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Did We Make The Right Choice?

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Read a story on the internet that is so close to what happen to my brother and it makes my family wonder did we make the right choice. Here is the following story: Man declared dead feels 'pretty good'

Mon Mar 24, 10:09 AM ET Four months after he was declared brain dead and doctors were about to remove his organs for transplant, Zach Dunlap says he feels "pretty good." Dunlap was pronounced dead Nov. 19 at United Regional Healthcare System in Wichita Falls, Texas, after he was injured in an all-terrain vehicle accident. His family approved having his organs harvested.

As family members were paying their last respects, he moved his foot and hand. He reacted to a pocketknife scraped across his foot and to pressure applied under a fingernail. After 48 days in the hospital, he was allowed to return home, where he continues to work on his recovery. On Monday, he and his family were in New York, appearing on NBC's "Today." "I feel pretty good. but it's just hard ... just ain't got the patience," Dunlap told NBC. Dunlap, 21, of Frederick, said he has no recollection of the crash. "I remember a little bit that was about an hour before the accident happened. But then about six hours before that, I remember," he said. Dunlap said one thing he does remember is hearing the doctors pronounce him dead. "I'm glad I couldn't get up and do what I wanted to do," he said. Asked if he would have wanted to get up and shake them and say he's alive, Dunlap responded: "Probably would have been a broken window that went out." His father, Doug, said he saw the results of the brain scan. "There was no activity at all, no blood flow at all." Zach's mother, Pam, said that when she discovered he was still alive, "That was the most miraculous feeling." "We had gone, like I said, from the lowest possible emotion that a parent could feel to the top of the mountains again," she said.

She said her son is doing "amazingly well," but still has problems with his memory as his brain heals from the traumatic injury. "It may take a year or more ... before he completely recovers," she said. "But that's OK. It doesn't matter how long it takes. We're just all so thankful and blessed that we have him here." Dunlap now has the pocketknife that was scraped across his foot, causing the first reaction. "Just makes me thankful, makes me thankful that they didn't give up," he said. "Only the good die young, so I didn't go."

Here is what happened to my brother: On the last day of school he has gone over to a friend's house with his girlfriend and rode back with his girlfriend on the bike handle's. He came into the house and asked my dad to get some of his pain pills (my little brother's prescription pain pills) and told my dad to wake him up when dinner was ready. We knew that my little brother was hurting really bad by the look in his eyes. My little brother was not one to admit to pain. He was a healthy young man. He took weight lifting, lifetime sports, and autobody for his senior year. He was training with a marine recruiter (my little brother was the only one able to keep up with the marine recruiter, out of eight guys; they ran 5 miles stopping every quarter mile to do exercises). All he had to do was lose 25 pounds to be able to join the marines. My little brother was mainly muscle. When we went to wake him up we noticed that he would exhale and not breathe back in for 14 seconds. We just thought that he was congested up so we took turns sitting with him; we would count to 14 seconds then jar him to get him to breathe. This was about 6pm, and we couldn't get him to wake up no matter how hard we jarred him. Finally about midnight we couldn't get him to breathe so we called for ambulance, they took him to the hospital when we got there they were working on him and told us that they had to restart his heart a couple of times on the way to the hospital which is about 5 minutes away. About 1 in the morning the hospital tells us that they have to send him to Springfield, MO by helicopter. When we got to Springfield (we had to drive 2 hours) they told us that he might be brain dead, and that they had to restarted his heart several times. Finally he was admitted to the ICU. They had a respirator breathing for him. We sat with him as long as we were allowed. They told that they were going to do brain function tests a couple of times a day. The first one showed that he had brain function, the second one showed that his brain function had decreased some and that his brain was swelling. About that time the nurses started hounding my family about Organ Donation. I remember I got so angry because he was not dead and thinking that he could still recover, that miracles happen everyday. On Friday morning May 25 about 10 am the doctor had my family gather together and told all of us that my little brother was declared legally brain dead at 9:19 am and then told us that if we didn't do organ donation that his brain would swell and push down his spinal cord causing a massive heart attack. The nurses showed us where Nathan had signed up for organ donation at the national register in November. He never told us. After he was declared brain dead and organ donation was to be done it seemed like the nurses and doctors were doing more to keep his organs good then before he was declared brain dead. The head of the organ donor program asked my family to come into a little room, he had a piece of paper and started asking us which organs to use, could they use his tissues, his eyes, his bones and I remember thinking the doctors just told us that Nathan was gone and here these vultures were wanting to take pieces of him. One of the things I still can't wrap my mind around is that after he was declared brain dead I was sitting at his bedside and it looked like he was breathing and he felt warm to the touch. I know that it was because of the machines but it still looked like he was just sleeping.

So my question is did we make the right choice?

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Dear Sister,

I wonder what responses you would get if you asked that same question of the people who were the recipients of your brother’s organs. I’m sure that, from their perspective and that of their family members, you certainly did “make the right choice.” I can think of no greater gift than that of organ donation, especially considering the tragic circumstances under which this precious gift was given by you and your family.

I simply cannot imagine what it must have been like for you and your family to have found yourselves in the position you describe, and I certainly can understand why, months later, you are still questioning the wisdom of the god-like decision you all were required to make. I think it's only natural to question such awesome decisions. Nevertheless, as I read your tragic story, it seems to me that you were honoring your brother’s wishes as you all understood them to be, and you did exactly what he would have wanted you to do. Without excusing any insensitivity on the part of the organ donation staff, I also have to believe that the people involved in your brother’s case were legally, ethically and morally bound to adhere to a very strict protocol in making certain that your brother was dead before they harvested any organs and tissues from his body.

I can only hope that, as you come to terms with this, you will give yourself the credit you deserve, and find some comfort in knowing that you helped your brother in this most selfless act of unmeasurable generosity.

I am reminded of this beautiful poem by Robert N. Test:

To Remember Me

The day will come when my body will lie upon a white sheet

neatly tucked under four corners of a mattress

located in a hospital busily occupied

with the living and the dying.

At a certain moment

a doctor will determine that my brain has ceased to function

and that, for all intents and purposes,

my life has stopped.

When that day comes,

do not attempt to instill artificial life into my body

by the use of a machine.

And don't call this my deathbed.

Let it be called the Bed of Life,

and let my body be taken from it

to help others lead fuller lives.

Give my sight to the man who has never seen a sunrise,

a baby's face or the love in the eyes of a woman.

Give my heart to a person whose own heart has caused nothing but endless days of pain.

Give my kidneys to one who depends on a machine to exist from week to week.

Take my bones, every muscle, every fiber and nerve in my body

and find a way to make a crippled child walk.

If you must bury something,

let it be my faults, my weaknesses and all prejudice against my fellow man.

Give my sins to the devil.

Give my soul to God.

If, by chance, you wish to remember me,

do it with a kind deed or word to someone who needs you.

If you do all I have asked,

I will live forever.

You might also find these resources informative and helpful:

Organ Donation: Don’t Let Myths Stand In Your Way

Stories of Hope

An In-Depth Look at Organ and Tissue Donation (PBS)

Daniel’s Story

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  • 3 months later...

I think your story is so sad, and that in your place I would also wonder "what if?" And I would feel like the nurses and doctors were vultures.

But also, my ex-husband/dear friend died waiting for a liver transplant. The gift of organ donation is a gift of life. While I do believe sometimes miracles happen like in the story you quoted, sometimes the miracle is the lives that are saved because your brother agreed to be an organ donor -- though it must be so hard on you. (((((((((HUGS)))))))))))

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