The complete and utter heartbreak from hearing “I am sorry your loved one has passed,” the complete and utter excitement from hearing “We have a kidney for you.” The sorrow and pain of hearing “We did all we could do, but we could not save your child,” the joy and heart lifting feeling of hearing “Please get to the hospital there is a heart on it’s way.” The ying and yang, the lowest of lows and the highest of highs, someones best day and someones worst. One life ends and one life begins anew. These are just a few of the polar opposites when someone passes away and someone else gets to live on. When your heart is breaking and someone else’s heart is full of hope for the future. There is no greater pain than to say goodbye to a child, a mom, a dad, a brother, sister or spouse. There is no lonely like the lonely when you walk through the door of your home, the same door your loved one walked out of for the last time. William Shakespeare said “The purpose of life is not to find your gift, but to give it away.” There is no truer statement when it comes to organ donation. We are given this life, these bodies are a gift. We are supposed to take care of them, treat them as if they where temples, but the abuse we put them through is sometimes detrimental. Once a kidney stops working, a liver quits functioning, the heart starts deteriorating, the lungs have no capacity, or numerous other organs begin to decline, we look to organ donation. The field of donation has come so far in the last ten years, the ability to transplant almost any organ has become a reality. But for this to happen someone has to die, someones son, daughter, mother or father has to lose their life for another to live. As many of you already know Lindsay was an organ donor. This was her own conscious choice at he age of sixteen. Her decision to save lives through donation fit right in with her dream of becoming a surgeon. So many times I have asked myself “Why her? Why did Lindsay have to pass for someone else to live?” The question will never be answered while I walk this earth. I will only get the answer when I leave this world and stand before God. The emotion felt when your loved one passes and you know someone else will live is virtually unexplainable. The immediate feeling of numbness passing through your body and you feel helpless, you feel as if your heart and soul has died right along with your loved one. At that point, the fact that someone else will live, someone else’s life will be extended does not matter to you, in fact it almost brings you to anger. I had to come to realization that it was not the recipients fault that Lindsay passed away, they did not wish for her to have an accident that Sunday afternoon in August of 2016. I have only been on this side of organ donation, I only know the hurt and the pain of loss. I do not know the joy and elation of getting that phone call telling the recipient to get to the hospital as soon as they can. I personally know one of the recipients of Lindsay’s donations. She is a wife and a mother of two. I work everyday with her husband and her son. She was in almost complete kidney failure and Lindsay was able to save her life and give her many more years to spend with her family. Even knowing the recipient does not make the loss any easier, it does not make the pain any less. I had taken quite a bit of time off from work after Lindsay passed away and when the time was drawing near for me to return there was one thing I had to do. I had to see her and her husband, I did not want the first time I saw her husband to be at work. I did not know how I would react. Would I break down and cry, would I want to punch him, would I be happy for him, would I hold some sort of resentment for his gain and my loss? We did meet, and the first thing she said was “Lindsay is right here” as she patted her lower abdomen. When I saw the smile on her face and the tears running down her checks all of my anxiety, all of my fears, where gone. We had an amazing visit and we talked about her surgery and of course we talked about Lindsay. You could see in her eyes the pain she felt for us but in her voice you could hear the appreciation for the sacrifice made. I often wonder if the other recipients that received Lindsay’s donations ever think about our family, if they ever think about the fact that a seventeen year old young lady had to die for them to carry on. Do they ever think about who she was, what she had accomplished, or where she was headed in this life.
I asked Jeanne Connolly, who works for Carolina Donor Services, and has become a good friend to our family, to send me a statement concerning both sides of this life altering time. This is what she sent to me, “From what I have been a part of with the recipient families that resonates over and over again is that while sometimes writing or receiving a letter to the donor/recipient families can be difficult because they know that their loved one had died which allowed them to live, which is a struggle sometimes. When a donor recipient family meeting happens it brings a sense of knowing that the decision to donate has given both sides a bond that brings a sense of peace and understanding. One donors mother who met her son’s heart recipient said there was finally a sense of calm and knowing that her son still lived on. As she listened to his heartbeat in the recipients chest it was what she had needed to get that peace. Every year on Mothers day the recipient sends flowers to his donor mom and they have established an ongoing relationship. In his words: The best tribute I can give to my Donor and his family is to live.“
It is a fine line we walk as the survivors of a donor, a fine line between hurt and happiness, between loss and living, between grief and gratitude. This fine line often seems to grow even thinner on days that we truly miss our loved ones. On days we know that someone, somewhere is walking, talking and breathing. but they are not. It is a fine line we will walk for the remainder of our lives, but knowing that the best tribute a recipient can give to their donor and family is to live does make the line a little broader.