Destiny Herndon-DeLaRosa

Donation as default.

In DMN on August 27, 2010 at 5:48 pm

Three years ago, I met the man in whom my brother’s heart now beats. He was an older man, and I’m not going to lie, that bugged me at first.

My brother was only 18 when he died in a car accident, and I felt as though his heart should have gone to a person equally young. But as this sweet man began to tell me about his life after the transplant – about the daughter he was able to walk down the aisle and the grandchild he was able to welcome into the world – I realized how valuable every day is, whether it comes in your youth or during your more seasoned years.

Likewise, after meeting the man who received my brother’s liver and the woman with one of his kidneys, I was able to experience a small bit of joy as I walked through the desolate valley of my grief.

It turns out that choosing to donate my brother’s organs allowed my family to feel something again. We were able to nudge aside some of our pain and hopelessness and replace it with a bit of acceptance and purpose. My brother’s donation became more of a gift to us than to his recipients.

Last month, a controversial bill was introduced in New York that basically presumes that all people want to be organ donors unless they explicitly choose otherwise by opting out of the program.

I do not understand the growing controversy. Why would anyone fight a bill that could save hundreds of thousands of people a year?

Upon researching this issue, I found that one of the biggest misconceptions people have is that if you’re a donor, and the doctor knows it, he or she will let you die so they can harvest your organs for one of their other patients. To me this fear defies logic. First of all, we’re not living in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. The physician removing a donor’s organ does not know the recipient, just as the doctor who transplants the organ does not know the donor. All of my brother’s organs were flown to different hospitals, so there was no way for the surgeons at Methodist to know who was receiving what, let alone hand-pick them for a patient.

Another apprehension many people have is that they think the transplant organizations are like vultures waiting to pounce on someone who is still capable of being revived. That is completely false. Organ donors actually undergo very extensive screenings to confirm that they are no longer viable.

My brother received a litany of tests to confirm his brain death. Painful for those of us waiting to hear the results? Yes. But at no point did we feel as if Southwest Transplant Alliance, the donation agency we chose to work with, was ever rooting for him to die or rushing us in our decision. They were there to answer all our questions and went out of their way to console us; listening to stories about my brother and suggesting support groups that could help us heal. They grieved alongside us. I remember one of the female representatives crying with me and sharing about a loved one she had lost.

We donated everything of my brother’s, and as a result, up to 50 lives were either saved or enhanced. Fifty. Nothing will ever make his death acceptable, but being able to give life to others gave my brother a legacy.

I can only hope that a similar opt-out bill is introduced here in Texas so we can see more lives and more loved ones who were taken too soon remembered as heroes.

{Published in the Dallas Morning News & posted here on their website}

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