Saturday, October 20, 2012


Sometimes we get glimpses into the most intimate parts of people's lives. And I'm totally not talking about the bedroom kind of intimate. I'm talking about the moments when something happens that profoundly changes who a person is, or their life path. But not the retelling of those moments. Being there, when they are actually happening.

Sometimes these moments are beautiful, inspirational, hopeful. Like seeing a baby come into the world. Or being present when a child is placed in his mother's arms, and a mother is born. The wedding of a couple much in love.

Sometimes they are unbearably sad. Like when a child dies. Or a loved one has become so fuzzy she is no longer able to recognize us. A definitive diagnosis of infertility.

In my personal life, I have been present for a few of these moments. But, as a social worker, I've witnessed many of them. And unfortunately, the majority have been the sad ones.

Recently I was wittiness to parents having to make the decision of whether or not to donate their young daughter's organs. Medically she had been determined to have experienced brain death, which, in our state, means she was legally dead. Their decision was between organ donation (which would mean she was "alive" for an additional 24-36hrs while the necessary testing, etc... was done prior to donation) and not (which would mean the staff would disconnect her from the life support machines relatively quickly).

You all, I don't know how you make this decision as a parent. I'd like to think that I would be able to make something "good" come from my child's death in this way. But I just don't know that I could. Logically and spiritually it makes sense me. Right now. But I'm pretty sure that neither of those would be what would be guiding me in that awful moment. I'm pretty sure that my emotional being would be fully in control. Or out of control. How could I agree to lose another part(s) of my child?

The parents ultimately decided for their own reasons not to donate her organs. Many of the staff were bothered by this. A couple of times someone said something along the line that the parents would regret this decision in the future, their opportunity to help save someone else's life.

But I don't blame them. All they wanted was the life of their daughter to be saved. And, though it was not possible, that doesn't mean that they were emotionally in a place to make this kind of decision.

This day was likely the worst day professionally I've ever had. I don't want to experience one like it ever again. But I know my day pales in comparison to the day those parents had. The days they have had since that day. I desperately hope it is a day that none of us as parents ever has to experience.

Today's Lesson: Sometimes I wonder when I will feel like an "adult", I want to feel like an adult. And then I am witness to a moment such as this, and I do indeed feel like an adult. And then I no longer want to feel like an adult. There are some decisions none of us should ever be forced to make. Adult or not.


Emms said...

I can't imagine how difficult this must have been for the family. It must have been so hard for you to watch it happening. The things that people have to go through... I don't know, it really does change lives. I hope you never have to experience something like it again!

Alex said...

Oh my goodness, I can't even imagine. Both having to make that decision, and dealing with it from the outside of the family, like you did. My heart goes out to that family. And to you.

Jen Forbes said...

That poor child, and those poor parents. I just for the life of me understand why thing like this happen...

Let me just say there's no way to know for sure why they didn't donate but I can guess using my own experience if you'll allow me. Of course this is only a guess and I know all to well everyone is different...

My son and daughter died together in an accident six years ago. The pain and trauma is so tremendous there are no words to describe it. There should be a vocabulary just for us; parents who have endured this type of loss.

My children died instantly so organ donation wasn't an option and we always felt badly about that, but I can't honestly say what I would have done.

That being said I want to say something about the waiting. My children died on a holiday weekend and the waiting is torture pure horrible torture. The coroner was on vacation so they couldn't release my children's bodies for funeral.

Maybe it was the waiting. God do I sympathize with that, truly it was torture, that word isn't even good enough.

M said...

How awful. Those poor parents.

marwil said...

I can only guess they either didn't want to or maybe more likely, they were not ready to let go. It's a tough choice and you can only do what feels right in the moment.In that situation it's impossible to think clearly about anything. Also, must have been such a tough thing for you to witness.