This I believea.
I believe in the generosity of the human spirit at times of unbearable grief. I have been the social worker on a heart transplant team for almost 12 years and am deluged daily with patients clinging to life while they wait for a miracle. That miracle comes for my patient while unfathomable tragedy strikes another family. This nameless, faceless family makes the decision to donate their loved ones organs while they simultaneously try to understand the brain death of their loved one-someone with whom they just ate breakfast, or whose kiss is still fresh on their lips. This family knows that somewhere in a hospital bed lays another person, whose failing health prevents them from eating and who is separated from their family. This potential donor family can sense the desperation that is felt by that nameless, faceless patient.
Working with the recipient is in many ways the less acutely painful end of this construct around which we as American have designed our organ donation system. My waiting patients are suffused with hope; hope that a suitable donor will come along before the clock runs out. By contrast, the end of hope has greeted the donor’s family upon arrival to the hospital. My patients are cleaved with desire for a heart and self-loathing for the indirect anticipation of catastrophe for another. And yet, organ donation happens thousands of times a year; over and over lives are lost and saved within the span of hours. Before the donor’s obituary is even posted, the recipient’s new organ is thriving in his or her body.
The proof of this marvel is evidenced perhaps nowhere greater than in the letters written between donor families and recipients; this is the place where true humanity is found. My recipient patients are overcome with emotion upon writing their letter; the act of writing that that letter it is the single most honest and therapeutic interaction I will ever have with them or they will have with themselves. Factory workers and CEOs alike all struggle to find words, which come close to expressing what is inexpressible. Their survivor guilt is nearly palpable. Likewise, the graceful words, which cover the flowered stationary of the donor family as they try and describe their loved one to the recipient, are a testimony to the donor’s life and legacy. I am humbled each and every time I am granted access to this exchange.
There is one particular donor family letter, which is etched in my mind. It is one, which captures the generosity of the human spirit like nothing else I have ever read. The anonymous donor family writes to the unknown recipient (I want to express to you, in case you have been having any doubts or conflict regarding this, that it is OK for you to feel happy for the second chance you have been given. As my family moves through our grief, you and your family must celebrate life. I want to thank you for giving our family comfort in our loss). It is in this pure altruism that I believeaaaaa