Once upon a time there was a touch of spring in the air. I was leaving the neighborhood in my car. A few moms were talking in a cluster while their kids played outside. A boy who looked to be 4 or 5 years old was coming up the sidewalk fast with a red helmet on, hands gripping the handlebars of his scooter. He had one small foot steady on the scooter base. The other foot was pushing off, pushing off; gathering the kind of speed you have for things in spring. As he got nearer to me our eyes met. Staring right at me, he flashed me this huge grin. While his right hand remained steady his left hand left its careful grip. He raised it to me in a five-finger-spread wave-wave-wave-wave-wave before he reached back in safety. Never saw him before. Delicious. He got my biggest grin and most enthusiastic wave back. First connection we ever had, he and I. It was deep, this moment of happiness we shared.
I had met a new family just the day before while working as a Transplant Coordinator. A man had suffered a non-recoverable injury to his head. It was a very sad time for his family. They were crying and sharing their best memories of him with me. As our conversation continued, they suddenly started to smile, then laugh. As a group they had started laughing when they heard their son/cousin/nephew/brother could be an organ donor. They laughed because he always said he wanted to be one. As sad as they were at his loss, they were happy that he could help others, the way he always talked about. They all knew one of his friends, a woman who needed a kidney transplant. They asked if it was possible to help her, as well as other people they did not know.
The ability to donate organs is rare. People die waiting every day. The rules ensuring it is a fair process are carefully considered by many parties. “Directed donation” is a possibility for every family. "Directed donation is a request made by a donor or donor family to transplant a specific recipient,” it says in the actual ruling. If your family is making a decision about organ donation and your family knows someone who is in need of a life saving transplant, you can ask that this person you know be considered first for the gift. The recipient will already need to be listed at a transplant center. The recipient's medical team will be the ones to determine if the gift you are offering is a match for their patient. If they do not accept the gift on behalf of their patient, then the gift of the organ will be allocated according to the national list.
The family shared their story with me. Whenever this man saw his friend who was waiting for a kidney he would say, “If anything ever happens to me, I’ve got you covered, you can have one of mine.” Every time he saw her, they said. He never forgot her need. He was that kind of person.
Now blood types have to be the same, and cross matching needs to be done, and there cannot be too many unacceptable antigens, and the doctors have to decide whether medical histories are a match. The recipient must have had medical testing and it all needs to be up to date. They cannot be sick with a cold when the call comes. There are so many steps. Directed donation does not happen easily.
Did it happen in this case? What do you think?
Once upon a time I suddenly had an image appear in my head of our generous thoughtful donor, now in Heaven or whatever he believed was the next place. He was sending me a huge spiritual grin and a five-finger-spread wave-wave-wave-wave-wave. I could see him as clear as day.
It was deep, this moment of happiness we shared.
It gave me goosebumps.
Melissa Regan is a Storyteller who is honored to celebrate the life you live and the people you love. She partners with individuals at significant times of life and loss, supporting them by creating and presenting their loved ones story at a service or by planning an inspirational day of rememberance and reflection.
Melissa spent time as a critical care nurse before she became specialized in the field of organ donation. Melissa was well known for the care she gave grieving families and did this delicate work for 14 years. Her experience lead to her teaching heartfelt methods of communication to donation specialists around the world.
Inspired by everything these families taught her, she expanded her perspective on life by studying Positive Psychology, earning both a CiPP and a CAPP. She received training as an end of life doula through INELDA. She has a special grace all her own when it comes to supporting us at times of change and loss.
Melissa is a wife, mother, lifelong learner, and a lover of the wonder you can find in a single moment. She brings this wonder to her public speaking, connecting us to the grandness and depth always present in the day to day.
“Take a day to be thoughtful... the rest of your life is here.”