My name is Jenny and this is my husband Scott. We are your average farm family living in north east Kansas.
We came in contact with Midwest Transplant Network while I was pregnant with our son, Palmer. At twenty weeks into the pregnancy, through a routine ultrasound, he was diagnosed with anencephaly. Anencephaly is a neural tube defect that is 'incompatible with life'. There was no guarantee how long he would survive... a few minutes, hours or days at most. After receiving his diagnosis we researched the possibility of tissue donation. His organs were too delicate for harvest, but his heart valves were a possibility if he met certain criteria. Our experience with Midwest Transplant Network was absolutely wonderful. They fully explained the donation process and offered wonderful support. A caring and compassionate nature was our first and lasting impression.
In hindsight, our decision to donate was easy. I say this simply because it was always the right thing to do. We are both registered donors. So really, why would we choose anything different for our children. But after you are given the news that your child will die, your thinking is not clear. The cliche 'our world came crashing down' becomes your reality. Simple tasks became unbearably hard. Our life seemed to come to a screeching halt. You question your strength and ability to continue a pregnancy that will ultimately end in death. But as you question your strength, you realize that you love this little being with all your heart and soul. Then you start to think about the other families who have been told that their child will die unless they receive valves. Each day, they watch their child slip away, fighting to live. This was our opportunity to turn our loss into someone else's hope. The days I wanted to lay in bed and ignore the world, I thought of these families and what donation would mean to them. Donation became my ray of light. It was my reason to get out of bed, put myself together and live my life for my child and the recipient family. Through donation I learned a new appreciation for celebrating the life of my child.
Each criteria milestone we met was a reason to celebrate. On the day of his delivery, the wild card was his weight. After he was born, the nurse reported his weight at 4 lbs 13 oz. I knew this would not make the cut and our nurse confirmed the news that he was rejected for donation. I was devastated. I remember looking up at Scott, watching him unwrap Palmer and listening to him say there had to be a mistake. He said he knew he weighed more based on his chest size and he demanded a reweigh. Scott was right. His weight was off by 3 ounces. Two families were gifted heart valves because of my husband. He often will say that I did all the hard work during the pregnancy. But I think those two families would agree, that his role that day was just as important as what I did the previous 9 months. That night, we were allowed 12 hours with Palmer before we had to give him up. We chose to give him to the harvest team a little over 4 hours after his heart stopped beating. We knew the sooner his valves were retrieved, the sooner a family would receive 'the call'.... the call that valves were available for their child.
Regardless of your situation or circumstances, consider donation. Talk about it with your loved ones and make your decision known. We all leave a ripple in life, reaching out and touching lives. Donation is a gift that leaves a ripple and touches more people than we really will ever know. Do your part and keep your ripple going.