Tuesday, May 7, 2013
We heard the ambulance, and stood in horror as the paramedics rushed him past us to the exam room. One of the paramedics was gripping T.J.'s fist. His breathing, it seemed to me, indicated he was fighting pain. I was told later that wasn't the case. I will never forget that scene. We wanted to see him, to touch him and tell him it would be okay. To tell him that we loved him. They told us there wasn't time. They cut his clothes off him and rushed him for testing. The owner of the company T.J. worked for arrived with tears in his eyes. I called my parents and my in-laws, it was surreal.
I had to call our kids. Our youngest, Gabrielle, had a softball game that afternoon. Tim and I were always at the kids' events. I called Caitlin and told her that I needed she and Matt to go to Gabi's game. T.J. had been hurt and we were at the hospital. That he'd be okay and we'd update them later. After her game, Gabi asked Caiti and Matt what happened to T.J. She knew, without being told, that something had happened to her brother. There really is no way to prepare your children to enter a critical care unit so see their brother tethered to multiple machines. We still had to tell his girlfriend Gillian. She had been away working on a senior project. Her senior prom was scheduled for May 8.
When we decided to end medical treatment we were finally able to talk to him, to touch him. I hope he could hear our words of love. Can you imagine what it was like to go home in the middle of the night and tell your kids that you've ended medical treatment and that their brother was dying? It's horrific. T was declared brain-dead at 11:20 a.m. on Sunday, May 9, 2004 - Mother's Day. We then spent the rest of the day waiting for the testing, and the calls to be made to transplant teams. It was a difficult 12+ hours. I can't explain to you how we felt listening to the sound of our steps echoing down the hallway as we walked alongside T.J.'s bed to the silver elevator doors that would take him away from us to the awaiting surgical teams. I don't have the words to express the gratitude we feel for the many medical professionals who cared for him over the 3 1/2 days he was hospitalized; to our friends who worked in the hospital and cared for him - Andrea, who performed his last CT Scan - her boys grew up and played with ours, and Michelle who prepared him for his donation surgery.
While this has been a long post, and I thank you if you've read to the end, there's a lot I've left out. T.J. is our hero. Five people who were dying are alive today because of his major organ donation. His heart, kidneys, liver and pancreas were transplanted. His lungs had developed a slight infection from being on a ventilator so he couldn't donate them. His pancreas was ultimately rejected by the recipient's body, but it kept the man alive long enough to receive another transplant that was successful. Two people who were going blind can see because of T.J.'s donation. Countless others have received bone and tissue donations. If you aren't an organ donor, won't you consider it? It's a very easy process that you can take care of when you renew your drivers' license. You can also register online at Donate Life America.