10 years ago this May, my family received a gift that we will never be able to say enough thank you(s) for.
A young man, Nathan, had just passed away and in the midst of his parent's grieving they were asked if they would consider donating their son's organs and tissue, so that others may have a chance to live.
I don't know how many of you are currently Organ and Tissues donors, and I don't know how many of you are parents but, I do know that for me, that would have been a tough question to hear let alone answer.
However, for Nathan's parents they knew what they wanted for their son's memory. They wanted him to always be remembered. They wanted no one to forget the lively, intelligent young man he was. So, although losing their son was a heartbreaking pain only they could express, they answered the question with a yes.
My brother Michael was 32 years old. He had battled heart troubles most of his life. The doctors and nurses all knew him by name and often talked about what a miracle it was that he was "still here". My brother had been off and on the transplant wait list for the majority of his adult life. We were also hopeful, but also always prepared for the worst.
I still remember the day our family got the call. May 20th, at 7 a.m. Julie, the transplant nurse called my brother Michael and asked him how long it would take him to get to the hospital. He told her he could be there in 20 minutes. He called our brother Billy and cried, "I have a heart! They've found me a heart!" Billy then picked Michael up and drove him to the hospital. They like to brag that they got to the hospital in a little under 10 minutes, not 20.
When they got to the hospital Michael was taken directly to the Cardiac Care Unit to be prepped for the transplant. Once checked in, Michael noticed his best friend Alvin. Alvin was receiving his Last Rites. His family had gathered and were spending what was presumed their final moments together. Alvin was also waiting for a heart transplant.
For years the two had gone back and forth as Priority One and Priority Two on the transplant list. They were same blood type, but different in stature and age. Alvin was 28 years my brother's senior.
What happened next is somewhat unbelievable. My brother who had for the most part been a fairly cold, or un-compassionate man told the doctors and hospital staff they he wanted Alvin to have the transplant. He was refusing. He argued that Alvin was a better man than him. Alvin was a better patient. Alvin always listened to every direction the doctors ever gave; Michael had not. In Alvin my brother saw a man with 3 daughters that would never be able to have their father walk them down the alia at their wedding. He saw a kind soul that deserved a second chance at life.
The doctors insisted that the heart wasn't right for Alvin. They tried pleading with my brother, but still he refused. Alvin heard the Michael yelling at the doctors, he pushed his call button and asked for Dr. Ensley to please bring him to Michael. In a desk chair with no monitors attached Dr. Ensley and Alvin made their way to my brother's room. Alvin leading with Michael. He begged him to have faith that this was the heart for HIM!
As families we gathered together to pray and it was then that my brother felt at peace with the transplant. The doctors asked my brother one last time if he would proceed with the transplant, holding Alvin's hand my brother said yes. My brother was then wheeled to the O.R. where they began the transplant.
Alvin's family decided to wait with us during the transplant operation. They had joined us in the waiting room, and about two hours into the operation a doctor came in and asked to see them in the consultation room. We all thought the worst. Alvin's wife asked if we would join them so they weren't alone for the news. We did.
It wasn't the worst. It was in fact the best news ever! For the first time in hospital history a second heart of the same blood type had been found and was on its way now for Alvin. Yes, you read that correctly. The had found a transplant match for Alvin!
Our families will forever be grateful to the miracles God gave us. The answered prayers for both families. We will never be able to say thank you enough to Nathan's family or to Alvin's donor's family. What we can do though, is honor them. And, we honor them by educating others about the life saving gift of Organ and Tissue Donations, and by sharing our stories.
My brother is 10 years "clean" meaning no rejection. He has since married and is now the proud daddy to a beautiful little girl. He has turned his life around completely. It's as if his new heart not only gave him a second chance at life, it also gave him a new amount of love to share. When I hug my brother and I hear his heartbeat I think of Nathan. Nathan's memory will forever live on because his parent's made the choice to give life in his death.
So, I ask this of you today, for Nathan, for his family, for my brother and his, for Alvin, his donor's family and for all of those who are currently waiting, please consider being an Organ and Tissue Donor. Give life.
And, if you pray, say a little prayer for the donors’ families. For while we celebrate the gifts they give, they mourn.