Yesterday I saw what is probably one of the most beautiful pictures I have ever seen. It wasn’t of a sunset or of some untouched mountain lake…. It was a picture of a woman–a mother–embracing a young woman and pressing her ear to her chest. She is listening to a familiar sound. It is the sound of her son’s heart–a son whose life was taken 18 years ago–A steady beat that is alive and well in the chest of a woman she had never met…. At least not until that day. Here is the picture:
The meeting happened this past Valentines Day (which also happens to be National Donor Day). Vicki Brannon is the mother of Matthew McIntyre, who died in 1996 after being accidentally shot by a friend. A day later, Matthew’s 14 year old heart was given to 13 year old Jennifer Lentini. Jennifer arranged the meeting with Matthew’s mother as a way of saying, “Thank you.” You can read more about this amazing reunion (and see more of Tim Boyle‘s powerful photography) if this article from the Daily News.
I had tears in my eyes as I showed this story to a coworker today, and she told me a story of a childhood friend whose father had died while she was still young. The father was an organ donor, and his heart went to a man whose life was saved by this simple act of generosity. Years later, when this friend’s sister got married, the man who had received her father’s heart agreed to walk her down the aisle. The family can be thankful that I was not at this wedding, because no one would have been able to have heard any of the ceremony over the sounds of my very loud sobbing. That story is so freaking beautiful. For the life of me, I cannot think of one reason why someone wouldn’t want to be an organ donor. It is such a purely good thing. It is completely good.
Here are some things you might not know about organ donation:
- Every day, 18 people die while waiting for organ transplants.
- One person who donates their organs after they die can save the lives of up to 8 people, and drastically change the lives of 50 more.
- Every major religion supports organ donation.
- Just about anyone, regardless of age or medical history, can be an organ donor.
- No one is ever going to get “lesser care” just because they are an organ and tissue donor. This is a ridiculous myth. The only time that donation is even considered is after every single thing that can be done has been tried and the patient has died.
- People who have donated their organs can have open caskets at their funeral, and they look exactly the same as if they didn’t donate.
- In some states it is not enough to simply sign the back of your drivers license. If you want to be registered as an organ donor, you can CLICK RIGHT HERE and be taken to a handy map where you can click on your state and resister.
It is so easy, and there is no easier way for you to possibly save someone’s life. Refusing to be an organ donor is like finishing a meal next to a starving man, and insisting your scraps get thrown in the trash. And the other cool thing is this: If we all decide that this is something we ALL value as a community, YOUR life might end up being the one that is saved someday. YOU might be the man walking down the aisle next to a young woman whose father’s heart beats within you…. YOURS might be the chest with the ear pressed against it, listening for a familiar rhythm….
For my day job, part of what I do is educational puppetry for elementary-aged kids. We used to do a program on organ donation. It was so very sweet. The kids who saw our presentation got to meet a little girl whose brother had died and donated his organs, saving the lives of multiple people. They also met a young boy who had cardiomyopathy and was close to death, but whose life was saved because the family of a girl who died cared enough to talk about becoming an organ donor. We almost never do this program anymore, because teachers and parents were afraid that it was to much for the kids to deal with. But I think that behind that fear is subtile lie that we tell ourselves when we avoid talking about death. We all walk around like we’re going to be here forever. But we’re not. We’re all going to die someday…. We might as well go out being a hero for someone who needs the stuff we don’t need anymore. Stuff that can let someone see for the first time, stuff that allows someone to take a deep breath without the help of a machine, stuff that can send the very essence of life through our veins…. Talk to your kids. Talk to your loved ones. Register online. Be a hero. Be an organ donor.