Friday, April 25, 2008

Juxtaposition........

The father stood up and spoke to the college health class about his son. He told them how he was a child born later in his marriage, how when the boy was starting kindergarten, the eldest child was starting college, on the same day no less. He spoke at times with his voice nearly breaking, of how his son had been a curious child, always getting into things and running off. He recounted the story of how the boy had wandered off after mom turned away from him for 30 seconds. The whole neighborhood was out in force looking for this missing child. He was found after a short search, asleep in a cardboard box in their garage. He just crawled into it and took a nap.

As the boy got older, he became more involved in sports, with soccer and basketball being his favorite. His father spoke with a glean in his eye about how the boy was not one to take the glory, although he had the talent to do so. In soccer, he was the one who passed the ball to the one who would eventually score. The same held true for basketball. Dad recounted the story of how in one basketball game, the boy kept passing the ball to another kid who kept missing lay-ups, even though he himself could have easily scored. It was an example of the kind of giving person he was on and off the court.

The boy had his wild side too, which made its appearance at puberty. Not all that unusual. He started hanging around with other boys that did not necessarily make the best choices. Dad caught him smoking weed on one occasion. Underage drinking reared its head. His son then made a choice that would cost him his life. He chose to get into a car with a drunk friend, drive down a stretch of road at 70 mph, and they hit a curve that would hit them back. The boy was dealt a severe blow to the head from a stereo speaker, and ended up with a skull fracture, in the ICU and on a ventilator.

It was every parent's nightmare, to see your child helpless on a hospital bed, multiple tubes in just about every body orifice, machines keeping him alive. His head was swollen as a balloon is from the devastating injury. Mom is a nurse, with too much knowledge. She knows what is happening, and is powerless to do anything about it. Knowledge may be power, but in this case it was merely overpowering.

It may have been a parental instinct, it may have been from the mother's long years of experience in nursing, it may have been both, but they both knew that they were not going to get their son back. The injury was far too devastating. They approached the ICU neurologist, and told them that if they were not able to save him that they wanted to donate his organs. The doctor was a bit stunned. "Wait a minute," he stopped them. "We need to think about getting him through this." he said. They reassured him that they indeed wanted him to do everything possible, but that they wanted to make it clear that if all failed, they wanted his organs donated.

It would not be long before the boy was declared brain dead. The call was made to the organ procurement organization, the agency that determines whether or not brain dead individuals are suitable candidates for organ donation. (They work with the organ transplant teams - doctors taking care of the patient do NOT make that determination!)

I was sitting on the side of the classroom listening to this story. I had accompanied the father as an organ recipient to tell of my experience to this class. My own experience happened 3 years prior to his. As I was listening, the bells, lights and whistles started exploding in my head. Why was this story familiar? I never met this man before, but I could not shake the feeling that I knew his son. Once he told the class when the accident was, only then did things fall into place.

I was one of the two organ procurement coordinators that worked on his son' s case. I was in the operating room, working the placement of his organs, and my partner at the time was working in the ICU, and evaluating his case. This was my first job here in Rochester, as an organ procurement coordinator. I did that for a year.

I am a rarity; a transplant recipient that has seen both sides of the coin. It is a bit like being the President of the Hair Club for men; I'm the president and a client. There are not too many of us around.

When his story slipped into place for me, and after he had finished speaking, I got up to address the class. At the right moment, I stopped, and told him that I think I was the other coordinator on his son's case. We both were kinda stunned for a minute, but we exchanged thanks, and I continued on.

I thought of my own donor, a 17 year-old boy that was shot to death in the same Brooklyn neighborhood that I worked in for so many years. I have never been contacted by his family, though I have written letters. This is of course, that family's choice. It can be a little disheartening at times.

As I was listening to this father's story, it made me hope that the father, mother, or whoever cared for that 17 year-old child was passing on their story, somewhere.

6 comments:

Julia said...

Wow Wow Wow. This is a damn small world. Awhile ago, when I blogged about organ donation I mentioned some close family friends who lost a son in a car accident, but were able to donate a lot of his body. You asked the name of the father, who I said had become an advocate for organ donation. Well, now you've met him. Steve is a pretty cool guy, isn't he?

Mr. Nighttime said...

OMG, you're sure this is the same guy? Did you talk to him to confirm it. Yeah, he is a cool guy, we worked well together.......

Julia said...

Trust me. Same guy. And your description matches Rich, including how he was injured in the car crash that he ultimately died from. Our families go to the same church and I grew up with all of the kids.

Mr. Nighttime said...

Wow.....well, I am sure I will be seeing Steve again. I'll pass along a hello for you.......

Heather said...

That was beautiful.

AnneDroid said...

Amazing story. Thanks for sharing it here.
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