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Friday, April 30, 2010

Making the organ donation decision for a child

Today is the last day of National Donate Life Month. I truly hope the 8 entries I made this month in honor of organ donation helped you understand or learn one thing about organ donation that you didn't know. National Donate Life month may be officially over... but every month of every year is organ donation awareness for us, and always an opportunity for you to consider that commitment.


I sat in front of a doctor on May 11, 2009 and was told the only way Gabriella would see her 10th birthday is if she gets a new heart, and that was a rough and hopeful estimate. I was faced with the tragic reality that my 4 year old, already potentially at the halfway point in her life, was going to die if action was not taken. It was not with a naive heart that I agreed to the process in May, nor was it when I signed that paperwork in February for consent. I knew what it would take for my child to live. But as I stated before and I remind myself frequently, a child was not going to die to save Gabriella. A child was going to die and in turn Gabriella would be saved.

Organ donation is the greatest gift anyone can receive. No amount of money could buy a gift more significant than re-life. In our case, it will allow Gabriella to experience things she may never. Starting school, going on a date, driving a car, attending prom, finding her soul mate, and the list goes on. The potential she will have with her story and testimony to change the lives of others is the greatest opportunity, and it will be my goal in life to ensure the importance of this event will never be forgotten. She will be given an opportunity to live a life that, with transplant, she wouldn't survive to see.

In the same way Gabriella's life will flourish and thrive, another mother will sit and live with the fact that her child was never able to experience those same things Gabriella is given a chance to experience. Another mother will be faced with the tragic reality that her child is not able to be saved due to an illness or trauma. Another mother will sit in front of a doctor who will have a consent in hand to harvest their child's organs for donation. A mother who either carried this child in her womb or adopted them and they became part of her heart, and never thought it could happen to her. She will need to make that decision, in the heat of the moment, and at the height of grief.

Before you knew about Gabriella, could you have said 'yes' so easily?

Had that mother and/or father thought about what decision they would make for their child? This wasn't exactly something they put in the "What to Expect" books. Your OB-GYN won't add it to the list of choices to make with birth plans, feeding and diapering decisions. Your pediatrician won't bring it up at your well-baby visits. Your momma friends most likely will not bring it up in playgroup or coffee dates. You cannot sign a child up with DonateLife, nor can you add it to their license. Making this decision takes planning, communication and preparation on the sole effort of the parents.

I posted an entry from a sweet friend Lara on my blog on February 14. She lost her child at a very young age to a tragic accident. But the words she typed are imprinted onto my heart when I think of Gabriella's donor family. "The loss of your child will not go away and your gift will not bring her back, but I would never, ever, ever wish the pain of a lost child on my very worst enemy. What a wonderful feeling to know that you have spared another family that pain."

I urge you to please do one very important thing for Gabriella's cause this coming month. Days speed past us, work schedules clog up the day, evenings are rushed with dinner and bedtimes, weekends with sports and gatherings. But PLEASE dedicate a few minutes to Gabriella and talk with your child's other parent about what decision you would make on organ donation for your child, given you were caught in such a tragic circumstance. If you aren't yet a parent, talk with your spouse about the future. Mention it to your siblings with kids, or your best friend, and tell them how important this decision is to make as a precaution. If you are a faithful person, pray about it. We make decisions for our kids on a daily basis, and this one is no less important to consider. When you make your decision, it is important to share it with family. Inform grandparents, aunts and uncles, or anyone close to you, of the decision you made. Communicating your wishes is the best way to make it 'official' for a minor.

Please let us know that you promise to sit and have this discussion with your spouse or loved one! Regardless of the decision you make, taking the time to communicate it is key. We'd love to know that people are committing to discussing this very important and personal topic to us!
2 to 3% of the National Donor Registry consists of children under the age of consent... 17 years old. As of today, there are 1,803 children listed for an organ in the United States.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Of course. For Gabriella and so many others. We weren't given the choice with Cora because of the circumstances, but I wished we could have. xoxo