Before our daughter was born, my husband and I met with Arkansas Regional Organ Recovery Agency (ARORA) about organ donation. In utero, she was diagnosed with two critical heart defects and Down syndrome. We were told to expect the worst and hope for the best when she was born and to also understand the risks of the two open heart surgeries she would need before she turned six months old.
Even if she spent only a short time on Earth, it was important to us that her life have purpose. ARORA met with her doctors and read test results to determine what parts she had that could be used to serve others.
I recently heard a story on the radio about a man whose son had a terrible car accident. After some time, it became apparent that he would not survive. The son had designated himself as an organ donor and the hospital put together an honor walk for the young man’s final trip to the operating room.
An honor walk is when people line the hallway of the hospital to pay respects and celebrate the gifts that the donor will be giving to others. It can be personalized and includes family, friends and hospital staff.
This man talked about how this event, complete with a gospel choir, turned what would have been remembered only as a horrible day into a day that included so many positive memories that he could carry with him as a source of pride and celebration for his son.
He talked about how awful it was for his brain to understand that the next time he saw his son, he would no longer be breathing and his heart would no longer be beating. But he also said that the memory of the tragedy made him think about all of the people who his son had helped. It was something like up to 50 different people who received a gift that day from his son.
It is easy to forget as we move along in our day-to-day lives that we are not the center of the universe. The world continues to spin around us when things happen that make us think it should stop.
Thinking about how one person’s life intersects and affects another person is fascinating. Strangers changing the trajectory of a stranger’s lives, for better and for worse; how just one minute can make a difference.
During his unbelievable grief, that father is able to feel joy for those others when he thinks about how they celebrated on the worst day of his life. The legacy that his son left behind brought his father so much pride. When he registered to be an organ donor, did his son even think about how his action may comfort his father after he died?
Fast-forward to today. Did this man’s son know that his signature on an organ donor card would lend his story such a profound reach that it would end up here on this page?
What a great reminder on purpose. What we do with our time is so important. No matter who we are, our actions, just like throwing a rock into the water, cause a ripple that reaches farther than we even know.
April is National Donate Life Month. Our daughter Ellie did survive that first year of life, but with her heart conditions, she very possibly one day could be facing the need for someone else’s gift. We are thankful for ARORA and other similar organizations. National Donate Life Month helps encourage Americans to register as organ, eye and tissue donors and to honor those that have saved lives through the gift of donation.