Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Memorial Day

October must be the month for memorial services. I had my pick of two this past weekend, one for the children's hospital and one for The Sharing Network. I picked the later, because I was hoping to see some of the families I've worked with in the past year. And the free food, of course. Then I notice some other folks had their memorial services this past weekend, also.

Sunday, after the service, I had this fine post practically writing itself in my head. Now, in my younger days, I could carry a half-finished poem around in my head for a week and work on it, finally writing it down in almost completed form when I got around to it. Ha! Like I really knew what busy was when I was 20. Anyway, the baby was up sick all night and I had work at 7am Monday and by Monday night it was gone, gone, gone-appropriate lead-in lyrics and all. I'll miss my brain when it's gone.

Anyway, I'm glad I went and I did, in fact, see one of my donor moms. She had driven all the way from Pennsyltucky with her sister and they were glad to see me too. The staff always does a nice job on the service. We(they? See, still doing it) offer folks the option of making a quilt square in honor of their loved one and then my old boss' wife and her friends sew them up into big quilts that hang in the office and get shown at events and donor drives and stuff. I brought one to my daughter's Career Day one year.

They also did a photo tribute at one point. It was amazing to see pictures of all the donors alive and smiling. Especially because I tend to remember them as I first saw them-intubated in an ICU. If you work in a hospital you probably know the feeling. You take care of this patient for so many days that you can forget they're a person. I remember one donor, whose family showed me a picture of her, in better days. "She's beautiful!" I said, because it's hard to visualize what a person really looks like when they're lying flat in bed, with their hair matted down and their face all puffy and their body bruised and there's five miles of tubes and wires coming out of every available body part.

It's nice, even if your patient is just sick, and not an organ donor, to see their picture. It makes them real, you know? Then they're more than just the splenic lac in 18 or whatever. It certainly is easier to do this in PICU, because kids are, well, kids and you'd have to be a cold-hearted snake to not fall in love with them, but it's still nice to see pictures of them taped up in the room.

I don't like to think that people who work with the donors forget their "human-ness" often. I mean, you spend an awful lot of time with the families, crying with them, talking about their loved ones. But it can be tempting, when sleep is a dim memory and you've been sitting around a hospital for too many days to count, waiting for something, anything to happen, to just think of the donor and not the person. How many organs can be recovered, what time can we get to the OR. It's in the language-"I got consent". No, you didn't GET anything. The family GAVE you consent. Maybe it's just me, or maybe I shouldn't blog at 5am when I can't sleep. The people in the business are some of the most caring, compassionate people I've ever met and they don't take donors for granted. As long as you can still see the forest for the trees, is all.

Anyway, I also got to see my peeps, who were (mostly) glad to see me. The highlight may have been the 4 year old kidney recipient and his parents who were on hand to thank the donor families. It's nice to see the living, kicking, cranky, I-want-to-play-I-don't-care-why-these-people-are-here-to-see-me results of your work once in a while. Also, I got to see my friend Pammy-cakes invite the Imam back to her house for drinks. That certainly was worth the price of admission right there.

Well, I've gotten my verbal catharsis and I still can't sleep. Time to clean.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for mentioning that families give consent for donation, the Donor Coordinator does not get consent.

In Western Australia the donor agency has a memorial service every year for all the previous years donors and all donors (for organ and tissue donation) and the donor's name is placed on a memorial board in a beautiful park. As part of that service we encourage the families to bring photos of the donors and it great to see them without tubes, alive!!!

PJ Geraghty said...

Thanks, anonymous Aussie, for the word on what happens down under.

I don't find myself out working in the hospitals very often anymore (and not at all since the Great Crash of '07) but I still recognized so many of the names at our local memorial celebration recently.

The pictures help remind us, as TC said, that they're not just patients, but people who loved and were loved, and that's obvious from the moment you enter the celebration. What I especially like about ours is that organ recipients interact with donor families, including handing out the medals of honor that each family receives. It's a special way of saying "thank you" when "thank you isn't nearly enough.

(I have to confess, though, that the morbid side of me wonders what picture of me my family will choose someday. Now I gotta go delete all the bad pictures...)

TC said...

You know, one time I was at a memorial service and the pictures were being flashed-well, I can't go into details but I just thought, that man is gonna haunt his family for the picture they chose. Better be nice to your wife & kids, PJ, I'm sure there's some embarrassing photos of you somewhere :)