On January 6th, 2017, a family’s life was shattered into pieces. Their little one was gone. A small child – innocent and undeserving of such a short life – lost their battle. In the midst of the worst time of their lives, a doctor – probably standing staunchly holding a clipboard in their hands, ushered them into a beige room with no windows where they discussed the process of turning off life support for this small person. While discussing the unimaginable, this doctor had to choke back their own feelings and ask the family if they would be willing to donate their child’s organs to help save the lives of others throughout the country. Undoubtedly they explained that up to 8 lives could be saved by this one act and that many more could be impacted – above life saving organs, they could donate tissue which could minimize the scars of a burn victim or the victim of another traumatic event.
I imagine that in that position, I would feel that by donating the organs and tissue of my child, I could allow something good and beautiful to come out of a very dark time. I imagine, however, that I would also ask the question “Why does their child get to live when mine doesn’t?” It’s human emotion – you may be able to push the thought away relatively quickly but I imagine it ran through their heads.
Through their tear filled eyes and with trembling hands, they signed the papers that saved Laura’s life. There is no option for a living donor for a heart like there is with kidney or liver transplants – you are waiting for the grief of another family to bring light into the darkness that you are facing.
Yesterday we celebrated one year since Laura received her new heart. It is strange to celebrate when you know that this marks the anniversary of the worst day of someone else’s life but celebrate you must. Although this was a somber day, it was also the day that showed the true colors of a grieving family who was willing to selflessly say that even in their grief, the life of another child mattered. On this day, one year ago, love won. A family who could easily have felt hatred toward the world chose love instead – and for this, we celebrate.
This last year has brought such immense change for Laura. This time last year she was just a 4 month old, laying in a hospital bed, growing more and more accustomed to the slightly oversized heart beating in her chest.
One year ago, Laura received the gift that would allow her to accomplish so many things that continue to amaze and astonish everyone around her. Until this point, there were so many unknowns – would she receive a heart that was a good match or one that was ‘good enough’? Would she receive a heart while she was healthy or would she take a turn for the worse before one arrived? Would she have to endure a stroke while on the Berlin Heart? Would she have to suffer through a 4th, 5th, or even 6th cardiac arrest? Would we be home before spring? Summer? Even fall? Would Laura even be able to hold on long enough to see the day her new heart arrived?
In one year, Laura went from being in a hospital bed, fully reliant on respiratory support and medicinal support to running rampant through our house. At 4 months old, Laura had not achieved a single milestone aside from tracking objects with her eyes. At 5.5 months, she was able to lie on her tummy for the first time and come home for the first time. At 6 months, we pulled her feeding tube. At 7 months, she rolled over. At 8 months, she sat by herself. At 10 months she was crawling. At 11 months she said dada for the first time. By her first birthday she was walking all over the place with the support of a hand, wall, or object that she could push and she was saying a few words. On December 17th, 2017, she took her first unassisted steps and at nearly 16 months old, Laura can say 15+ words, walk EVERYWHERE, crawl up stairs, draw and paint with a paint brush and eat everything in sight. She has 6 teeth (4 of which are molars…), weighs just shy of 26 pounds and is 30 inches tall.
Our little miracle girl continues to surprise us every day and we look forward to celebrating this anniversary many, many more times in the future.