I remember when it was time to renew my driver’s license for the first time, the lady at the desk at the Greensprings DMV in Birmingham asked me, “Do you want to be an organ donor?” I thought, “Sure, why not.” And just like that, my license shows I’m an organ donor.
Years later in my 20’s, I remember talking with someone and organ donation came up during our conversation. She asked me, “why would you elect to donate your organs?”
At the time, and if I am honest up until this past October, my reasoning didn’t stretch much farther than if I was healthy and something unexpected happened, it seemed like what I should do – choose life.
There are moments over the past year that will be forever seared into my memory – moments that bring joy and moments that bring grief and sadness.
I remember our first appointment with our fetal cardiologist clearly. The ultrasound lasted an excruciatingly long time, the nurse asked me more than once if I was struggling with anxiety or depression. I assume she didn’t accept my response of no the first or even second time. I was nervous and scared of course but I was also calm and mostly unemotional. In that first meeting that lasted over two hours, I only cried twice.
The first time, our doctor was explaining the medical needs of a child with hypoplastic left heart syndrome and the possibilities of equipment, complications, and other things when we finally got to bring him home. It was overwhelming – the thought I couldn’t do it occurred to me, more than once. What she was describing seemed so extreme, so complicated, especially knowing we live in a small house so I asked a question. Well really it was statement because its the only way I could put it into words but the question was implied. Honestly, when I asked it, I wasn’t sure I was ready for the answer, “We have two big dogs.”
“They can stay.” Tears. Relief. and a Big Thank You to the man upstairs.
The second time I cried was when our doctor told us that although she couldn’t be certain until he was born, it was likely that our son may need a heart transplant upon birth.
Tears. Tears. And More Tears.
When I finally managed to pull my composure together, I looked up at her and said “I am sorry, I am not crying for me or for my child.”
Living in Nashville, we throw the word Transplant around like it’s a pronoun. It means to move or transfer something to another place or situation. So living here, we use it in reference (even to myself) to people who are moving here from other places.
Now the meaning of Transplant is deeper, it has roots.
It’s not lost on me what it means for my son to Live. It wasn’t in October when I first heard the word, and it’s not now.
It’s a continual grieving process.
I went to a funeral one time where the Pastor spoke about the things of this world we cannot understand and the answers that may never come on this side of heaven. This falls into this category.
Along the way, I have been so thankful for the people whom we have met. The people whom I believe the Lord strategically placed in our path to help us.
The day after Townes’ was born, February 7th, we met with the Transplant team at Vanderbilt and we told that his best chance of Life and Longevity would in fact come from being placed on the Transplant list.
Once again, I cried. Scott held me and I grieved for a family I may never know or meet.
When I looked at the doctor who delivered the news, his face was kind, sincere, and empathetic. He knew what I was feeling, what I was thinking. He said, “I know this is difficult to hear, but the gift of transplant offers a family who has often times experienced something unexplainable and unthinkable the chance of redemption for their child.”
This would not be the last time I would hear the word redemption when it comes to the gift of transplant.
Redemption – the act of saving or being saved
But redemption, this is a word I can begin to understand. My savior, Jesus, came to do this very thing. To save me from my sin and my iniquities, to give me life abundantly. John 3:17 “God did not send his Son into the world to judge and condemn the world, but to be its Savior and rescue it.”
The apostle Paul writes often about the redemption found in Jesus Christ but one of my favorites is found in Romans 3:24 “and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” He goes on to say that Jesus was our sacrifice of atonement through the shedding of his blood and through faith we have received justification with the Father.
Much of the new testament is written in Greek and so some words or meanings can get lost in English translation. The Greek meaning of the word Save is Sozo; its root meaning goes beyond just forgiveness of sins — Sozo carries the idea of being physically healed.
Transplant offers a family redemption, a gift to be given, Life. Healing.
We have had the privilege of meeting the families of recipients (and we obviously fall into this category), donors, and healthcare professionals who specialize in caring for transplant patients.
A new friend we’ve met through this process, father was a transplant surgeon and, in every conversation, her passion for organ donation and the miracle of this part of healthcare shines through. So, one day I finally asked her if she could put into words her strong passion for this piece of healthcare.
“I see organ donation and the gift offered through transplant as the way on earth, we come close to experiencing and understanding on the most intimate level the saving redemption and love God offered through his son at the cross through the exercise of our human choice and free will.”
She took what our transplant doctor said and added a new level of beauty – by making a hard, unthinkable choice, one that is heart wrenching to even imagine a family would face, the choice of transplant saves. The choice of transplant redeems. And the choice of transplant gives life.
One of our favorite respiratory specialists while in the hospital loves working with transplant patients. Her family made that choice when an unexplainable event happened that stole the lives of her sister and niece too early. She told me one day that she receives joy knowing that her sister and niece have a bigger legacy, that although they may have left early, they did not leave without having a purpose.
I still have so much to learn about organ donation and the gift of transplant but my life and generations to come have been altered because we have been on the receiving end.
This week approaching Mother’s Day, as I have held my son, I have been overcome with both joy and grief.
Today, I get to celebrate Mother’s Day in my home with my husband and my son. Townes is free of the four sterile white walls, the wires, the cords, the constantly beeping machines. He is no longer chained to a bed. He has been set free. He is healed. He is a precious, cute little boy who got to experience tummy time for the first time this weekend and can pursue the same new things that any child his age does. He is these things because of a selfless choice to give life to someone else.
When I look at my son, I pray to one day see a trait or a talent that I don’t recognize. Something unique about him that can’t be explained because I am his mother or Scott is his father. Something so special, we will know it’s another gift he has received from his donor.
I celebrate my first Mother’s Day holding my child, while another Mother is without. I can never repay you for a decision no mother or parent should ever have to face.
I hope that while I raise Townes’, I would raise him to honor your child, to honor your family and to honor you. Your child’s legacy will go beyond Townes’ life. Your choice will bring fruit and a harvest.
Matthew 13:23 “As for the seed that fell upon good, rich soil, it represents the hearts of people who hear and fully embrace the message of heaven’s kingdom realm. Their lives bear good fruit—some yield a harvest of thirty, sixty, even one hundred times as much as was sown.”
And I humbly sit here today and many days to come praying for you, praying that you would experience a supernatural peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7) and that you would feel the love of the Father. I know you have questions with no answers, and I know you hold a grief so great it seems unbearable, so I continue to pray for you. I picture Jesus holding you, carrying you when you need it, and catching your tears.
Psalm 56:8 “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”
And I pray Colossians 1:9-10 over Townes and that your family will know that since we heard of you, we long for your child’s life to live on, for it to continue to bear fruit.
“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God”
In loving honor of our donor’s Mother –