By Kathy Harrington, Lindsay’s Mom (Donor Family)
On Friday, September 13, 2002, my life became forever changed. My beautiful daughter, Lindsay Alyce Jones, died of a brain aneurysm.
Lindsay went to school that day and decided to go work out with her best friend Morgan. She suddenly experienced an excruciating headache, said she did not feel well, and collapsed. I was called immediately and was at our health club within minutes. When I arrived, she was unresponsive to CPR being given to her, had no pulse and started showing signs of turning blue. The rescue squad came within minutes, did what they could and took her to Riverside Hospital. I frantically followed her to the hospital not knowing what could be wrong. My daughter was never sick a day in her life, not even an ear infection as a toddler.
When arriving at the hospital in disbelief and frantic to know what was happening, my husband arrived, followed by Lindsay’s father and his wife. We all just waited until the doctor came out within an hour and told us the CAT scan showed absolutely no brain activity. “It looked as if there was a massive cerebral hemorrhage, and there is nothing that we can do.” I remember thinking that this must be a dream, that I would of known if something like this was going to happen to my daughter.
My friend and also our pediatrician arrived at the hospital and reviewed the CAT scan and agreed that there was no brain activity and that Lindsay was gone. I will never forget the tears in her eyes, as she had known Lindsay as my daughter first, and then as her doctor.
When we were allowed to go back to the emergency room where she was being worked on I walked in with such disbelief. She looked like she was asleep, yet so many tubes were hooked up to her body.
A nurse came in and asked us if we had given any thought to organ donation. I knew immediately that was what Lindsay wanted. I remember when just a year prior we went to get her drivers license and when asked about organ donation, immediately she said “yes”. This started the journey I never thought I would ever have to experience in this lifetime.
I am so grateful that Lindsay and I had the conversations that we did. If anyone feels compelled to give the “Gift of Life”, go home today and talk it over with your family. If you don’t, and they are ever in the position I was, how will they know of your desire to donate your organs? Even though you check the box stating your intention to donate your organs, it is ultimately your parent’s decision if you are under 18 like Lindsay.
I will never forget Saturday, September 14th, when at 6:00 p.m. I received a call from our Lifeline of Ohio coordinator. She wanted us to know that the operation to recover Lindsay’s organs had been completed and that the doctors were able to recover her kidneys, liver, pancreas, and her eyes. Her heart and lungs were too damaged to be used.
I then shared the news with the many family and friends that had gathered at our house. Obviously there were many tears being shed, but at that moment I don’t think I have ever been prouder of my daughter. To believe that she could possibly be saving lives was incomprehensible.
On October 16, 2002, we received a letter from Lifeline of Ohio with the information we had waited over a month for. We were informed that Lindsay’s left kidney and pancreas were transplanted into a 42-year-old gentleman from western Ohio. He is married and has no children. He was diagnosed as a child with insulin dependent diabetes and suffered from kidney failure as a result of his diabetes. He and his wife, who is a nurse, hope to have children once he has fully recovered from surgery. He was discharged from the hospital 5 days after his surgery.
The right kidney was transplanted into a 16-year-old male. He requested not to release additional demographic information. He was discharged from the hospital 4 days after surgery and continues to do well at home.
Lindsay’s liver was transplanted into a 2-year-old boy from the Cincinnati area. He lives with his parents and two older siblings. He enjoys playing with trucks and cars. He had an uneventful post-operative period and is doing well at home.
After reading the letter, the reality of Lindsay’s death took on a different meaning to me. Through my grief, I was able to trust that my daughter made her decision to donate her organs so selflessly. I knew she would be so happy to have given these three people a future.
I also now knew that Lindsay would live on through these very fortunate individuals. I feel such peace knowing that my Lindsay gave three strangers life and through this gift she lives on forever.
On October 18, 2003 I finally wrote a letter to the recipients of Lindsay’s organs. I sent it to Lifeline of Ohio and they in turn forwarded it to the organ recipients. I wanted them to know about my beautiful daughter Lindsay, about our family, her sisters and the relationship that we shared. I hope one day to meet these special people face to face. That would be the closure of the circle of Lindsay’s life.
On October 28, 2003 I received another letter from Lifeline of Ohio. It had been forwarded to me from the kidney/pancreas recipient’s wife. It turns out that the letter I had written and the letter I received literally passed each other in the mail. This was fate to me.
His wife said that she had tried to sit down many times to write us, but just could never finish the letter. She finally did three days before their fifth wedding anniversary. She told us of the many health problems her husband endured and how he was placed on the waiting list for a new kidney/pancreas in March of 2000.
On November 2, 2000, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy, who is the joy of their lives. On September 14, 2002 they got a call that would “forever change their lives”. A donor was found.
On Sunday, September 15, 2002 after a six-hour surgery he received Lindsay’s kidney and pancreas. From the time they placed the new organs in they started working immediately. He made a wonderful recovery and that was the last time he had a shot of insulin. He has had no signs of rejection and everything is working the way it is supposed to.
She said, “that through this act of kindness and our grief her husband is back and we have given her son a father to grow up with”.
This is what life is about, giving of yourself to someone else. I know Lindsay will always be watching over these special people, smiling and knowing that she gave them the “Gift of Life”.