Hello, my name is Raquel Gonzalez and I moved to California in 1991 with my 3 year old daughter Brittany.
Brittany graduated from Torrance high in 2007. She had such a carefree, loving, and fun personality, and anyone who met her loved her instantly.
Brittany didn’t have a real plan after graduation, other than hanging out at the beach and working at the mall. I suggested that maybe she might want to go to Slidell, Louisiana to visit her grandparents, my mom and dad. They live very close to New Orleans and I knew she would have a blast. I wanted her to go visit for the summer and come up with a plan for furthering her education. Well, she ended up loving it in Slidell.
She got a job at Slidell Memorial Hospital working in food services and she really loved it. I was happy for her and my parents were really enjoying having their oldest grandchild there with them. She had to buy a car to get back and forth to work, so that meant she needed to learn how to drive and get her license. Here in Cali she didn’t need a license because she rode her bike everywhere and she didn’t mind riding the bus, so it was never an issue. So she got her license and my parents helped her buy her first car. She was really loving life and having a great time; she met her boyfriend Joe and was making lots of friends. I missed her so much, but as long as she was happy then I would be happy.
In January 2008, I went home for a visit. She was so excited to show me where she worked, and I was happy to see her doing so well.
One night I remember having a chat with her and she said, “Mom, are you an organ donor?”
I really wasn’t sure where she was going with the conversation, but she pulled out her new DL license and showed me that she was and we were just chatting about it, not being very serious. She said, mom if I ever die, I want my eyes to be donated because they are my best feature. I told her whatever, okay, okay! Let’s not talk about this subject, because she wasn’t going to die before me. Who knew that 3 months later I would have to be faced with this decision?
After my visit, I came back to Cali and I missed her even more and she had also gotten really homesick and wanted to move back home. She was really torn, because she had a boyfriend and a job that she loved, but she missed being here with me and all of her friends. I told her to work out a plan with her dad to move back. They arranged for her to move back at the end of April. He was going to drive to Slidell, rent a trailer and tow her car back. I was excited to know she would be moving back to Cali.
On the evening of April 4th, my life changed forever. I was in Anaheim with my fiancé, Gabriel, getting ready to see Bon Jovi in concert with our friends. While we were in the car waiting to park, my phone rang and it was my mom. She asked to speak to Gabriel, which I thought was strange, but I handed the phone to him. I saw his face turn white and he said you need to tell her and he handed the phone to me. My mom was screaming and crying saying Britt had been in a terrible car accident and she was in the ER and she wasn’t sure how bad it was, but she thought I needed to come home. Of course, I am all the way in California, and there is not a quick way to get to my daughter. I called her dad, Tracy, and told him what was going on and ask him to get online and try and find us a flight ASAP. Well, there were no flights available because everything headed into New Orleans was cancelled due to a storm. The same storm Britt was driving in when she lost control of her car and hit a telephone pole.
Well, we couldn’t wait for a flight, so my ex-husband, Britt’s step mom and I, hopped into his truck and headed to Louisiana. We drove 33 hours almost nonstop, with only a 5 hour break to rest. We made it to the hospital by Sunday afternoon. Britt was in a coma. She was on a ventilator and had sustained a very bad head injury, along with a punctured lung and broken ribs. She really didn’t have a scratch on her, it was all internal. My poor baby laid there surrounded with tubes and monitors. The thought of her dying really never entered my head.
I knew she was a strong, healthy 19 year old and was going to come out of this and have a great story to tell. She was also in the hospital where she worked, so most of the nurses and staff knew and loved her. She was constantly surrounded by friends in the hospital, we had a love journal and friends and family were leaving her notes of encouragement. I knew it would be a long haul, but was confident she was going to make it out of this.
On the morning of Wednesday, April 9, 2008, I made my way over to the hospital and the nurses stopped me and they were so excited to tell me that Britt had started breathing on her own and they were going to remove the ventilator.
I couldn’t believe it, she was doing so good, even started to move her arms and hands. There was hope and I couldn’t have been happier. Around 10:30 that morning the nurse came into the room to remove her breathing tube and all of a sudden Britt started turning red and was tensing up. The bells and buzzers on the machines started going crazy and the nurses pushed us out of the room and we really didn’t know what was happening. I knew it was not good. They took Britt out and I wasn’t sure where they were going, but my family and I all went down to the chapel and started praying. We just hoped she would be okay and after about an hour or so we went back to ICU. Brittany was brought back to the room, but I knew something was not right.
She was very still and all the tubes were connected again. The doctors wouldn’t really tell us much, we waited for specialist to come in and run some more tests on her to determine if she was brain dead or not. At 3:30pm on April 9th, we were told our baby was determined brain dead due to a blood clot to her lung which caused lack of oxygen to her brain and there was nothing further they could do. She was not ever going to wake up, she was on ventilator support.
I try to think back on that moment, but it is very blurry.
I just remember being brought into a small little room and her doctor and another lady were there and they started talking about allowing Brittany to be an organ donor. She was young and healthy. Of course, if I had to make that decision, I know I would have consented, but I am so very grateful that Brittany had already made that decision for herself. It is not a decision any parent should ever have to make.
I am so proud of my daughter!
Several weeks after Brittany’s death, I received a letter from LOPA (Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency):
Brittany’s left kidney and pancreas was given to a 43 year old father of one.
Brittany’s right kidney was given to a 45 year old woman who is single with one child and was on the waiting list for 7 years.
Brittany’s liver was given to a 46 year old husband and father of one child.
Brittany’s gift had the ability to help up to 50 people.