Waiting to Live Again By Jeanne Shields
Jeanne Shields shares her story of Waiting to Live Again- a story of love, hope, bravery and the Gift of Life
During early 2009, I slept in a window seat at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital for countless nights while my 8 year old daughter, Lauren, waited for a new heart. Watching her deteriorate night after night was heart breaking but knowing how low the enrollment rates are in New York made it even worse.
It should be said there is no opportune wait time. Each patient is different. In Lauren’s case, it was confirmed that she would need a new heart on January 30, 2009.
She went on the Organ Transplant waitlist with the highest status. Although she was in the hospital and on IV mediations, she was initially able to move around. We kept her as busy as we could doing craft projects but eventually she just became too tired.
I can clearly remember her trying to complete a snow globe for her surgeon. At one point she just held the plastic in her hand and stared out the window. When I asked her what was wrong she said she hoped that her new heart would come soon. She added she didn’t “think the old one was going to be able to wait.”
That snow globe never did get completed because just after that it was necessary to put her on a machine that would fully take over the functioning of her heart. She went on full cardiac and respiratory life support and was placed in an induced coma. My normally chatty and laughing daughter lay in an eerie silence and waited.
I would look at her and pray. I would look at her and cry. I would talk to her, read her books, play music for her.
Every night I would close my eyes and hope that they would come in during the dark of night to tell me that her donor was found. I would drift off to sleep and when the morning came, and I opened my eyes, I would look over to my silent angel and ask, “When?”
The days melted one into another. I could see the look of concern as the doctors came in each morning to visit. The machines she was on were wreaking havoc on her body. She hemorrhaged constantly.
I was starting to wonder if I would lose her. I constantly wished for her new heart but of course I understood the gravity of what I was wishing for. At one point, someone said to me, “You realize what you are waiting for? You are waiting for a child to die.”
My response was, “No…unfortunately children die every day. What I am waiting for, is a family in their worst hour, to find it in their heart to give the gift of life to another.” It was in that moment that I felt the most hopeless of all.
Thankfully, the doctors came in on March 18th, 2009 and told me that her donor had been found and on March 19th my daughter had a successful heart transplant.
Since her transplant, I have not forgotten those days that we waited. When we go back to the hospital and visit with kids that are waiting for transplants, I see the parents and I know the pain they are feeling. Thus my wish is the same as Shari’s birthday wish. I wish that each person I know becomes an organ donor. Just think of what could happen if we all wished for the same thing?