room to speak with her in private. She said to have someone with me if I wanted. My pastor’s wife, Nancy, asked no questions  when I took her hand to come with me. She stayed with me through the entire conversation, never asked me anything, and quietly encouraged people to let me be when they came to the door wanting to know what was going on. At a time like that, we all need a ‘Nancy.’

The woman on the phone (there is no way I would remember her name) explained that because Phil had died of a massive heart attack, his organs could not be donated, but she was calling on behalf of the tissue donor segment of the organization. She gently explained that many people could be helped by donation of his corneas, skin and bone.

I was still in shock that Phil was gone, and at first, was upset at the call so soon. But she explained that if I agreed to allow the donation, the “harvesting” had to be done within 12 hours of his death. I didn’t like the word, “harvesting,” at the time, but since then, think often of God’s and Jesus’ reference to the harvest in the Bible.

There was no time to stop, talk to our children, or even really think about it. I said "yes." My niece who had received two kidney transplants had died in January of 2009. Those kidneys helped her be with us until she was 32 years old. Phil and I had talked about donating, but had not put anything in writing.

On the phone there were questions - it felt like hundreds - and many of them were quite personal, but necessary for the screening process. Through the entire call, the ‘donor organization woman’ was gentle and patient. There were times when I couldn’t stop crying, and she waited patiently.

When the call ended, I walked out to the living room full of people and addressed our children: Becky, Bob and Michael. I said, “I just agreed to donate Daddy’s corneas, skin and bone; he would have wanted that.” And they all agreed. His mother who was visiting had some issues, but she understood that I did what I believed Phil would have wanted me to.

I am going to be graphic for a moment here, and you may want to skip this paragraph. As the woman on the phone had promised, nothing was apparently visible. But when I grabbed Phil’s arm as he lay in the casket, the suit jacket had been filled with tissue, and it was more than shocking. I reminded myself that Phil is an entire new creation with Jesus, and did not need those parts of him that would be given to others. I thought about how he has an entire new body; his old body would now be living on in others. Phil was the most giving person I have ever known, and he would have been upset if I had done anything less.

I received a letter explaining that two people each received one of Phil’s corneas. When I told our eye doctor, he was so excited. He told me the patient following me had received a cornea and what it meant to him. It felt like almost every week, I received a letter thanking me for one thing or another. For a while, I was almost afraid to go the mail box. It wasn’t that I was sorry I had agreed to do this, it was just - hard.

I received an invitation yesterday to attend an inaugural meeting for a New York Orange County Donate Life organization, as this is National Donate Life Month. I also received an invitation to a celebration at St. Patrick's Cathedral in NYC for this month, for donor families and donor recipients. I think I may attend one or both meetings next year, but for now, everything is too raw. The Donation organizations offer wonderful counseling and support; so eventually I want to become more involved. It's just too soon.

Phil is more alive than ever with Jesus in Heaven. But he is also living on in others. Not everyone will feel that this is the right thing for them, and that's okay. It was the right decision in our case. I encourage my friends to speak to their spouses and family members about it before they have to make a decision.

I enrolled in the New York Donate Life Registry so my children don’t have to make that decision for me. If you want to be a donor, maybe you could consider doing that, too. Individual states have different requirements for registration. If you go to Donate Life America, and click on your state, they will help you understand the processes, and take you through them step by step. God will bless which ever decision you make.

"May the GOD of HOPE fill you with all PEACE and JOY as you TRUST in HIM so that you may OVERFLOW with HOPE through the POWER of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13
***

How about you? What was your experience with the organ donation request? I have to tell you I just blurted out "No!" when I was asked, and I have mixed feelings about my response. On Monday we'll post your comments and experiences, so please send them to wcplace@gmail.com Thanks so much!  
ferree

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