MAY 26, 2016. The first day of summer for my sweet girl, Ava Grace.
On this particular morning she woke up extra early and snuck up to the front of the house, as I got dressed for work. I held her sweet face in my hands and told her how very much I loved her and how proud I was of her.
Ava Grace was a beautiful child. She was one of a kind. Her heart was made of gold and more generous than any 6-year-old child I know. She was a free spirit; she was smart, kind, helpful, brave, generous and silly. She won $1000 at a school raffle on May 17, 2016 and she wanted to use the money to buy a new house, a new car and to give each child on her bus $200. That was Ava, thoughtful and willing to share anything and everything she had. Little did I know that May 26, 2016 would be the day my life was divided into 2 categories, everything before this day and everything after this day. At 7:26pm that night, Ava was critically injured in a car accident. Her grandfather and twin sister, Olivia, were also in the car accident, but survived with minor injuries.
Ava Grace was transported to Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. My world shattered when the neurosurgeon diagnosed her with a catastrophic spinal cord injury. Just when I thought the news couldn’t be any worse, I was informed that she showed no brain activity. As a Registered Nurse, I knew what that meant. I had spent many years caring for patients in Intensive Care Unit with spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries and caring for patients who donated their organs. I knew many years ago that I would be an organ donor, but I never in a million years imagined I would make that decision for my 6-year-old daughter that had been so full of life 30 minutes before the car accident.
My family and I anxiously waited to see if Ava Grace would become responsive. As I paced the halls outside of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, I saw pictures of children who had given the Gift of Life. Tiny heroes. Families that chose to donate their children’s organs as their own families faced every parent’s worst fear. I knew without a doubt, that my brave and generous Ava Grace would unselfishly give her life so that others could live. After extensive testing, Ava Grace was found to have an anoxic brain injury. Which meant that she had no brain activity. She would never breathe on her own again; she would never walk, talk, open her eyes, laugh, smile or do anything again. So I made the choice to give life through her death.
Ava Grace had a B positive blood type, finding matches for her organs was quite a task. She was able to save the lives of 3 complete strangers. The vessels of her heart were saved to use in the future to save even more lives. Saying my last Goodbye to Ava Grace was something I could not have handled on my own. If I hadn’t made the decision to Donate Life, I would have no hope for the future. Hope that I will one day meet her recipients. Knowing that through her death, SHE GAVE LIFE to others. Knowing that people are alive today because of my baby girl. Knowing that so many people are alive today because many people have made the selfless decision to give the gift of life, even in their darkest hours, brings so much bright hope for the future!
If you have not made the decision to become an organ donor, I encourage you to do so! If you are a recipient of an organ donor, I encourage you to reach out to your donor’s family and thank them for the life you have today!