He was a strong, smart and talented 19-year old asthmatic with the world at his fingertips. He had everything to look forward to and no reason to look back. Finishing his first semester at college, he was home for Christmas break. He was living and loving music through his compositions and participating in the band at college. Playing the drums and being with his friends and family were all that seemed to matter. Until one day, an allergic reaction triggering his asthma caused respiratory arrest that led to eventual death.
My patient was young and vital with such a loving and caring family. He had so much yet to give. As a mother of a son with asthma, I found this situation to be a deeply emotional one. I felt a bond with this family almost instantly. How do you make sense of such a tragic event? What do you say, how do you cope, let alone help a family through such a catastrophic time?
After spending two agonizing days of hoping, praying, wishing, and willing a response from their son, the family’s hope was shattered. The time came when the doctor had to approach the family with the reality of their son’s brain death. How can life go on without their son? They will never be complete again. This loss will always be remembered and will shadow every Christmas, holiday and special event in their lives.
With all the courage a mother could muster, through tear-stained eyes, she replied, “If he can’t be helped, maybe he can help someone else.” With this decision made, LifeNet was contacted. His parents, siblings and friends said their good-byes with the realization that they would never see him again.
Through a generous act of love and faith, this vital 19-year old gave hope and life to many. No one can explain or “justify” the loss of this young man, but the impact of his gift will always be remembered through the lives of others. One year later, on the anniversary of his death, his mother came back to his room in ICU to remember and make peace with her loss. We stood side-by-side in silence peering through the window at an empty bed and with tears and a hug we again said our good-byes.
Susan Ledbetter, RN
Intensive Care Unit
Riverside Walter Reed Hospital