Fall-Winter 2006: A Gift to Others

by Craigg McRae

On May 12, 2004 my son Tom had a car accident which left him brain dead with no hope of recovery. After 18 hours of agony watching him kept alive on various machines and having numerous tests to see if there was any brain activity at all, Tom’s mother and I gave permission for the hospital to declare him dead. He was 16 and had received his driver’s license only four months before. While I was in favor of organ donation, for sentimental reasons his mother was not. What turned the decision around was the fact that Tom had volunteered his organs to be donated when he received his driver’s license. This in no way obligated us, but it was comforting to know that Tom had considered this possibility before his death. He had told a friend he would sign up but, of course, never expected the gift to be used.

While Tom’s lungs, spleen, and liver were not eligible for donation due to injuries sustained in the crash, he did donate both kidneys, his heart, his eyes, and much skin for burn grafting. Tom’s left kidney was transplanted into a 49 year old married mother of two daughters who had end stage renal disease. Tom’s right kidney was transplanted into a 33 year old married father who had been receiving dialysis treatments for nine years. Tom’s heart was transplanted into a 30 year old mother of two small children.

The fact that parts of Tom are helping many others helps make this tragedy bearable. He was a great kid with a zest for life.  While God controls these events, I know that His taking of Tom at such a young age was to see how we react and what acts of love we initiate as a result. Tom’s soul is intact and the memories of him stay alive in our hearts and minds forever.

I strongly encourage everyone to seriously consider organ donation because of the lasting gifts it brings – gifts of life to the recipients and gifts of love to the bereaved.