IN AN EMERGENCY, CALL 911

The following is a guest blog post that came to us as via our commitment to the intersection of EMS and Organ Donation, courtesy of LifeChoice Donor Services, and as part of National Donate Life Month.

The fear which truly speaks to the heart of a first responder and parent answering a child trauma call is, what if that were my son, daughter, niece, or nephew.  I’m here to tell you, having that fear realized is even worse than your worst anticipations. I was a police officer on the City of Groton PD for 25 years. I was on the Dive/Rescue team for 16 years, a Critical Incident Stress Debriefer, started the Dept. bicycle team, MRT, CPR Instructor, and received the Dept. Life Saving Medal. I have seen just about every type of crime, accident, injury, or wrong that can be perpetrated by one human being against another.  None of those skills prepares you to respond to your own son’s motor bike accident in front of your house on a cold early December Saturday while decorating for Christmas in 1997.

Memories of a screech of tires, a scream for “Dad”, doing CPR with my wife, a Nurse Practitioner, the distant sirens, and faces in the periphery. The aftermath of a miscalculation by Jason, my 15 year old, and another friend’s collision, would never be undone.  The hazy memory of an ambulance ride, hospital personnel, worried faces, and then finally a pronouncement the next day of an unrecoverable traumatic brain injury, despite the helmet, all reside within me still.

Through the haze, numbness, denial, phone calls, hugs, and raw soul-wracking tears, I remember being quietly asked about donation.  My wife, having been a critical care nurse at one time, found it easy to respond yes, while I was not yet ready to accept this finality.  But I also knew deep within my heart that if lives could be saved by such a simple choice when no other outcome was possible, then of course we’d do that.  And it might even make some sense out of a senseless loss, or at least be a life-affirming positive side to an otherwise helpless situation.  It also gave us some sense of control in the chaos around us.

The decision was made to donate any and all organs, bone, and skin tissue, and I distinctly remember thinking why do anything limited or ‘half-ass’, that if a life or lives could be saved by this simple act, even though my son’s could not, then that’s what we’d do, and I signed the papers.  (As a side note to all this, we were still able to have an open casket and say our final goodbyes to Jason.)   I won’t pretend it was easy, but it was right, and over time has made life without Jason easier knowing his life had meaning, and does, in a real sense, still go on.

By Jim Murray, Jason’s dad

Norwich, CT

LifeChoice is the federally designated, non-profit organ procurement organization (OPO) for six counties in Connecticut and three counties in Western Massachusetts, with a combined population of 2.3 million people. The OPO serves 23 acute care hospitals for organ and tissue donation, and has two organ transplant hospitals: Hartford Hospital in Hartford, CT, and Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, MA. For more information or to schedule an in-service, please contact Donna Crombez at dcrombez@lifechoiceopo.org.